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A Year Of Dates

Planning the perfect date with A Year of Dates

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and love is most definitely in the air. TOAST.Life chats to A Year of Dates founder Kate Greenhalgh to hear how a romantic present from her husband turned in to a successful business, and we get her top tips for planning the perfect date yourself!



Valentine’s Day is hailed as the most romantic day of the year – but is it really? Is forced romance ever really romantic? Surely it is the smaller day-to-day gestures, signs of affection and thoughtfulness that really count?

Having said that – we all lead busy lives and it’s all too easy to forget about that special someone; time passes and suddenly you realise that you’ve barely spent any quality time together for weeks, if not months. Well Kate Greenhalgh is here to change all that, as founder of A Year of Dates - a unique gifting company focusing on making memories and trying new things.

“As much as Valentine’s Day is our busiest time of year and we do embrace it, we’re encouraging people to be romantic all year round - every week if possible. Feb 14th is just the starting point!” she enthuses.

“I think romance struggles under the pressure of life, work commitments and time constraints, but hopefully we’re helping claw some of that back and prove that it isn’t difficult or a chore”

True to its name and romantic aim, Kate’s business - A Year of Dates – is in fact the result of an incredibly thoughtful gesture* made by her husband John (*all other halves take note). For Christmas in 2015 John presented Kate with a glass jar, now known as ‘the date jar’, filled with over 70 envelopes, each one containing a date idea. Every week Kate would pull an envelope out of the jar, and the couple would then embark on whatever date activity was suggested inside. Who said that romance was dead?

“John has always been annoyingly good at gifts. He is very romantic too, and always manages to catch me off guard!” she laughs affectionately.

“I’d told many people about the jar and the response was always ‘I wish I had thought of that’ or ‘…had time to do that’ or ‘…could think of the ideas for one’! And I realised that I had the ideas and I had the time” she adds.

“The first date card we chose from our jar was to buy each other a £10 gift and John bought me the domain name ayearofdates.co.uk! I can’t even remember what I bought him...”

Ayearofdates

And so, using the original jar that John had given her, Kate set about creating jars for others; she made the date ideas less specific and added coloured envelopes and pretty ribbons. Using their savings, Kate and John bought enough stock for 100 sets and planned to sell their jars of romantic opportunity at craft fairs in the run up to Christmas.

“I also met Not on The High Street  at a Pitch Up session and became a partner, and that’s when things really took off. By Christmas we had sold out!”

A Year Of Dates

AYOD Dates

That was in 2016 and now, 18 months later, A Year of Dates is going strong and expanding quickly too, but at the heart of all of their products is giving the gift of time and shared experiences for couples, as well as friends or families. Of course, their ingenious date jar is still the main focus.

“We all lead such busy lives these days our relationships are the easiest thing to push aside - but the most important, and fun to make time for. After a busy day at work the date cards can give you something to look forward to and take the stress out of deciding what to do – that can sometimes be half the battle!” explains Kate, wisely.

“The anticipation of not knowing what you are going to pick is exciting for both the couple – even though John knew what he’d written he had no idea what I was going to pick. It’s something to look forward to and to plan together”

Much like Kate’s original gift from John, each jar that still contains 52 envelopes containing charming, realistic, down to earth date ideas, ranging from doing a jigsaw together to star gazing under a blanket, as well as 5 blank cards for you to get creative and add some of your very own date suggestions to the mix.  

“We used a lot of the ideas John had come up with from the original jar and others were from ideas I saw online, and from friends. None of them are rocket science but hopefully there is enough in there to make people try new things and visit new places” Kate explains.

“We’ve kept the date descriptions vague so people can interpret them how they want and a lot of the dates don’t even involve leaving the house – so it isn’t meant to be a big effort and getting dressed up every week, you can do lots of them in your PJs!” she adds, smiling.

“There’s everything from baking together to visiting a market, flying a kite to cocktail night. The biggest date, as it were, is ‘book a weekend away’ – the card specifies that you don’t have to go that week, but simply spend time together deciding where to go and get something booked to look forward to.”

 A Year Of Dates Outside

Thoughtfully, there are two sets of date cards on offer; the regular set, where you have a lucky dip each week and it could be anything from board game night to taking a train trip together, and then there is also a colour coded set. This set sees the cards split into 4 categories; staying in, a night out, a day out or a surprise! The thought behind the colour coded set is that if you have children - it’s not always easy to get a babysitter at short notice, perhaps you’re saving up for something so might not want a big night out mid month, or if you work shifts you can’t always spend a day together, so Kate and John have given people the option to make it easier to plan, and make the dates achievable. 

“Watching a film, having a meal cooked when your other half gets home from work, making a playlist together or planning a day trip for the weekend. It’s about quality time together, not spending money all the time.”

Also included in each jar is a dice to help with any difficult decisions and, more importantly, to hopefully help avoid any potentially martial disputes, as it were. This is meant to be a romantic process after all.

“On John’s cards he always specified when I was the one who got to choose the film or the take away or to cook the meal, so the dice is a way of decision making: ‘roll the dice and if it’s an odd number it’s your choice’, hopefully it prevents arguments…!” she laughs.

As well as date jars, which also come in stylish box form now too and in annual and monthly formats, A Year of Dates have also created birthday boxes such as 30 Things to do when you are Thirty (and the same for 40) and A Year of Play, which is activities aimed at families and helping them try new, fun things together.

“In the birthday boxes we added ‘do something that scares you’ so the recipient can read that as they want! In the date box we have ‘try something new’ which comes with suggestions of roller-skating or a dance class!” Kate enthuses.

Thirty A Year Of Dates

Their latest idea is a Dating Journal, which creates a place to note down what you get up to together with space to include photos, tickets and to write your highlights so that you can look back over it in years to come.

“I’ve got to know a few of our daters on Instagram  and they told me they keep their dates in a scrap book, and write what they did on the back of the card – essentially they wanted to remember what they had done” explains Kate.

“Social media is great for this, but the journal is a place to keep all the memories, photos and cards together to look back on”

In 2017 A Year of Dates was nominated for a coveted Not On The High Street Make Award, and with over 5,000 partners to choose from being chosen was quite an achievement, which just goes to show how Kate’s ingenious concept has captured the imagination of couples everywhere. But what I really want to know is – do Kate and John still use their date jar that started this widespread movement of romance? 

“Errrrm the date jar is on a shelf in our bedroom!” Kate confesses.

“We’ve not opened one for ages as we’ve been busy moving house, growing the business, both working and looking after our daughter Phoebe. I am determined to start it again this year though!”

On Valentine’s Day, perhaps?

KATE (AND JOHN’S) TOP TIPS FOR PLANNING A PERFECT DATE 

  • Spontaneity and surprise! On our first date I was told to bring a jumper – we went to Blackpool Illuminations and John had a convertible at the time! It’s about sharing time together – it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s about quality time away from the daily routine.

  • Everybody is different, one person’s nightmare could be your dates perfect night - the whole point of dating is to find out where you are compatible and then focus on the things you enjoy together. There will be bad dates along the way, it’s all part of the experience!

  • Think of BOTH of you. Make sure it’s an experience you both enjoy: meeting at the pub when the football is on, and your mates are there isn’t a date! That said if you are BOTH football fans then it can be, just don’t invite your friends!

  • Make it about the details rather than the big gestures – choose their favourite music, or something that reminds you both of a special time. Pick up their favourite dessert on the way home from work.

  • Make memories, make your stories start ‘remember when…’ and a smile, even if it is a story from an awful restaurant, terrible gig or day out when it rained all day, you will still look back and laugh, together.

Valentine’s Day is on Wednesday 14th February 2018. For more from A Year of Dates visit their website, and for more Valentine's inspiration head over to TheEDIT for ideas. 

 
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