10 (actually useful) first date tips: advice from the experts

couple on a date in cafe

First dates. They can be nerve-wracking, exciting and, if they go well, they can be the start of something truly great. But what, exactly is it that makes a date ‘go well?’ There’s lots of advice out there, so we thought it was time to gather some expert tips together in order to create a first date master guide.

10 frequently asked first date questions:

1. When should I ask someone out online?

When you meet someone online it can be easy to get caught up in a flurry of messages and to develop strong feelings as a result. However, before you get too swept away, it’s important to test that spark offline. In fact, a study at the University of Florida found that you shouldn’t wait longer than 17 to 23 days before testing your spark in real life; those who stall can end up creating an idealized image of their date in their heads that reality can struggle to live up to.1

Want advice for writing a successful online hello? Read our first message article here

2. What if I get nervous before my first date?

If you’re battling the first date stomach butterflies then congratulations – you’re completely normal. In fact, if it’s any comfort, your date is probably nervous too! Apprehension can strike down the most seasoned dater but, luckily, there are ways to beat it. In a TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy advises standing tall and open in times of stress, as such ‘power stances’ can raise levels of testosterone and cortisol, boosting confidence and quelling nerves.2

3. Do you have any online dating safety tips?

Another way to ease pre-date nerves is to follow basic safety precautions. Dating Coach Ronnie Ann Ryan recommends that you only date in a public place, that you have your own transport sorted in advance, and that you tell a trusted friend where you are going and who with (calling them during the date to confirm that everything is fine).3 Above all, trust your gut instincts: if someone is making you feel uneasy then leave. Don’t worry about staying out of politeness.

Looking for more online dating safety tips? Find our guide to staying safe here

4. What should I wear for a first date?

When planning a first date outfit, it can be tempting to set your phasers to ‘stunning’ and leave it at that. However, comfort can be just as important as glamour. After all, if you’re aiming for relaxed and confident, you don’t want to wear something that you’ll be tugging at all night! Bustle’s Julia Friedman recommends that less is more: pick a favorite feature and wear something that highlights only that and don’t forget that your date outfit should suit the venue!4

Need more ideas for first date outfits? Learn what to wear on a first date here

5. Does the first date have to be a big deal?

Quite simply? No! While it is certainly true that your first date with someone can be the start of something wonderful, it’s also worth remembering that your relationship is still in the very early days – no matter how much you’ve chatted online. Indeed, many people prefer to start with a casual first meeting, designed to test your mutual spark. If that’s the case, it’s perfectly fine to meet for a quick coffee (the preferred first date for 83% of our members5).

Want more insight from our studies on first date behaviour? Read about them here

6. Where should we go for a successful date?

If you do want to meet for coffee, chances are you have a favorite local (alternatively, try the suggestions in our date guides for New York, San Francisco or San Diego). However, if you’ve already checked each other out offline – or if you want to dial up the first date romance – then go for a classic and suggest a nice dinner. It may seem ‘safe’ but sometimes safe is the perfect way to get to know someone, particularly over our members’ favorite romantic cuisine: Italian.6

infograph showing our members

7. What should we talk about?

First date conversations require balance between getting to know someone and avoiding over familiarity. That means there are things you can talk about (like any mutual passions), and things you shouldn’t mention (at least at first). For our members though, the only real no-go topic is that of ex partners: 40% would rather avoid the subject. In contrast, traditionally ’taboo’ topics like sex, religion and politics are only actually frowned on by 1 in 10 singles.7

Want some first date conversation starters? Try the famous 36 questions!

8. Who should pay on a first date?

This question is tricky, especially when it comes to first date rules for guys. A Chapman University study of 17,000 people emphasised this when researchers found that 64% of men want women to pay more often – but that 76% of men feel guilty accepting women’s money. Meanwhile, over half of women always offer to pay, but 39% feel upset if that offer gets accepted.8 Essentially, when it comes to who should pay for a first date, there’s no right answer, so do what makes you comfortable – just don’t offer to split the bill unless you’re genuinely happy to do so!

9. Who should ask for the second date?

Again, this area used to be strictly male territory. However, increasingly, this seems unfair – for everyone involved! While some experts still believe in waiting for men to call the shots others, like Jen Kim at Psychology Today, call for for a more nuanced approach. Kim recommends asking for a date based on your personality, not your gender: ‘’If you are the type of person who can handle romantic rejection, then you can and should ask out whomever you want.’’9

Want to know how to ask someone out? Find our tips for every scenario here

10. What’s the most important part of a first date?

HAVE FUN. It really is that simple. Ultimately, all the first date tips in the world are designed with this goal in mind. They’re there to help you have a safe, happy (and hopefully romantic) time with someone wonderful. Your date might or might not not lead to more – and you know what? That’s ok, as a first date that goes nowhere is still a really useful learning experience, one that can inspire you to say yes to the date that will transform your lovelife.

Ready to see where a first date could take you? Sign up with EliteSingles here!

EliteSingles editorial March 2016, updated October 2017.


1 Claire Cohen, writing for the Telegraph ‘Online dating tipping point: When should you meet in person?’ Found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/online-dating/11302495/Online-dating-websites-When-should-you-meet-in-person.html

2 Amy Cuddy, TED talk, June 2012. ‘Your body language shapes who you are‘ [Video file]. Found at https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

3 Ronnie Ann Ryan, writing for YourTango, 2013. ‘9 Essential Tips for First Date Safety.’ Found at http://www.yourtango.com/experts/coach-ronnie-ann-ryan/9-tips-first-date-safety

4 Julia Friedman, writing for Bustle, 2014. ’11 Style Mistakes to Avoid on a First Date’. Found at http://www.bustle.com/articles/30905-11-style-mistakes-to-avoid-on-a-first-date

5 EliteSingles ‘Coffee Date’ Survey, 2016

6 EliteSingles ‘Date Night Dinner’ survey, 2014

7 EliteSingles ‘Love and Politics’ survey, 2014

8 Dr. David Frederick, writing for Schmid College of Science and Technology’s blog at Chapman University. ‘Who pays for dates?’ Found at https://blogs.chapman.edu/scst/2014/02/13/who-pays-for-dates/

9 Jen Kim, writing for Psychology Today. ‘The Nice Girl’s Guide to Asking a Guy Out.’ Found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/valley-girl-brain/201112/the-nice-girls-guide-asking-guy-out

About the author: Sophie Watson

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