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5 Valentine's Day Table Settings

Set the table for romance with lots of red. See more pictures of aphrodisiac foods.
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Doesn't it seem like we generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to our feelings about Valentine's Day? You either welcome it enthusiastically, stoked about having a concrete occasion to celebrate the special person in your life. Or, you see the holiday as an obligation and resent the pressure to do something monumentally romantic for your sweetheart.

If the latter describes you, get ready to ditch your old ways of thinking about Feb. 14. Making this day special can be as easy and personal as preparing an intimate dinner at home. Of course, ambiance is the key to any dining experience. Here are a handful of creative tablescape ideas to help set the mood, whether your loved one is a traditionalist or has a modern sense of style.

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If your partner's personal style is tried, true and classic, why not decorate your tabletop in traditional Valentine's Day fashion? Think simple and elegant. A single red rose placed in a fluted crystal vase or a full bouquet of pink roses make lovely centerpieces. For an exceptionally fragrant option, choose lavender roses.

Solid-colored dishware, such as bright white or pearl with gold or silver trim, extends this theme well and doesn't compete with the floral arrangement for attention. Use oversized paper or cloth doilies in red, pink or white as place mats. Two long tapered candles in crystal or silver holders on the middle of the table to complete this look.

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We love this bold pattern for a modern, masculine table.
We love this bold pattern for a modern, masculine table.
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Remember, Valentine's Day is a chance to show your mate you get him. Prove it by setting a table that reflects his personality. This gesture isn't about showcasing your artistic or crafty side; it's about creating an evening fit for heart-to-heart conversation that honors your past and toasts your future.

If your beau is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan minimalist at heart, maybe a modern tablescape is most fitting. Tablecloths in black, navy, deep purple or other saturated colors add immediate drama. Sleek flowers like orchids or lilies work better than heavily petaled blooms. Or, float a single flower in a shallow, modular bowl. This is enough on its own, but you can also arrange tea light candles into a heart shape on the table for extra flair and a romantic glow.

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Upscale tablescapes don't suit everyone, especially if your guy is pretty laidback and prefers a relaxed, casual atmosphere. If this is the case (or if you're preparing lunch rather than dinner), consider making your tablescape warm and rustic.

Achieve a country-inspired look with chunky pastel earthenware dishes, or paisley-patterned dishware arranged on a tablecloth made of heavy, textured fabric. Fill a water pitcher, jar or antique vase with a mix of wildflowers -- our favorites are sunflowers, hydrangeas and sweet peas. Best of all is the centerpiece. On colorful note cards, jot down some of your favorite memories together; include qualities of his you love or things you're thankful to have learned from him. Fill a small basket with notes, and place it in the middle of the table. This centerpiece is just as cute as it is meaningful.

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Scatter candy hearts on the table for a super-sweet setting.
Scatter candy hearts on the table for a super-sweet setting.
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If the one you adore loves candy, this is the day to give him what he wants! Go ahead and indulge your sweetheart with sweets. We think the most tantalizing centerpiece of all is a three-tiered dessert stand. (Tip: Make sure it's low so it doesn't block you from making eyes at each other across the table.) Fill each platform with one of his favorite confections, and garnish the stand with edible flowers or sprigs of mint. Some ideas include chocolate-covered strawberries, truffles or cookies frosted with his initials.

A twist on this sweet approach is to feature dessert fondue instead. Arrange fruit, marshmallows and cake cubes on the dessert stand, and offer a trio of warm caramel, dark chocolate and milk chocolate for dipping. If you're going for fondue, skip the fine linens -- your tabletop is bound to get messy. Instead, cover the table with Valentine's Day-inspired gift wrap, or lay down white paper.

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If your relationship is playful or your partner likes surprises, this idea is for you. Cover a table in butcher paper, and fill a short vase with markers or pens. When you sit down with your loved one, use this blank canvas to record your dreams for your future together. Words, pictures, graphs -- do whatever suits you best. If you'd prefer more structure to this activity, prep the paper by writing down hash marks or quadrants for time in months or years. This way, when you sit down to the table, you'll be filling in memories or goals according to chunks of time.

A different take on this theme is to write or draw on the tablecloth ahead of time, either recording your journey together to date (noting the highlights and milestones) or composing your intentions for your future together. Then you can look at your love story together while drinking wine or dining. As you arrive at some of the moments in your history together that you've written down, use it as an opportunity to tell him the things about him that you appreciated at those points in time or that you love now.

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