First Date Etiquette 101

first date tips

Need a first date refresher course? Here are some things to remember before heading out on your next first date:

If you’re initiating the date:

Do the asking in advance. Don’t wait until Friday afternoon to ask someone out for dinner on Friday night. Be intentional about the invitation and give your prospective date a little notice. This way there’s room to reschedule if she’s busy, and you’ll have the opportunity to actually plan the date.

Do the planning — and plan to pay. If you’re doing the asking, take the time to actually plan the date. Choose a place that’s public, relatively local, and conducive to conversation. Make reservations if applicable. Whether it’s coffee, drinks or dinner, you initiated it, so you should expect to pay for it.

Don’t offer a ride. This is why it’s important to pick a date spot that’s not too far away. Come and go separately. This gives you both the freedom to leave at any time — not that you’re expecting the date to go horribly, but it’s wise to consider an exit strategy — and won’t make anyone feel like they’re being held hostage. (This also helps you avoid that awkward in-the-car hug that occurs when you’re dropping someone off.)

Make your date feel at ease. Get ready to initiate conversation. Smile, show a real interest in your date, and be yourself. The more relaxed you appear, the easier it will be for your date to open up. (Bonus points if you can make him laugh.)

Plan to end it. Even if the two of you are really hitting it off, end the date as planned. Don’t try to stretch out the date for hours. Instead, agree to meet up again soon. It’s better to end the date on a high note, with both of you wishing you had more time to spend together, than to make the other person feel trapped and unable to walk away.

If you said yes:

Plan to pay — but accept your date’s offer to do so. Never expect anyone to pay for you, but understand that there’s a good chance that the person asking you out fully plans to do just that on the first date. Graciously accept his offer to pay. If you really want to chip in, cover after-dinner drinks, or offer to pay next time.

Follow their lead. Assuming your date planned the night — and she didn’t plan something you’re morally opposed to, or physically allergic to — try to embrace her plan. Don’t criticize the menu or complain that she didn’t give you a heads up about the dress code. Be a good sport and try to enjoy the night. If the two of you aren’t a good fit, you don’t have to go out on a second date.

If interested, show interest. Don’t play games. Laugh at his jokes if they’re funny. If he mentions a “next time” and you’re eager to see him again, don’t play hard to get or send mixed signals. If things are going well, let them go well. Smile, touch his shoulder, and reassure him that his efforts are appreciated.

If the other person wants to go out again and you do, too, initiate some contact. You don’t have to wait for him to call. Send a quick email to thank him for the great night. Reference a conversation you had to let him know you’re thinking about the date fondly.

Both of you:

Show up on time. Make a good impression — and show your date some respect — by arriving when you said you would. If you’re running late, text or call.

Dress to impress. (But don’t overdo it.) Don’t dust off the bowtie for a coffee date — unless it’s your signature accessory — but do wear a clean shirt. Make an effort to present the best version of yourself and to dress appropriately for the specific date.

Be courteous. Manners are important, regardless of how well the two of you hit it off. Put away your phone. Make eye contact. Make an effort to engage. Treat your waiter well. If the night fails to turn into the beginning of an epic love story, at least it won’t be because your date thought you were rude.

Share, but don’t overshare. Let your date get to know you without sharing every dark secret or messy life story. If the relationship is heading somewhere, you’ll have plenty of time to talk about fertility worries, family drama or financial pressures. Yes, some big topics will likely come up — don’t hide the fact you have kids, are divorced, or that your faith is important to you, for example — but don’t share more than you need to when it comes to really personal matters. It can be overwhelming to the listener, and can put the sharer in a vulnerable spot.

Actively listen. It’s easy to spend most of a first date worried about what impression you’re making or what anecdote you should share next — and totally forget to pay attention to what the other person is saying. Give your date your full attention, and ask questions directly related to the things she’s sharing with you. Don’t simply wait for a gap in her story so you can interject with another tale about your own life.

Be honest. At the end of the night, if you had a great time, say so. If the other person wants to go out again and you don’t, be honest (but gentle) and decline the offer. When it comes to following up after a date, ignore the three-day rule and do what feels right to you. Don’t play games. Just be yourself: the right person will appreciate it.

Good luck!

What advice would you give someone going on a first date?