The truth about first date etiquette: what really happens?

Couple on a first date

A first date can be a stressful experience. After noticing each other’s profiles, and messaging back and forth, the big moment arrives: your first date! Curious to know more, EliteSingles conducted a survey on first date experiences. We share exclusive anecdotes into first date etiquette, and discovered interesting insights about the nitty-gritty of going on a date.

First date etiquette: date prep

The first step in a successful date is the preparation. So what do men and women do behind closed doors? Men put in the time to scrub up, with 50% taking more than 30 minutes to get ready for a first date, however, a third (36%) choose to splash and dash, taking 10-30 minutes. Women, on the other hand, like to primp and preen, with a majority (65%) taking longer than 30 minutes.

The genders also don’t see eye to eye on another subject of personal presentation: makeup. A huge 9 out of 10 women think that makeup is a necessary part of their preparation and appearance, however, men do not share this opinion; 43% of men prefer a more natural look. At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

First date etiquette: the low down

When it comes to money matters, men and women diverge on first date etiquette for the budget. Men are the big spenders, with the majority (60%) expecting to spend more than $45 to impress their date, while 70% of women expect to spend between $15-$45, and 10% don’t expect to spend any money at all.

It comes as no surprise that the senses play a big role in chemistry, with sight and smell voted an integral part in the art of attraction. Our research found that colors can act as a warning sign or attracting beacon on a first date. According to our members, wearing orange and yellow are a definite no on a first date, and were voted as the least attractive colors.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, women favor men in blue or black, while men said red was their preferred color of love. Interestingly, women also voted black as their favorite color to wear on a date, but maybe they should be painting the town red instead!

Perfume was confirmed as the scent of love – with 87% of participants saying that they put on perfume before a first date, and a resounding 82% saying that they notice their date’s scent and like to smell their perfume on a first date. When it comes to first date etiquette, don’t overlook the basic senses – each has their own part to play.

First date etiquette: making the moves

Before the first meeting, most people have their own lingering uncertainties. The majority of women divulged that they worry about not knowing what to say, while men are afraid of not impressing their date. Although 53% said they found a first date stressful, 39% of singles feel excited to meet someone new. As means of an introduction, a majority of people (83%) speak on the phone before a date, and so have already started to get to know each other. But the secret may just lie in where to go – next time you are going on a date choose an Italian restaurant, with 40% of participants voting Mediterranean cuisine as their choice for a romantic dinner.

When it comes to what people notice about each other, it turns out men and women are actually quite similar. On a first date men and women both notice their date’s teeth (25% men and 46% women) and hands (36% men and 39% women) first. But when complimenting your date, the most popular compliment that men and women first like to give is based on their date’s personality (54%). Our data suggests that this would be well received too; the most coveted compliments are those about your personality, with 57% voting it as the compliment they would most like to get.

Interestingly, time is of the essence, with 60% of singles saying that they know within 5 minutes if they want to see their date again or not! But be careful to avoid taboo topics if you want to seal the deal – men feel most uncomfortable discussing ex-partners, and women said no to casual conversations about sex!

First date etiquette: little white lies

When arriving on a first date, many people have been caught off-guard by a surprise or two. So what would be acceptable and what would go down like a ton of bricks? Women said it was a definite no to change your age (68%) or weight (59%) a little one way or the other on your profile, however, could accept it if you had altered your height (54%). Men said that they could accept a white lie about age (52%), or height (75%), but that lying about your weight was unacceptable (51%). This was based on a few extra inches here or there, but when it comes to dating, being honest and authentic is always is the best route to take.

EliteSingles also found a surprising secret about what singles get up to in the bathroom on a romantic date! The majority of our members go to the bathroom to have a little touch-up, but 25% of women admitted to going to the toilet to find an excuse to leave earlier, while 25% of men said they take the opportunity to catch their breath and try to relax!

First date etiquette: how to end the evening

Turns out kissing on the first date may be a deal breaker. Almost 75% of women do not want to be kissed the first night, while 63% of men want to end their date with a kiss. Also, singles favor sending a message after your first date, as they consider it less intrusive than a call, with a third of women saying they wait to be messaged first!

So there you have it, all you need to know about first date etiquette, from how to dress and what to say to impress – you’re ready to meet your match.


All statistics based on EliteSingles’ First Date’ Survey, November 2017. Sample size: 1557 participants

About the author: Zoe Coetzee

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