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Valentine's Day Proposals Come At a Premium

Valentine's Day dinner
Average cost any other day of the year: Between $70 and $86
Average cost on Valentine's Day: $100 to $200-plus
Cupid's cut: $30 to more than $200
According to restaurant guide Zagat, the average price of a dinner out rose 2.2% last year, to $35.37. Customers on restaurant reservation site OpenTable (OPEN) averaged a little more at $43. In both cases, diners who dropped to one knee during those average dinners at any other time during the year got off lightly compared with the chumps who just had to have the special red linens and holiday desserts.

The National Retail Federation suggests Americans will spend $3.4 billion on dinners out this Valentine's Day, or $100 million more than their lucky counterparts did last year. Valentine's diners had a much easier time getting a table, at least, as only 67% of OpenTable customers said they spent the holiday dining out last year, compared with the 89% of those who plan to do so next week. Those newcomers will be upping the ante as well, as 58% plan to spend $100 to $200, 12% plan to spend $200 or more and 19% plan to spend more than they did last year. That's 20% of the average $1,000 American diners spend on restaurants a year, according to the National Restaurant Association, as eateries get their fill of the second-busiest restaurant day of the year behind Mother's Day.

"Dinners are a bit more expensive and your favorite restaurant may not be working off the regular menu," TheKnot's Dolgin says. "They may have some special Valentine's Day menus, so there are a couple of tricky things you have to navigate if you want to get engaged on Valentine's Day."

A savvy suitor can get around those painful prix fixe menus by taking advantage of Valentine's Day's position on the calendar. Though it's on a Monday, many Americans seem just fine with the "Valentine's Day Weekend" approach -- as the 39% of diners who told OpenTable they would celebrate Valentine's Day out Feb. 14 were balanced by the 30% who plan to celebrate it by making reservations for Saturday, Feb. 12, and the 15% who put their names on the list for Sunday, Feb. 13. That torpedoes the whole "memorable date" motive, but it takes a bit of the sting out that fat little cherub's arrow.

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