Planning the Perfect First Date
So you’ve worked up the courage to ask someone out on a date. Or better yet, you’ve graciously accepted someone else’s offer to take you out. Congratulations! Now you’re filled with a strange mixture of excitement and dread. You’re excited to enjoy a night out on the town, and you’re excited at the prospect of meeting someone new and potentially finding your Mr. or Mrs. Right. However, at the same time, you’re scared of all the things that could go wrong. What if it’s impossible to carry a conversation? What if the two of you have nothing in common? What if I don’t make a good first impression? What if you say, wear or do the wrong thing? Luckily for you, we have compiled the top ten tips for a perfect first date. So take a deep breath, relax, and read on to find out how to impress your guest. Follow these tips and you can be sure that you’ll be scheduling a second date before the night is over.
10. Location, Location, Location
The first step to setting up the perfect first date is choosing the perfect location. When picking a venue, try to learn a little bit about your date first. A hike might be a really fun first date for someone adventurous who loves the outdoors, but a high-maintenance person may loathe the experience. You can often garner clues to what someone would enjoy from friends, social media, or even the way that someone dresses and presents themselves.
Incorporating a fun activity into your date can be a great way to keep things interesting. Depending on the personality of you and your date, consider visiting a museum, an aquarium, a theater, a sporting event, a local music show, or an art gallery. These options all provide the perfect blend of meaningful conversation and pleasant distraction.
You could also incorporate some physical activity into your date. You can visit a driving range, a mini-golf course, an ice skating rink or a bowling alley. The low-stress environment will help you both feel relaxed and comfortable, and the friendly competition can light a spark between you and your date. Having an activity built into the date also gives you something to focus your attention on when conversation lags.
Of course, a nice dinner out is always a classic date-night choice. The right restaurant can provide you with a romantic and quiet setting which gives you an opportunity to spend the evening talking and getting to know each other. You may be tempted to choose a favorite restaurant that you are familiar with, but think about being adventurous and trying somewhere out of the ordinary that neither of you has been to. The new, shared experience will be something that you can bond over. Whatever location you choose, be sure to run the idea by your date first. You don’t want to make reservations at a Brazilian Steakhouse only to learn that your date is a vegetarian.
9. Two’s Company
The best first dates have an intimate and private interaction that involves only two people. The worst first dates are those that include your friends, family, children, colleagues or other important people in your life. By including people who are close to you, your companion will feel like they are at an audition rather than a date. That’s a lot of pressure for somebody who you’ve just met. It may be tempting to ask your date to a house party that your friend is hosting or a gallery opening that your sister is featured at, but it’s not a good idea. Your first date needs to be a time when you focus on getting to know each other without any outside distractions. If the two of you click, there will be plenty of time down the road for your family and friends to meet him or her.
8. Dress for Success
On a first date, first impressions are everything. Whether you like it or not, how you present yourself in terms of your wardrobe and personal grooming make an immediate impression upon people. Your dress will be used to make a snap judgment, good or bad, on you as a person. That is why it’s so important to put careful thought into the image you will convey on your date.
Don’t get dressed for a date in an outfit that you would never normally wear. Stick to your own personal style, or else you’ll be uncomfortable in your own skin throughout your date. If you are a jeans and tee type of gal, don’t show up for a date in a skin-tight leopard-print dress. Instead, pair your favorite jeans with a killer pair of heels and a flowing top. You’ll be more comfortable and you’ll be showing a true sign of your personality. When in doubt, wear red. Numerous studies, including one in the European Journal of Social Psychology, have shown that men rate females who are wearing red as more attractive. Finally, when getting dressed, always remember how important it is to leave something to the imagination!
If you’re a guy who lives in khakis and polo shirts, don’t show up at your date with a patterned button down dress shirt with cufflinks and a pocket kerchief. Instead, opt to wear your khakis with a simple white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. This will help showcase your casual style while still showing that you put some thought and care into your date. Be yourself, because confidence is attractive. If you stay true to your personal style, you will also display a more accurate reflection of your personality.
Regardless of what you decide to wear, it’s important to make sure that you are well groomed. Make sure your nails are clean and trimmed, get your facial hair or eyebrows in check, and spritz on your favorite fragrance. When applying cologne or perfume, remember that less is more! Ladies, stick to your normal beauty routine. A first date is not the time to test out fake eyelashes or a finicky new hairstyle.
7. Keep Up the Conversation
A good conversation is an expertly balanced back and forth dialogue, where each person spends as much time listening as they do talking. When you’re on a first date, it’s important to be sure you aren’t the one doing all the talking. If you relentlessly ramble on about yourself, your date will find you both narcissistic and boring. If you are at dinner and you realize the other person is almost done with their meal while you haven’t barely made a dent in yours, then that’s usually a good sign that you’re talking too much.
Of course, you may end up sitting across from a date who is shy and reserved. You may only be rambling on because you’re trying to fill gaping holes in the conversation. Instead, try a new tactic where you ask questions to draw them into the conversation. Show that you are interested and genuinely curious, and ask open-ended questions to help pull your date out of their shell.
There are some tried and true conversation topics that can put you and your date at ease while giving you both a chance to learn about each other. Find out where your date has traveled, or ask if they have any upcoming vacation plans. Ask about their hobbies and relate some information about yours. Other great bonding topics include favorite sports teams, pets, books, movies and music. On a first date, be sure to steer away from controversial topics like religion, politics, or gossip about mutual friends or acquaintances.
6. Read Non-Verbal Cues
Humans have an endless amount of ways to communicate, and they don’t always involve talking. Being able to read and react to nonverbal cues is extremely important on a first date. Body language can provide key insights into how someone is feeling, and it accounts for up to 55% of how we communicate.
If someone is enjoying their time with you, they will exhibit positive body language which can include moving or leaning closer to you, maintaining eye contact for a longer period of time, looking down and away out of shyness, and holding their limbs in an uncrossed, relaxed manner.
If someone is uncomfortable on your date, they will exhibit negative body language which can include moving or leaning away from you, looking away to the side, rubbing the back of their neck, crossing their arms or legs, or standing with their feet pointed away from you.
If you think that you are noticing some negative body language from your date, don’t psych yourself out that it’s not going well. People’s comfort levels fluctuate frequently throughout a first date, and it is often simply due to anxiety and feelings of awkwardness and has nothing to do with their feelings for you. Take note of what types of conversation promote positive body language cues, and focus on similar topics.
Similarly, take note of what your own body language may be conveying. If you are in an air-conditioned venue, you might have your arms wrapped tightly around you because you’re cold, but your date may think that you are uninterested in them. If you are twirling your hair because it is a nervous habit, your date may mistake your body language for boredom. For a deeper look into coding and decoding unconscious cues, check out The Ultimate Guide to Body Language at Psychology Today.
5. Check Your Baggage at the Door
A first date is a time for starting anew. That means that you should check your baggage at the door and avoid talking about your past relationships. Everyone has a past that is filled with regret, heartache, anger, and plenty of “what-ifs”. However, there is a reason that you are on a date with someone new, and unless you want to repeat your old patterns, you need to start with a clean slate.
Don’t go into your date harboring assumptions based on past relationships. In your past, you may have dated needy people, or controlling people, or people who refuse to grow up, or people who run from commitment. It’s important to understand that these characteristics are not indicative of the opposite sex as a whole. If you are harboring any pre-conceived notions of the opposite sex then try your best to let them go. Greet the person sitting across from you at your first date with open eyes, open ears and an open heart. Don’t let your pre-conceived notions sabotage what could potentially be a great relationship.
Most importantly, when on a first date, do not spend time talking about your ex. We repeat: do not talk about your ex. There is no quicker way to derail a date than by talking about your past relationships. Particularly if you are still hung up on certain aspects of that relationship, you will begin over-sharing before you know it. Your date may begin to see you as bitter and filled with resentment, neither of which are endearing qualities in a person. Worse yet, your date may believe that you are still in love with your ex and be left wondering why you came on a date with them in the first place.
4. Save the Future Talk for the Future
While we don’t condone reliving you past on a first date, we also strongly advise against planning for your future! Dates should be light and fun, and a first date is definitely not the time to start talking about your future together. Even if deep down both of you actually want the same thing out of a relationship, by stating those intentions too early you will only scare the other person off. It’s great if you want to find a soulmate, but don’t assume that the person sitting next to you is necessarily him or her just because you happen to have the same taste in music or like the same movies. You need to spend time getting to know each other to understand if you’re well-suited to build a life together, and that doesn’t magically happen overnight. Take the time to get to know each other slowly, and save the serious stuff for later dates.
It’s perfectly fine to know that you want to have a large family someday, but don’t ask your first date how many children they want to have. As the old saying goes, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” Speaking of chickens, ladies, don’t ever mention your eggs on a first date. The absolute quickest way to scare off a man on a first date is by telling him that your biological clock is ticking or that your eggs aren’t getting any younger. Please, leave the baby talk out of the conversation.
On your first date, do your best to stay present in the moment and focus on the now. If there is a mutual connection between the two of you, then your relationship will progress naturally and you’ll know when the right time is to discuss your possible future together. Trust us, the first date is too early to have this discussion.
3. Hide your Vices (and Devices)
There are certain things that you should avoid on a first date. First off, avoid drinking too much. If you have a penchant for tequila, avoid the margaritas before you end up tossing back too many. Stick to one or two drinks for the night, because nobody wants to be on a date with a sloppy drunk. A couple of drinks to help you to relax and socialize is okay, but don’t drink so much that your inhibitions are lowered.
If smoking is a vice, try to curb the habit for the duration of the date. If you must smoke, go to a far-away outdoor location so that you don’t make your date uncomfortable, and be sure to have gum or mints on hand.
If your vice is constantly checking your e-mail or social media accounts, then be sure to leave your phone in the car. It is extremely rude to be constantly checking your phone on a first date. It makes you distracted and leaves your date feeling unimportant. Even if you’re just trying to text your friend to tell them how well the date is going, save it for when you get home. While on a date, you should focus all of your attention on your companion. Keep your phone in your purse or in your pocket, and if the temptation is still too much, keep it at home or in the car.
2. Be Your Best Self
The most important tip for any first date is to be yourself. Authenticity is the most important thing you can offer if you want to truly allow someone to get to know you. How else will you know if you are a good match with someone unless you are truthful and genuine about who you are?
While it’s important to be yourself on a first date, you should strive to be the best version of yourself. Humans are complex and we experience many different emotions at the same time. It’s up to you on a first date to put your best foot forward and let your positive emotions shine through. Dates are meant to be fun, spontaneous and playful. They are not meant to be filled with drama and complaints, so regardless of how bad your day or week has been, don’t let it show. Don’t arrive at a date worried, tired, serious, sad or apathetic. Instead, find your inner happiness and peacefulness and exude confidence. Be your most charming self, and your date will look forward to spending more time with you.
1. Make Concrete Plans for a Second Date
Assuming you’ve followed the tips laid out above and have enjoyed each other’s time together, then you will likely be on track to set up a second date. Don’t let an innate fear of rejection stop you from asking for a second date. Don’t beat around the bush and try to fish out a response before you actually ask the question. Dropping subtle hints is the least effective way to show someone that you like them. This isn’t the fifth grade anymore, and playing hard to get is no longer cute. When asking for a second date, be direct. People have been shown to be more responsive to direct questions, so instead of making tentative plans, say something like, “I’ve had a really great time with you. Can I take you out again on Friday?” This directness works equally well for women as it does for men, as you can read about in this study at ScienceDirect.
Follow these guidelines for a successful first date, and you will be cool, calm and collected. You will no longer have to suffer through nerve-wracking experiences and uncomfortable situations. Who knows, your next date may end up being with Mr. or Mrs. Right. If, on the other hand, you end up on a date with a dud and the chemistry isn’t there, don’t despair. Just consider it a trial date where you got to work on all of your best material before heading into your next first date. According to Forbes, more than half of adult Americans are single, so there really are plenty of fish in the sea.