Whether it leads to lasting romance, or just a funny anecdote, to tell your friends once the dust has settled, much of the magic of a first date is the excitement we feel.
But then almost without fail come the nerves.
What to wear and how to greet them? Will they like you? Will YOU like THEM? Not to mention a whole raft of anxieties specific to you and influenced by your romantic history.
Because for every success story , it can seem there are at least three horror stories (some of them your own) and keeping the faith can be hard.
Described as the ‘Matchmaker of Matchmakers’ Caroline Brealey’s dating agency, Mutual Attraction has won awards for her skills – and has worked with huge number of very diverse clients.
So whether it’s your first date ever, or in a while, or after heartache, Caroline has identified the traps and come up with some golden rules on surviving (and even exiting) that tricky first date.
1. If it’s been a while since you last went on a date
It’s completely normal to feel anxious and nervous about dating again. But don’t let those feelings hold you back. Sometimes it’s a case of getting the first few dates ‘out the way’.
OK, that’s not the mindset you want to go into the dates with, but you will get into the swing and realise actually it’s not as bad as you thought!
Keep the conversation light-hearted, if you like one another there will be plenty of time to talk about all these things.
2. If you’re not long out of a relationship
One trap may be talking about your recent relationship as it’s so fresh in your mind.
It’s a big ‘no no’ though and exes should definitely be left in the past when you’re on a date with someone new.
3. If you’ve been cheated on
You may think everyone is like your last partner. When trust has been broken it’s heartbreaking and can take a long time for the wounds to heal.
It would be easy to fall into the ‘everyone is the same’ trap but if you go into a date (or relationship) thinking that, then it’s unlikely love will blossom (cheesy, I know!).
You will be wary but it would be unfair on your date to treat them with suspicion. Also ensure the topic of ex- partners are off the agenda, talking about what happened between you and your ex is a sure way to dampen the date.
And don’t try to compare them to your ex!
4. If you’ve never been on a date before
Beware of over-thinking – don’t do it!
Going on your first date ever you are bound to be nervous and it will be on your mind.
Try not to over-analyse the date, both beforehand, on the date and after.
Over-analysing everything from their emails, to the way they greet you to a flyaway comment they made doesn’t bring any good. Try and focus on one thing only – having some fun!
And don’t bring up that this is your first ever date – there is no reason for them to know.
5. How should I greet my date?
This is always a little awkward.
But here’s the thing – anything you do will feel awkward. Especially if this is your first time meeting, for example if it’s a blind date or you’ve met online.
The best thing to do? Not think about it!
When you turn up you will naturally do whatever feels comfortable for you. Over-think it and you’ll end up looking like a robot or be too over-zealous with that kiss on the cheek.
Feels a bit awkward? Don’t worry, it is ALWAYS a bit awkward, that’s the nature of a first date.
You bang heads? Laugh it off. They go for a kiss whilst you offer your hand? Laugh it off. It will certainly break the ice!
6. The date’s not going well – help!
If a date isn’t going as well as you hoped you might want to try a few tactics first.
If the conversation isn’t flowing ask some questions to try and get the conversation flowing, be friendly and polite, they may just be nervous.
Give it a bit of time as some people need to warm up and keep it mind it may be a bit awkward at first, first dates often are.
Sometimes though, there is no salvaging a date so if you feel that you don’t want to stay any longer it’s time to make a graceful exit…
Read more: Are we too ugly for love? Meet the four women wary of dating because of their medical conditions
7. So how DO I make a graceful exit?
Even if the date is going fantastically well it’s still a good idea to wrap it up and then look forward to the next date.
If it’s not going so well you’re probably going to want to wrap it up a bit quicker.
In this case wait for a lull in the conversation and simply say ‘it was really nice to meet you, I’m going to have to head off now but thanks so much for the drinks’ – or something similar.
Be polite and nice but to the point. Treat someone how you would like to be treated and do make sure that you have given them at least 45 minutes to an hour of your time as some people need a bit of warming up.
Don’t ask a friend to call and claim an emergency – we’re all grown-ups here!
8. I think the date DID go well – what next?
There are so many ‘rules’ in dating about when and when you shouldn’t contact your date.
Love isn’t about playing games and if you have to wait three days to contact someone for them to be interested then they’re not worth it anyway.
Instead, drop them a line the day after the date to say you have a great time meeting them and then suggest something they might like to do.
For example if they mentioned they love the theatre why not suggest going to see a play one evening? Hopefully they won’t leave you hanging too long for a response which is always the worst part!
If your date doesn’t get back to you or declines your offer try not to beat yourself up.
There is something positive to be taken away from each and every date – even if it’s simply a case of you went on your first date in years.
Caroline is an award winning matchmaker and dating expert at Mutual Attraction, the UK’s only dating agency to be awarded ‘Best Matchmaker’ at the prestigious idate matchmaking awards.