First dates are nerve-wracking, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. However, with some killer first date advice, you can totally get back into the dating scene without having a meltdown beforehand. Regardless of whether you met your date on an app or in-person (does that even happen anymore?), dating is supposed to be enjoyable, so relax. Breathe. Follow these first date tips to get through the butterflies of the first date and, if you like your date, even land you a second date!
21 tips for a first date
The first thing you need to decide is what you are going to wear. Dress appropriately for the date—if you turn up to a movie wearing a little black dress and sky-high stilettos, you may give off the wrong impression (high maintenance, much?). First dates are uncomfortable enough without the added discomfort of an inappropriate outfit. Instead, aim for cute but comfortable. Look amazing but dress for whatever it is that you've planned for the date.
There is nothing worse than having a date with someone who can't make a decision. You may believe that leaving decisions up to the other person is polite or flattering, but being completely indecisive can work against you when it comes to the first date (and beyond). If there are some options for activities handed to you, just pick one! It will save the hassle and frustration of going back and forth asking, "Well, I don't know...what do you want to do?"
Tell them about you, but don't forget to ask about them
The conversion throughout the date should be equal. Let them tell you about themselves, and you do the same. Don't only throw a ton of questions at your date like they're being interrogated. Let them know what you are all about as well, without treating this as a job interview. Sure, your collection of degrees and volunteering experience might sound impressive, but what is it that really makes you tick? What brings a smile to your face?
Allow your natural personality to shine through. If you're not the class clown, now isn't the time to pretend that you are. Think about it: If this date were to turn into a long-term relationship, how long could you keep up the act of being someone else for? If you're trying to be someone else, it's not going to come across naturally, and besides... Don't you want to date someone who loves you for you? Would you really want to date someone who doesn't like you as you are?
Related to first date tips: This is what makes a man want to keep dating you.
Take back your power
Rather than going on a first date hoping that your date will choose you, I want you to remember this BIG first date tip: You have power too. A first date is as much about you deciding whether you choose to see them again, as it is about them choosing to see you again. Instead of worrying so much about whether your date likes you, consider whether you even like them.
When you go on a first date, try to take a step back and ask yourself: Is this someone I really want to date? Does it appear that we could be compatible based on our values and lifestyles?
Don't be afraid of rejection
The idea behind a first date is to see whether you're a good fit. That's all. Think of it as a filtering process--you're all going on first dates, filtering through to see who would be a good fit for your unique values and preferences. If someone doesn't want to see you for a second date, that says nothing about your inherent worth as a human being, it only means that they don't think you're a good fit for them.
Just because one person doesn't want a second date, doesn't mean nobody will want a second date with you. There are a million reasons why someone might not want a second date that have nothing at all to do with you: Maybe they're fresh out of a long-term relationship and only just venturing back into the dating world; Maybe they're super busy with work right now and just don't have the time to date properly; Maybe they're about to move cities.
Related: Are You “Kittenfishing” Your Dates?
Don't talk about your ex
This might seem like a super basic first date tip, but you'd be surprised how often the topic comes up! If your date asks you about past relationships, or if they start sharing stories about yours, keep it brief and don't share too many details--a first date isn't a therapy session. If your first date turns into something more serious, you can start to open up about your relationships past.
Think of it as a fun catch-up with a new friend
Don't put so much pressure on your first date! The purpose of a first date is just to see (a) whether you enjoy this person's company enough to hang out with them, and (b) that their values and lifestyle might be compatible with yours. A failed first date doesn't mean you're doomed to a life of singledom and many cats--it's all part of the journey. We've all been on first dates that were flops, and it's okay. Instead of treating it like a meeting with your future husband or wife, imagine that you're meeting a potential new friend.
Be honest about what you're looking for
If you're looking for a long-term relationship, be up-front about it. Telling someone on a first date, "I'd like my next long-term relationship to lead to marriage," doesn't mean that you want to marry them. It just shows them what your goals are. And, if their goals are aligned, they should find it attractive. If they're scared off by your intentions? That's a sign that you're not compatible and just helps you to filter them out quicker.
This first date tip is an excellent way to show that you know what you want (attractive, much?) and filter out the fuckboys of the world.
Be on time
Punctuality is sexy! Being on time for a first date shows that you respect the other person and their time. It also shows that you are a fully-functioning adult who can manage their schedule and that you're not the kind of partner who would show up late to a work dinner with their boss.
Meet in a public place
Especially if your date is someone you met on a dating app. While it might feel more comfortable to invite your date over to your house, you don't know anything about this person and you could be opening yourself up to serious risks. Think about it this way: If you decide you don't want to see them again, and they turn out to be a creepy stalker... Would you really want them to know where you live?
Conversely, going to their house for a first date isn't particularly safe either. If you really must have your first date somewhere private, make sure a friend knows exactly where you are and what time they can expect to hear from you.
Choose an appropriate activity
Going to the movies might sound like a way to avoid awkward silence, but will sitting side by side in a dimly lit theatre really help you figure out if someone is compatible as a potential future partner? An ideal first date is an activity that allows you to chat and get to know each other, while still having fun.
Think of something that you can enjoy and that will let your personality shine through, like mini golf or a picnic. And, if your date suggests an activity you don't want to do, tell them! If you pretend to love watching basketball on your first date, it's going to be really awkward when you have to tell them six months later that you actually hate sports.
Put your phone away
You have the rest of your day to check Instagram, reply to emails and scroll through TikTok. A first date is not the time to be on your phone--and it's especially not the time to be chatting to other people on dating apps (yes, this has happened). Be present with your date. Even if you can't see yourself having a second date with this person, giving them your full attention is the respectful thing to do.
If you're not sure, go on a second date
First dates are tough. It's hard to come across as yourself when you're feeling nervous, and this goes for the person you're meeting as well. If you're not sure whether you like them or not after a first date, this is totally normal. It might take two or more dates to figure out if there's any chemistry--a first date is simply just to filter out the unsuitable ones.
You know the quote, "Interested people are interesting"? Well, this applies to first dates as well. Be a good listener and pay attention to what they're saying, rather than thinking of your response while they're still talking. Everyone has something they're passionate about, so try to find out what it is that lights up your date. Ask questions and show that you're interested in what they're saying, rather than pretending to be aloof and uncaring, or trying to impress them by talking at them non-stop.
Don't drink too much
This is a first date tip that should go without saying. Aside from the obvious safety risks of drinking too much on a first date, it's also hard to put your best foot forward when you're sloppy drunk in front of your date. Nothing says relationship red flag better than someone who is knocking back drinks and falling over on a date, so if you're drinking on a first date, try to keep it in moderation.
Pay attention to how you feel during the date
Rather than just focusing on what your date thinks about you and how you're coming across to them, pause and reflect on how you feel. Often, our bodies are a more reliable source of information than our brains--for example, a gut feeling that you can't trust the person you're talking to. If you feel calm and relaxed in this person's presence, it's a good sign that they could be compatible. On the flip side, if you feel anxious (beyond the usual first-date nerves) it could be your nervous system trying to tell you something.
If you turn up to your date with rigid expectations about what they'll be like and how they'll act, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Set high standards for yourself (for example, how you expect to be treated), but also make sure you're not setting unrealistic expectations in areas that don't matter. This isn't just a first date tip, it also applies to dating generally--if you think "I could never date an accountant" and Daryl from accounts asks you out, give him a chance. Some of the best dates I've been on have been with people who I didn't consider my "type".
If things are going well, try to extend the date
If you think things are going well and it seems like your date is enjoying themselves, suggest doing another activity afterwards. For example, if you've just been ten-pin bowling, you could suggest going for a drink or dinner. This can be a great way to see whether your interest is reciprocated, but don't take a "no" as rejection--they might already have other plans, or they might be an introvert who needs to go home and recharge.
Offer to split the bill
Oh, that moment when the bill comes. Are they going to pay for it? Should you? What if we go splits? Seems like everyone has an opinion (just read the comments in our recent article Who Should Pay on the First Date?). Stop the questions buzzing through your head and handle the bill gracefully. Either offer to split the bill or suggest paying, or gracefully accept if your date insists on paying. Don't argue--simply smile and say thank you.
I know you're nervous. It's normal to feel nervous before a first date. Take a few deep breaths to calm your nervous system and remember that your date is probably feeling just as nervous as you are. Even if this date turns out to be a dud, your penguin is out there somewhere.
The next day after your date
This isn't really a first date tip, but what you do after a first date is just as important as what you do during the date. After the first date, the worst thing that you can do is blow up your date's phone with text messages and phone calls. Let him come to you. There is nothing sexy about being classified as a "Stage 5 Clinger". In heterosexual dating, if a man is interested, they will get in touch with you. If you didn't have fun on your date, the polite thing to do would be to thank them for their time and tell them you simply didn't feel a romantic connection. Whatever you do, don't ghost your date!