As area residents recall their most memorable Valentine's Day celebrations on today's holiday, it's not the cards and gifts that stand out, but the experiences.
For Beverly resident Rachel Valentine, it is not hard to recall memories of her first Valentine's Day as Mrs. Valentine. Rachel, 30, and her husband Brian, 33, actually chose the holiday to get married.
"We thought it would be fun and kind of corny," joked Brian.
Phillips Elementary fourth-graders, from front, Vivian Myers, Alex Reese and Tim Modesitt look over Valentines that adorn the school hallway Wednesday.
JASMINE ROGERS The
Marrying on Valentine's Day worked out perfectly for a lot of reasons, said Rachel.
"I figure if we got married on Valentine's Day, he'd never forgot our anniversary," said Rachel.
Indeed, that Valentine's Day 10 years ago turned out to be more memorable than the couple ever expected.
At a glance
About one billion Valentine's Day cards are exchanged in the United States each year, second only to Christmas.
Women purchase 85 percent of all Valentines.
In order of popularity, Valentine's Day cards are given to teachers, children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets.
Parents receive one out of every five valentines.
About 3 percent of pet owners will give Valentine's Day gifts to their pets.
The Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet every Valentine's Day.
"We got married during a blizzard. Normally couples walk through rice or bird seed. We walked through snow," said Brian.
The evening ceremony took place in the church in Beverly where Rachel's parents were married and was attended by about 70 people.
But from the beginning of the ceremony to the end, it had snowed three inches outside, recalled Brian.
"You definitely see how much people love and care about you when they show up in three feet of snow," said Rachel.
"It was honestly a day I will never forgot," said Brian.
'The best valentine anyone can have'
Belpre resident Louise Riffle, 72, still remembers the gift that her husband Dariel, 74, gave her 50 years ago during their first Valentine's Day together.
The couple had married a month earlier and was staying at an apartment in Weston, W.Va..
"We barely had enough money to pay the bills and he was helping his mother," recalled Louise.
But Dariel managed to surprise Louise with a box of heart-shaped chocolates.
"I can remember sitting on that couch and pinching the chocolates to see which ones I was going to like," recalled Louise.
Now 50 years later, Louise said she feels so blessed by her life with Dariel that she has asked him to stop buying gifts.
"He is the type where I don't care if he never gets me anything. He cooks. He cleans. He helps with errands. He is the best Valentine anyone can have," said Louise.
Chocolate cake and teddy bears
Doing nice things for everybody is exactly what Valentine's Day is about, said Phillips Elementary fourth-graders Vivian Myers, Tim Modesitt and Alex Reese.
"I like how everybody gets treated equally and are all really nice to each other," said Myers, 9.
The first Valentine's Day that Myers recalls as being particularly memorable was just last year.
"Last year my sister helped me make my Valentines card box. It has pink wrapping paper and we cut out hearts from tissue paper and put it on the box," she said.
She also received a soft, pink teddy bear from her mom, she recalled.
Modesitt, 10, agreed that last year was his most memorable Valentine's Day.
"My parents went to a nice restaurant and got a really nice cake. It was chocolate," recalled Modesitt, who got to enjoy some of the cake himself.
This year, Modesitt plans on making his parents a card that says "You're the nicest parents in the world," he said.
Nine-year-old Reese has always enjoyed the holiday "because people are sweet and everybody is very loving," she said.
Still, this year's holiday is already on track to be the most memorable, said Reese.
"I have a boyfriend this year and he gave me a flower," she said.
A 40-year dinner date
Newport resident Cheryl Thomas also got flowers on her first Valentine's Day with her husband Cecil.
"We'd only been married about a month when Cecil and I celebrated for the first time," recalled Cheryl, who has been married 40 years.
The couple, who was living in Reno at the time, has always loved dining out together and that is exactly what they did on their first Valentine's Day.
"Back then Bonanza Steak House was still in Marietta and we went out to Bonanza," recalled Cheryl.
The couple received several restaurant gift cards at their 40th anniversary surprise party last month, and they will probably continue the tradition of a nice dinner date this year, said Cheryl.
"After 40 years, he does all this stuff automatically," she said.