Who Should Really Pay on the First Date?

Fact Checked by: Charles Roscopf, CPA

The list of first date questions, worries, and decisions running through your brain before you head out the door is pretty endless. And included somewhere in that list is probably a concern about who should pay on the date. Should the guy pay? Should you go Dutch? Is there going to be incredible awkwardness when the bill shows up?

There doesn’t have to be! In this guide, our teams is going to look at who should really pay the bill on the first date and share some tips to avoid the awkward feeling when the server drops the check on the table or the bar.

Should a Guy Pay for the Date?

We thought we’d kickoff our discussion with the age old question of whether or not it’s the man’s responsibility to pay on the first date. There’s a lot to unpack here, so buckle up!

Who Should Pay on the First Date? - Man Paying for Lunch Date

First of all, yes, we know it’s not the 1950’s anymore, and women are just as capable (if not more capable in many instances) to pay their own bills as strong and independent women. We share that because it’s important to frame our answers here that they’re not meant to belittle or demean anyone.

When it comes to paying for the bill at the end of your chicken parmigiana experience we’re not talking about women’s rights—we’re simply talking about paying for those bread sticks. Paying for the bill is not a power play—it’s a generous act, a kind gesture, a sign of respect.

That all being said, here’s our answer.

No, the guy should not feel required to pay for the first date unless he wants to.

If he’s someone who believes in chivalry and age-old traditions that the man courting the woman pays on the first date, then go for it! But if the man is a bit more modern in their views, then splitting the check is totally okay.

Here are a few important truths.

  • If a man insists on paying for the bill, it should not be interpreted as a power move or insulting. It may be because he had such an amazing time and it is his way of saying thank you for your amazing company and conversation
  • If a man suggests that you split the check, that’s okay! It does not mean he’s poor, any less of a man, rude, or anything like that. It just means he’d prefer to split the bill and nothing more.

So, if you’re the guy reading this, decide on what you think is best for you and your situation. If you want to split the check, go into the date with that plan. If you want to be chivalrous and pick up the tab, then let that be your plan.

If you’re a woman reading this, here’s what we recommend. Do not ever expect a man to cover the entire check on a first date. Period. End of discussion. Come prepared and ready to offer to pick up half of the check. Even if he doesn’t let you, at least offering (and genuinely being ready to follow through on that) is extremely important and what we feel is the right thing to do.

Should the Woman Pay on the Date?

While this doesn’t get asked much, we’d like to cover it. Yes and no. If you’re talking about picking up the entire check, that’s totally up to you. There’s nothing wrong with doing that if you want to! If it makes the man feel uncomfortable, that probably tells you a lot about him (may be good, may be bad—depending on your views).

If you’re talking about paying for your half of the date or what you ordered, then we think you should absolutely be prepared to cover that portion. Going into a date just expecting someone you just met to pay for all of your food and spoil you is a bit pretentious and kind of rude. It’s okay if it works out that way, but expecting it to happen is not great.

We’ll share a few tips in a few that will help you figure out how to approach the moment that the waiter or waitress drops the check off.

“Going Dutch” on Dates

The other option besides one person picking up the entire check is what is known as going Dutch. Going Dutch means that you both evenly split the check right down the middle 50/50. It does not mean you each pay for what you ordered; it means you just cut it right down the middle.

Is going Dutch on dates a great idea?

We think so! If you’re going to comb through the check and calculate exactly what each of you owes, that’s going to kill the mood. Can you do that? Yes.

Will you ever see that person again? Probably not. If you’re going to split the check, be prepared to split it down the middle (with a few small exceptions we’ll cover shortly.

Heart Made our of Money

How to Avoid Awkwardness When it Comes to Paying the Bill on a Date

Here are a few of our favorite tips and pointers to help remove the awkwardness when it comes to paying the check on a date.

  • If you’re a woman going out with a man, NEVER just assume he’s going to cover the bill. Even if he grabs the check when it comes, offer to split it. “Would you like to split that?” is plenty to say. If he says no, then just say thank you. If he says yes, be ready to pull out cash or your credit card.
  • If you’re a man and feeling uneasy about that moment, have a plan in place. Decide well before the date if you want to split the check or pick it up yourself. If you’re picking it up, grab the check when it comes and pull it over in front of you (you can handle paying it later if you’re mid conversation). If you’re planning to split it, when the check gets dropped, say something like, “You good with splitting this?” right after the check gets dropped. If the waiter/waitress asks about the check, you can ask the same question right then.
  • Ladies, if he asks you if you want to split the check, the correct answer is always yes.
  • Don’t ever let the check sit there for more than a few seconds without addressing it. If you’re picking it up, physically pick it up and put it right in front of you. If you’re splitting it, ask them if they’re good with splitting it. This will eliminate all of the awkwardness.
  • Never nit-pick about who ordered what or who ordered more. This will 1000% kill the mood. Splitting the check right down the middle is the easiest way to do this (going Dutch).
  • If you want to pick up the check and they’re insisting on splitting it, you have two good options. One—you can let them split it with you or two—you can say something like, “How about you get the next one?” and then you’re set. The added bonus of the second option is you’ll find out quickly if they’re interested in a second date.

The only caveat to a lot of this is if someone orders something absolutely insane or goes off the deep end with things. For example, if one person has 10 drinks and you have 1, they should probably be the ones getting the check or paying most of it. But if you have 1-2 drinks and they have 3, just let it go.

This is also the reason we’re advocates for less expensive first dates like drinks or coffee instead of a full meal or show/event.

Which brings up the other point—order conservatively. You don’t have to order just a salad and water, but don’t go nuts ordering the steak and lobster. Be respectful.

A Very Important Rule

This rule/tip is so important we wanted to give it it’s own section. If you invite them to something expensive, don’t expect them to give you money for the ticket or the event unless you discuss that beforehand.

For example, if you invite them to a concert—don’t surprise them when they get there by asking them to pay for their ticket. If you want them to pay for their ticket, cover all of that BEFORE the date. If not, you should cover it.

The Wrap Up

The bottom line is that there are no real hard and fast rules about who should pick up the check on a date or first date. Society will lead you to believe that the onus is heavily on the guy, but way more people are moving to an equal footing where the onus is shifting evenly to both people on the date.

As long as you communicate and do what is fair, you should have no problems. But no more just starting at the check hoping the other person is going to flinch or do something!

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.