Hollie Vilander knows her husband, Eric, has a history of extravagant gestures on Valentine's Day, but this year, he had an early morning meeting in Ventura and had to leave their Huntington Beach home at 4:30 a.m. Friday.
So Hollie went to work early herself to lay out some Valentines on her co-workers' desks in Newport Beach.
As she turned in to the driveway of her Corona del Mar office, she looked up and thought, "Holy smokes, there's a huge banner with my name."
Hollie threw the car into reverse, stared up and started crying.
Above her were bundles of hanging roses, balloons and a banner emblazoned with her name, a giant heart and the message "L224" — code for "I love you today, tomorrow and forever."
"There was no meeting in Ventura today," Hollie, 36, said Friday.
Instead, Eric was around the corner secretly taking pictures of her reaction. He sent her the photos and took her out to lunch later that day.
More than five years into their marriage, the couple are still honeymooning, Eric explained. And grand gestures of his love aren't at all out of the ordinary, according to Hollie.
"I'm just a hopeless romantic," said Eric, 43. "I'm really inspired by the people that I love dearly."
That romance was on display from the day he asked her out 16 years ago by tucking a note under her windshield wiper.
It was apparent when he proposed by incorporating the engagement ring into a work of art they were looking at in a gallery during a date.
And it manifested last Valentine's Day, when Eric bought an "obscene" amount of Hollie's favorite ice cream from her home state of Texas and showed up to dinner wearing red sneakers, red shorts and a white T-shirt with a heartfelt message written on it instead of a card.
"He was the valentine," Hollie explained.
To plan his gestures, Eric said he just listens to his wife — waiting for a clue about what will surprise her, overjoy her and make her feel unique.
"I always want to do something to make her feel like I do when we're together," he said.