Dining Etiquette to Win at Dating

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Let the nervous perspiration begin—you’ve just scheduled a dinner date with someone you really like. Of course you want to impress this special someone by breaking out your best etiquette skills and image: etiquette meaning graciousness and respectfulness, and image meaning a strong and positive presence so your date will want to spend time with you. But what if you mess up in the moment, create some unforgivable faux pas, or leave with broccoli in your teeth? These tips for dining etiquette on a date will help you share your best self!

Dining Etiquette to Win at Dating

  • Be on Time. Do you think your time is more important than your date’s? Probably not, but that’s the message you send when you are late. Most people underestimate how long it takes to do a task by 30 percent, so plan accordingly. (Here in California, you know there will be predictable traffic [and that you should avoid the 5 South on a Friday evening], so plan that in too–it’s not the excuse it once was!) And if you are running late, make sure you call or text an expected arrival time; it’s better to project a later time and arrive earlier.
  • Work the Etiquette Basics.

    • Mama always said “no elbows on the table,” and it’s still a no-no when food is on the table. Leaning on your forearms will show you are interested in your date’s every word, and without committing an etiquette faux pas.
    • If beverages run low, ask if your date would like another drink. If that beverage is a tableside bottle of wine (and the waiter is nowhere to be found), refill your date’s glass first and then your own.
    • If you must get up during the meal, leave your napkin on your chair, not on the table.
    • If you finish your meal early, do not allow the waiter to remove your plate until your date is finished eating: “I’ll wait until we’re both finished eating, thank you.”
  • Practice Good Conversation. A lot of people think being a good conversationalist means being extroverted or chatty. But the art of conversation is rooted in asking great questions and listening to the answers. When talking with your date, questions that start with “who, what, where, when, why, and how” will get a better response than simple yes/no questions, and are more likely to keep the conversation flowing. It’s also a good idea to catch up on the headline news each day, so you can weave current events into your conversation.
  • Decide Who Pays. The simplest of answers is, if you initiated the date, you should expect to pay for it, even if your guest offers to pitch in. This is your show! But never underestimate the power of reciprocity: if you were treated to a first date, it’s a nice gesture to offer to prepare a home-cooked meal for the second date. Plus it shows interest in another date!

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