Taking your relationship from the interwebs to real life can seem a bit stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. You have gotten your online dating match to agree to go on a first date with you, nice job! Now, you need to get ready to meet with your crush in person. The hardest part has already been taken care of, finding someone you’re interested in to go out on a date with.
First dates can be so exciting, and also a bit nerve racking because you want so badly for it to go well. You can find confidence in knowing they obviously already like you (that’s why they agreed to go out in the first place). Read on to find out how to have a successful first date when meeting up with your new love interest for the very first time.
A Different Kind of Pre-Gaming
There are a few things you need to plan in advance before ever even meeting up for the first date. Nothing too crazy, or time consuming, but important details to take into consideration if you want to make a great first impression. You want to put your best foot forward so your online dating match knows you tried, no matter how big or small the effort.
Perhaps one of the most important steps to meeting your online dating match for the first time is to keep safety in mind. You only have the information this person has presented to you in their dating profile and through messages and chatting over the phone if you have gotten to that step in the process. Safety should always be on the forefront of your mind when meeting a stranger for the first time.
Make sure you are meeting in a public place where there will be plenty of people to see you. Share with family and friends where you will be, and who you are meeting with as well as any identifying information you have about this person. Perhaps this seems like a lot of work (or even uncomfortable), but in a world where human trafficking and crime is a reality, you can never be too careful.
Smart phones have the capability of sharing your location with others, so they are able to track your GPS location in real time. Be sure to keep the battery on your phone fully charged, and share your location with your bestie from your iPhone or Google phone prior to meeting with this stranger for the first time. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
If you want to learn more about safety, make sure you check out our online dating safety guide with everything you need to know.
Make It Memorable and Simple
When planning the first date you want to make it memorable and not generic. Dinner and a movie is not ideal for a first date because you do not have enough opportunities to connect with your new crush. You want to create opportunities to chat and connect with the other person, not to sit quietly through a movie.
Think about what makes the other person tick and try to incorporate that as best you can. Do you share a common interest such as enjoying hiking, or volunteering at the nearby animal shelter on the weekends? Maybe incorporate something like that into your first date. A trip to the arcade or enjoying an interactive meal such as Korean BBQ are also great ideas. Anything that requires teamwork is a great first date idea too.
This Table is Reserved
Nothing is worse than awkwardly standing around waiting for a table when meeting an online date for the first time. Do yourself a favor and call the restaurant in advance and see if they take reservations, and if so definitely make one. Your date will be impressed that you planned ahead in this way.
Some restaurants can have long wait times, especially if they are the newest neighborhood hot spot, and you don’t want to use up all of your first date questions before you ever sit down at the table to eat. Making a reservation in advance will save you the uncomfortableness of standing around with this new person trying to figure out what to do with your hands and what to say.
If you can’t make a reservation and you know there will be a wait before you and your online date can sit, then perhaps choose a place that provides fun activities such as checkers or board games. Even card games such a go fish are a fun way to make the time go when waiting for a table and you aren’t using up your best first date questions in the first five minutes of the date.
Grooming is Key
You get this one time to make a good first impression, and you don’t want to show up looking like a scraggly wild wolf. Grooming is so important and shows your online dating match that you care about the “face” you put forward. No one wants to date the sloppy looking guy or girl.
Remember to think about the grooming details such as cleaning your ears, trimming your nails, and shining up your shoes. Guys get a fresh haircut and trim your facial hair (if you have it) so you don’t look like a timber wolf. Ladies, unibrows and mustaches are not attractive so remember to wax these off a day or two prior to your first date if you haven’t had them permanently removed via the help of lasers.
The physical appearance is not everything, but we are such visual creatures that you want to make sure you put your absolute best face and foot forward. You don’t need to get too crazy with the grooming (or makeup ladies), keep it simple and as close to your normal look as possible. Whatever grooming you do, it needs to be at a level you can easily maintain throughout the life of a relationship. Don’t catfish someone with excessive grooming if that is not how you would normally carry yourself.
In addition to grooming yourself, remember to groom your car. Don’t expect to pick someone up on the first date, but should they see you walking to your car for some reason or insist on walking you to your car at the end of the date, you want your ride to sparkle. Make sure to straighten things up not only on the outside of your vehicle, but on the inside too.
If the inside of your car smells like a bag of dirty gym clothes then take care of the stench, as this could knock someone out when you open up the car door. You wouldn’t want to have a great date to have the appearance (or smell) of your car end up being a deal breaker. Remember everything about you, including your ride, leaves a lasting first impression when meeting an online date for the first time. You don’t have to have the newest most expensive car, but you should take pride in what you have.
Plan Your Outfit (and Stick With it)
This step of planning your outfit in advance is perhaps more for the ladies than for the guys. Planning out your outfit beforehand can save you a lot of time on the date of the main event. Don’t second guess your outfit and change a thousand times, go with your gut and stick to your first pick. Often times you will end up right back at your first choice anyways even if you changed ten times in the process.
If you know you are one to change your mind a lot, then a couple of days before the date figure out your outfit. Layout of hang-up your outfit where you will see it several times before the first date and your mind knows this aspect of the date is already set. When you train your brain to not worry about this sort of thing or limit your options to only a couple of items, you will spare yourself the back and forth worry on the day of.
Game Time – Meeting Your Date In Person
You have everything ready to go, nice threads, pearly whites, and a cleaned-up ride, now what? You need to get ready for phase two of meeting your online date for the first time, game time. Unfortunately, there isn’t a dress rehearsal for a first date, but there are some easy ways to prepare yourself to handle it better than most.
Bring the Dough
Not everyone is comfortable carrying around cash with them, however we encourage it for a first date, especially if you are going somewhere that may not take plastic (credit or debit cards). Maybe you are going to a food truck festival on your first date, or a carnival, these are examples of places that may only take cash. Some parking lots and structures are cash only, so be prepared for this by packing some dough in your wallet the day before.
Another perk of carrying money is that you are mentally planning to pay for all or part of the date, the budget has been set and you won’t overspend. First dates shouldn’t be too elaborate, so you don’t need to carry too much money on you. Read more about who should pay the bill when meeting an online date for the first time.
Show Up Early
Nothing worse than showing up late for a first date… especially if you were the orchestrator and invited the other person out. Planning things in advance such as having cash on you and making a reservation are great steps to take in order to have a successful first date, except if you show up late. Remember those first impressions only come around once, so showing up late won’t work in your favor.
If showing up on time is not you forte, then take steps to fight back against your brains pre-programming of always showing up late. Use the calendar app in your smart phone and schedule your date as though it is an appointment on your calendar. Add the location of where you will be meeting and set the travel time based upon whether you are walking or driving to the location. Setup reminders to go off 5, 10, or even 30 minutes before your travel time.
Taking steps to plan accordingly will help you to arrive early enough to be standing there smiling as your online date walks toward you for the very first time. Also consider the extra time it may take to find a bike rack to lock up your bike, or parking space for your ride, and plan this into your travel time. The meetup location may be 20 minutes from your place, but it may take you an additional 12 minutes to secure parking.
Don’t Overthink (Everything)
This is really something to keep in mind not only when meeting up in person with your online date for the first time, but also before meeting up. Don’t send them 10,000 texts about where you’re meeting up, and don’t overthink what you’re going to talk about. They already like you… that’s why they agreed to a first date, so you can take it easy and relax, no need to think into it too much.
Be a Gracious Attendee
Whether you organized the date or are just attending something that was planned for you, remember to be gracious to the other person. Don’t complain if your chicken dinner was really dry or the waiter was not the best. Carry a thankful attitude, and let your online date know you are just happy to be spending time with them.
Remember to use your P’s and T’s (please and thank you), when meeting your online date for the first time. Manners are not overrated and are sincerely appreciated when used graciously with someone whom you’ve just met for the first time.
Be sure to thank your date for planning the evening if all you had to do is show up, because planning a first date with a stranger puts a lot of pressure on the other person and can be stressful. All they want to do is make you happy, and make sure you have a great time, so remember that and be grateful.
Remember to Listen
When we have a conversation with someone we don’t know, or are getting to know, we tend to be more concerned with what we are going to say next in order to keep the conversation going. This can make you feel unnecessary anxiety or social anxiety as most people know it as. You need to slow your brain down, so you can focus on the other person.
A great way to listen to the other person is to slow your breathing and literally bite on your tongue. Sounds crazy but it works extremely well. Biting on your tongue forces you to use other senses, such as your ears. Hang onto the words the other person is saying by repeating them as they say them in your mind (not out loud). This will allow you to have a sincerer conversation where you are engaging with them, versus reacting to them.
When you listen and engage with someone, versus being concerned with what you are going to say next, you can have better connectedness with that person. Meeting your online date for the first time is all about building a connection, and the connection will be built through conversation first. Make sure a majority of what you talk about is the other person and their interests, because a majority of what they talk about will be about you. This creates a nice balance when getting to know each other in person.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should never talk over someone else or interject while they are speaking. Talking over others and cutting them off while they are speaking is extremely rude and will pretty much guarantee you won’t be getting a second date. You may not even make it through the first date without them getting an emergency text about how they forgot to feed their cat.
Ask Better Questions
This is an area our readers are always asking us about, what questions should they ask on a first date? It is important to remember that first dates are not job interviews. Your goal is not to grill the other person to a point where they are exhausted at the end of the date. If your are asking them to describe where they see themselves in 5 to 10 years, then you are missing the point of a first date.
You want to hit all the basics during your conversation: family, occupation and recreation, although you should pick one area to really zero in on. We suggest a focus on family since this is an area a lot of people place a lot of value on and the easiest area to start building a strong connection from the very first date. It’s great insight to talk about one’s upbringing with them, it tells you how close they are with their fam bam, how they were raised, etc.
When you ask questions, start from the basic open-ended question such as: “Where are you from?” Then move onto deeper questions to gain more insight, and to appear really interested in getting to know them better. Eventually you will move into questions such as: “What is your most favorite family memory as a child?” “Why does that memory stick out to you so much?” “What is the coolest thing about the town you grew up in?”
Asking better questions is all about diving deeper into what the person has told you. This will require you to actually listen to what they are saying, so remember to do that part. There is no such thing as a silly question so ask away but do it in a natural (not forced) sort of way.
Don’t Be a Negative Nancy
People will always remember 100 percent of the negative things that happen to them, and only 10 percent of the positive things. These are not good odds, but they are realistic. Be mindful of your attitude. Sometimes we just have bad days and are in “a mood,” from the moment we get out of bed. Be mindful of where you’re at and do whatever you need to do to snap yourself out of a bad mood… especially if it falls on the first date.
When planning the first date festivities with your online date, plan something fun and unique, and also not too time consuming like a multi-course plated dinner. If you stick to a 60-90-minute date and realize 5 minutes into it that you are not feeling this person, at least you know how long you have until you’re free from ever having to see them again. After 60-90 minutes you should have a pretty good idea if you’re truly interested in them or not.
Be sure to have a plan for after the first 60-90 minutes of the game (a.k.a. date). We refer to this as post-game plans. Perhaps it’s a walk around the downtown area while sipping on hot cocoas, or a stroll through the farmer’s market. Whatever the plan is, have something ready to go on the back burner if you end up realizing you would like to spend more time with this person.
When it comes to meeting an online date for the first time you can have a great first date if you prepare. The whole point of having a first date is to see if you have enough compatibility and chemistry for a second date. Be sure to let your online dating match know if you had a great time and if you want to see them again. And remember to relax, breathe, and enjoy yourself!
Written By: Jason Lee
Jason Lee is a data analyst with a passion for studying online dating, relationships, personal growth, healthcare, and finance. In 2008, Jason earned a Bachelors of Science from the University of Florida, where he studied business and finance and taught interpersonal communication.
His work has been featured in the likes of The USA Today, MSN, The Motley Fool, Net Health, and The Simple Dollar. As a business owner, relationship strategist, dating coach, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base with the rest of the world.