10 first date tips: expert advice that you can actually use!

Happy couple on a first date

First dates. They can be exciting, nerve-wracking, 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 first date tips together. Presenting our first date master guide.

First date tips: we answer 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 storm of messages and to develop real feelings as a result. However, before you get swept away, it’s important to test your spark offline. How long should you wait? A University of Florida study found that you shouldn’t wait longer than 17 to 23 days before meeting in real life; those who stall can create an idealised image of their date in their heads that reality can struggle to compare to.1

Want to say hi to someone interesting? Find our first message tips here

2. What if first date nerves get the better of me?

If you’re battling the stomach butterflies before a big date then congratulations – you’re completely normal. In fact, if it’s any comfort, your date is probably just as nervous! 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, thus boosting confidence.2

3. What online dating safety tips should I consider?

Another way to ease pre-date nerves is to follow basic safety precautions. Dating Coach Ronnie Ann Ryan recommends that you make sure to meet a new person 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? Read our guide to staying safe online

4. How should I dress 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 is just as important as glamour. After all, if you’re aiming for relaxed and confident, you don’t want to wear something restrictive that you’ll be tugging at all night! Bustle’s Julia Friedman recommends that less is more: pick a favourite feature and wear something that highlights only that and don’t forget to suit your outfit to the venue!4

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

5. Is the first date always 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 just getting started – even if you’ve already chatted online. Indeed, many daters prefer to start with a casual first meeting, designed to test any mutual attraction. If that’s your case, it’s perfectly fine to meet for a quick coffee (the preferred first date for 83% of our members5).

Read our guide to the perfect coffee date – complete with maps of where to go!

6. What is the best place to go for a dinner date?

If you do want to meet for coffee, chances are you have a favourite local (alternatively, try the suggestions in our guides for regional dating in New Zealand). However, if you’ve already checked each other out offline – or if you want to up the romance – then it’s fine to opt for 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’ favourite romantic cuisine: Italian.6

7. Are there any conversation subjects we should avoid?

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

So what can you talk about? Try one of our top ten first date questions

8. Who should pay for the date?

This question is tricky. 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, there’s no clear right answer, so do what feels natural to you – just don’t offer to split the bill unless you’re genuinely happy to do so!

9. Who should ask for the second date?

This another case of changing social norms. Convention says that the man asks: but these days 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 balanced 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

We discovered how many women are actually asking men out. Find the results 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 love life.

Ready to see where a first date can take you? Try EliteSingles: click here to get started.

EliteSingles editorial March 2016

If you have any questions, comments or ideas relating to first dates then let us know below or write us an email at [email protected]


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

See more articles written by Sophie Watson