There are only four skywriters in the entire world, so if you want to send a message from heaven on Valentine’s Day, you’ll need to get on that soon.
Maybe you’ve already determined that insanely expensive prix fixe menus, padded cards and a tennis bracelet won’t do this year and are considering a grand romantic gesture — despite the fact that they kind of suck. But here’s the thing: You can’t just pick up a grand gesture on your way home from work; they require foresight, imagination and expertise.
In pursuit of all three, I spoke with some leading vendors of grand gestures in Southern California: Cristina Domi, CEO of The Skywriters and one of the aforementioned four skywriters (part of the reason why the cost of aerial love notes can exceed $100,000); Julie Anne Rhodes, a personal chef and owner of The Roving Stove; and florist David Mark, owner of Designs by David — each of whom offered their advice on swinging for the fences on February 14th.
What Valentine’s Day Grand Gestures Do You Remember Most?
Domi: We had a guy spend $15,000 for a marriage proposal using five of our skytyping aircrafts flying in formation. There are only two fleets in the U.S. that can do that. He got her a beautiful diamond ring and said, “I sure hope she says yes.” I thought, If she doesn’t, I will!
Mark: My grand gestures are typically in hotel rooms, where I’ll place 15 or 20 different arrangements. I usually create a heart on the bed with rose petals and maybe leave some in the entrance by the front door. Champagne, strawberries — the usual. Then I come back the next day, pick up all of the arrangements, change the water and bring them to their home. [One big filmmaker’s] anniversary is on Valentine’s Day, so he always gets a big suite at a nice hotel in Santa Monica. I put flowers in every square inch of the room, rose petals on the bed, the whole nine yards.
Rhodes: I often combine a romantic dinner for two with a couples’ massage. While they’re being pampered and getting massaged, I’m in the kitchen getting dinner ready — sous vide lobster tail, Champagne Beurre Blanc and heart-shaped chocolate waffles with ice cream and homemade chocolate fudge sauce for dessert. I clean the kitchen as quietly as possible and slip out the back so it doesn’t spoil the mood.
We’re a Day Away From Valentine’s Day. When Does Time Run out to Plan a Grand Gesture?
Rhodes: I’m usually booked at least a couple weeks in advance.
Mark: I need at least a couple days ahead so I can plan.
Domi: Ideally, a week before is best, but we can turn things around quickly if needed. We have an LED night sign as well. If people call that day and need something right away, that’s always a good option. It’s computer-generated. We make four passes on site.
Are You Anticipating a Busy Valentine’s Day?
Mark: I better be. On a normal day, I do 20 to 30 orders. On Valentine’s Day I do 290.
Domi: It’s always busy for us — lots of marriage proposals and hearts in the sky.
Rhodes: Absolutely. One of my favorite things to do is cook a romantic dinner for two.
What’s Your Advice for Someone Planning a Valentine’s Day Grand Gesture?
Rhodes: Think about the person you’re surprising or treating. In my case, stuff like, are they on a diet? Just try to be as thoughtful as possible.
Mark: Plan ahead. I call every one of my clients starting February 1st, and say, “Okay, I’m calling for Valentine’s day, what does the card say?”
Domi: Enjoy it. Skywriting is very special. Not many people in the world get a message sent from heaven.