Online dating can be super scary. You never know what to expect. Here are 25 tips for a first date after meeting online to keep it safe and fun.
A few months ago, after deleting and downloading a dating app a handful of times, I finally decided to take a risk and go on a first date. I’ll be honest, it was scary. I needed some tips for a first date after meeting online!
I was nervous, sweaty, and I half expected to be cat-fished or stood up. But, that didn’t happen. Since then I have been on quite a few first dates after meeting online. It is not as bad as you expect it to be.
Sure, some dates are duds. Some are worse than duds, but with a bit of confidence, open-mindedness, you can feel pretty darn good about a first date after meeting online. [Read: Annoyingly common misconceptions about online dating]
Should you have a first date after meeting online?
Before I get into my tips for a first date after meeting online, figure out if you should actually have a first date. Not everyone you meet online is worthy of a first date.
Dating requires a lot of time and effort, and you don’t want to whip out all that for just anyone. Whether you seek a deep connection or just a fun time, there are some questions to answer before committing to a first date.
If you have dealbreakers, toss those out beforehand. I am not talking about someone chewing with their mouth open. Even if the date isn’t perfect, you can have a nice evening with someone without them being the one.
But, if you have strong opinions about politics, feminism, or even your diet you may want to get that out of the way now. I have been on a date wherein the first 10 minutes the guy said something that turned me off so much I was ready to walk out. With a simple question about politics, I could have saved myself the drive to the restaurant and the nerves.
So whether you can’t deal with a smoker, someone that loves electric dance music, or someone that believes climate change is a hoax, you may want to mention that upfront. [Read: Revealing questions to get to know someone you are interested in]
Tips for a first date after meeting online
Everyone’s dating preferences differ. Some people like a laidback first date while others prefer dirt biking or an escape room. But, from my experiences, these tips for a first date after meeting online will keep you calm, cool, and collected.
They could even lead to a second date.
#1 Keep it simple. I prefer coffee dates because I don’t drink, and you can stay 30 minutes or hours. But, getting drinks is good too.
If that feels like too much pressure on the conversation, head to a bar that has darts or board games so you have something fun to lean on during lulls. If you go to an escape room or bowling, you are sort of stuck into an allotted amount of time. [Read: Your guide to timing a first date right]
#2 Meet there. The internet is the internet after all. Go in wisely. You want to be positive, but you never know, so be safe. Drive yourself there or take a cab or Uber. Giving someone your address before you meet, probably not too smart.
This way you can also leave whenever you want.
#3 Have a back-up plan. I know I just said to go in with a positive frame of mind, but you also have to be prepared for anything. Sure, usually the worst that happens is that you don’t vibe and you go your separate ways. If your date is creepy, looks totally different from their photo, or anything goes wrong, have a plan.
Have a friend call mid-date. Tell your waiter you’re on a first date beforehand and if you give them the signal they will bring the check out ASAP. Just think of a way to get out if you need to. [Read: How to end a date the right way without feeling awkward]
#4 Pop a mint. It is shocking I have to say this, but from my experience, it needs to be said. Whether you are getting drinks, coffee, ice cream, or anything else, pop a Tic-Tac before you get out of the car.
While you’re at it, spritz some perfume or at the very least rub on a fresh swipe of deodorant. Do not go overboard, but make sure you smell like you practice a decent level of hygiene. Bad breath and body odor are hard to ignore.
#5 Have a story on hand. I always go into a first date with a funny anecdote. Maybe you have a date from hell to talk about. Even a work story or catfish experience. Have a lighthearted story on hand. Trust me, you will end up telling it.
#6 Be no more than five minutes late. Ideally you would be on time or early, but personally, I hate being the first one to get there. That is when the nerves take over. No matter how rational you are, there will be butterflies and when I am sitting in a coffee house waiting for them to walk through the door I feel nauseous.
Instead, I show up at the exact time we agreed on and wait in my car until they tell me they arrived. That way I am on my terms, can double check my lipstick, and walk in without the extra level of fear. [Read: 18 things you HAVE to avoid doing on a first date]
#7 Keep your phone out of sight. Yes, you want your phone so you have an out if you need one and to show them photos of your puppy, but keep it out of sight. Even turned down at the table is a little much. Keep it in your bag or pocket.
Sure, if they go to the bathroom, you can whip it out to fill in your nosy friends, but if it is on the table it will distract you.
#8 Listen. Nerves can cause us to word vomit. You can go from answering a question about where you went to college into your dream job and future plans. Slow it down and remember you are getting to know each other.
Instead of interrupting their work story with the fact that your brother used to work for the same company that they interned at, let them finish before replying.
#9 Ask questions. I used to be so concerned with how I was coming across and answering certain questions I would forget to ask them any. But remember, this date isn’t about just you or just them, but both of you. If they tell you what they do for a living, ask if that is what they’ve always wanted to do.
Ask how their major in English Lit got them to their job running a tech start-up. Asking follow up questions shows that you are listening and truly engaged in conversation. [Read: 20 ways to completely perfect your first date conversation]
#10 Keep an open mind. This is one of the hardest things to do on a first date. It is nearly impossible to lose all expectations, but try to let some things go. It may be easy to let go of the fact that your coworker has differing political views or your brother-in-law still listens to Drake, but try to be open-minded.
Sure, you have your limits and dealbreakers, but try to get the whole story. If your date says they live with their parents, do not write them off just yet. They could have moved home to help their parents out. Don’t assume you know everything about this person. If you do, you could miss out on something great because you were too strict. [Read: How to open up to people and welcome life in]
#11 Try to be yourself. It sounds so obvious to be yourself on a first date. Duh. You want this person to get to know you, not the “perfect” and agreeable you, or the chill you when you are more neurotic. If you really want to give this a fighting chance, be yourself from the start.
But as I say that, I know how difficult it is to be vulnerable and just let everything out. If you are yourself 100% and get rejected, it hurts more than if you were a little bit more this or that. But if you do not take that risk of rejection you won’t find what you’re looking for.
#12 Be respectful. This is one of those tips for a first date after meeting online that should be a given, but some people still find it acceptable to make sexist jokes or crude comments upon meeting someone new, when in fact it isn’t okay ever. So if your date wants a handshake instead of a hug, be okay with that.
Respect their dietary restrictions, their allergies, their level of openness, and their choice to stay or leave. Dating is hard for everyone, not just you, so treat them how you want them to treat you.
#13 Do not talk about your ex. This is a piece of dating advice that has been told for ages, and for good reason. Do not go on and on about your ex. First of all, it is disrespectful. Secondly, it is a turnoff. And finally, it proves you are not ready to be dating.
With that being said, I think talking about past relationships is totally okay. You can say you learned a lot about what you want from your last relationship. Or you can say you have been more careful since you were cheated on or you take things slower now. Sharing what you have learned shows maturity, just don’t dwell or complain.
#14 Give it a chance. Ignore the idea of a spark or instant connection. It is great when that happens, but more often than not that initial spark doesn’t lead to much else. A slow burn could be exactly what you need.
Even if you aren’t initially attracted to your date, settle a bit. Getting into a good conversation can let you see another side of them.
#15 Offer to pay. This is totally personal preference, but I always say you should offer to pay on the first date. Some men feel like it is the chivalrous thing to do and some women want to make sure their date is okay with them being independent and financially stable on their own.
Even if you are fine with your date paying, making the reach is the polite thing to do.
#16 Keep the drinks to a minimum. Going out for drinks can help calm first date jitters. But keep the drinks to a minimum. Order a glass of water between each refill or share some fries to fill your stomach.
A drink or two can help you loosen up and be less on guard and more open, but drinking too much can lead to a handful of uh-ohs. From puking to passing out to making a fool of yourself, have a drink limit in mind beforehand.
If you are worried you’ll get carried away, get there early and ask the bartender to discreetly cut you off after two or three drinks. [Read: 16 tips to make a great impression with your behavior on a date]
#17 Make eye contact. I have been on dates where I felt just blah for the first hour or so. I just didn’t get that comfort I like to have with someone. But, once I stopped fidgeting and really made eye contact with them, that comfort grew.
Eye contact can really spark an interest. It helps you listen better and even keeps you more in tune with the other person.
#18 Make sure someone knows where you are. Here’s some more stranger danger advice. Tell a trusted friend, parent, or sibling where you are headed and give them the name and even phone number of who you are meeting just in case.
#19 Don’t overdo it. I have done this and it was such a mistake. A first date should not be too long, and this is one of those important tips for a first date after meeting online that you should never ignore. I once went to get coffee with someone. We walked around for about an hour or so. Then, instead of parting ways, we went for dinner. The date went on for almost four hours.
That was just too much for a first date. Because of that, he thought I was more interested than I actually was and it caused some issues later. Too long of a first date can blur your thoughts. Keep your first date under two hours. You are just getting a feel for each other.
#20 Keep it PG. Again, this is totally up to you, but I like to keep things pretty basic on a first date. If you are feeling it, a kiss at the end of the night is sweet, but beyond that is not my style. If you are both into it, go all the way, good for you.
It isn’t about being easy or too fast, but about what you are comfortable with. You could have great chemistry, but you do barely know this person. I always find that taking things slow keeps you thinking more clearly and things work out better in the end. [Read: The complete guide to help you decide how many dates before sex]
#21 Be honest about your intentions. If you are only interested in a casual fling, make sure they know that. If you desire a committed relationship, fill them in. If you are just getting out there and aren’t sure what you want, tell them that too. You don’t want to lead someone on. Being on the same page is always smart.
Also, at the end of the date, do not say you’ll call if you have no interest. Saying this was fun and it was great meeting you is all that is necessary. If you already know you aren’t interested, you can tell them in person that you just didn’t feel it, or think about it and let them know the next day.
#22 Accept the outcome. This was a first date, not a marriage. So relax. It didn’t work out, too bad. Whether you didn’t like them or they didn’t like you, you have only spent an hour or so together. Try to remember this was one hour out of your life.
I know with all the pressure, stress, and nerves, it seems like a lot is riding on that one cup of coffee, but it is just a date. [Read: 14 signs you’re unintentionally ruining your first dates]
#23 Follow up. For crying out loud, please do not ghost. If you aren’t interested, they will be fine. Let them know you had a nice time but didn’t feel it and wish them the best of luck.
If you are interested, text them the next day saying you had a great time and would love to do it again. Waiting around is no fun for anyone. [Read: The texting and followup guide after a great first date]
#24 Watch out for red flags. I know I am a big believer in being open-minded, but some things are just not good news. There are some things you need to get more information on, but other things you need to watch out for.
If they won’t tell you their last name, watch out. If they have a tan line on their left ring finger, question that. If they are a bad tipper, get out of there ASAP. [Read: Why you should run if you see these early red flags]
#25 Reflect. After the last date I went on I was convinced he was perfect, but after it didn’t work out I thought about it again and realized that he said quite a few things that would become a problem later. I just ignored them in the moment.
Of course, I didn’t want to make a scene or fight about something, but instead of taking these small things into account at all, I overlooked them. For example, he made fun of a woman who was overweight at the restaurant with us. I knew it stung me for a second, but the conversation shifted quickly, so I let it go.
But if that was a regular thing for him it would not be something I was okay with.
Hopefully, these tips for a first date after meeting online will guide you into your next meet-up with confidence, assurance, and an open mind. And who knows, you may just find the one too!