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Whether you’re 25 or 55, it’s important to polish your Valentine date etiquette, especially if it’s a first date…or it’s been a while since you’ve dated. Don’t let poor manners and social faux pas turn what could be a fairy tale event into an evening of foibles and lament.

Here are eight ways to polish your dating etiquette, project greater confidence, and appear socially savvy on a first date or any date.

  1. Appearance counts. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance for a first impression. Dress appropriately for the restaurant or venue you’re headed to. It’s always better to take it up a notch and err on the side of over dressing rather than under dressing. Guys, a jacket or blazer looks nice. A tie doesn’t hurt either.
  2. Mind your manners. Does the guy still open the car door, hold doors, and seat the woman at a restaurant table? Absolutely! Also, get up from the table when she leaves and returns to the table. Courtesy and respect is never out of style. Women should graciously accept these considerate gestures with a simple ‘thank you.’
  3. Make reservations in advance. Book your table early. Good restaurants fill up quickly around Valentine’s Day and weekends. Make reservations via OpenTable or call the restaurant directly. And, it’s best not to try a new eatery on a first date. You’ll be assured of great food and service at a tried-and-true restaurant.
  4. Mind the menu. We all love our barbeque ribs, spaghetti, and burritos, but make it easy on yourself  by ordering items that aren’t too stringy, sticky, or awkward to eat. Stay with easy-to-eat foods so you can focus on the person across from you, not the potential of a culinary mishap. Men, allow your date to order first. Give her an indication of your hospitality limits by saying, “The New York Strip is good. And, their halibut is wonderful.” She should not feel compelled to order either one, but it helps her to know what price range is acceptable. After she’s taken a few bites, ask how her meal is. If anything needs attention (ex: her steak is undercooked), it is your responsibility to signal the server and politely ask for it to be put back on the grill.
  5. Treat the wait staff and bartender with courtesy. Showing respect to those who serve you says a lot about your character. Instead of “Give me the rib eye” say, “May I please have the rib eye.” Say ‘thank you’ anytime the server brings something to your table or refreshes your beverage. You are more inclined to get great service if you have an attitude of respect, versus an attitude of entitlement.
  6. Keep small talk light hearted. Avoid talking about your “ex,” work-related gripes, or too much about yourself.  Get to know your date. Ask open-ended questions…what, how, when questions. What brought you to the city? How did you get into that industry? Good small talk can be about current movies and books, the local music scene, hobbies, sports, news, or pop culture.
  7. Turn off the tech. We’re a text-obsessed society, but keep your phone put away and out of sight. (Never place it on the restaurant table!) If you’re expecting an urgent call, ask to be excused and go to a private place to take the call.
  8. Who pays? The one who invites is the one who pays. It’s generous for a woman to offer to contribute, but on a first date, in particular, the gentleman should pay for dinner, as well as the tip (20% or more at an upscale restaurant) and coat check. And, to not appear tacky, it’s best to save the Groupon deal for going out with coworkers!