Who Pays on a First Date?

The roadmap to freedom is counting down, the birds are getting chatty, the pubs are unstacking tables, there’s new summer clothes to buy for long awaited holidays- the time to get out and about is nearly upon us and all those months of waiting to date will be in the rear view mirror. 

But have we forgotten how to date non-virtually? As we contemplate getting back in the saddle, this month some pointers on what dating etiquette the pandemic might have changed and others that never change. 

To kick off, an oldie and a biggie - who pays for what on that crucial first date

For starters, even if you have a two comma bank balance it’s good advice not to go for anything too flashy and expensive. It puts unnecessary pressure on the outcome and may well make your date uncomfortable. 

There are a million variations to this question: The man should always pay, if he doesn’t offer he’s not interested. You should always go Dutch. The man should offer to pay but if the woman offers to go Dutch the man should agree. Women are equal in the marketplace so they should offer to pay.

Stop. Breathe. Thoughts like: 

’If he doesn’t pay he isn’t interested.’ ‘I like a man who always pays.’ ‘Let’s feel it out when the cheque comes.’ ‘There’s something special about a man taking the initiative and going after what he wants.’ ‘She asked me out on the date, she should pay’ 

Should be cleared from your mind. To go in with hard and fast expectations like these is setting yourself up for disappointment. The reason the 'who pays' debate has raged for decades is because it depends on the situation


Surveys of heterosexuals suggest most women still think men should pay. That said, a lot of women are reporting that paying for a date gives them a freedom they have never had before such as making it easier to reject dates, really question whether they want to date a particular person, more empowerment, or even initiating positive reactions from males by an unexpected yet often pleasant surprise... 

Why though is everyone putting themselves through such unnecessary potential awkwardness and worry? First dates are stressful enough without worrying about who pays. This will not change post-pandemic. 

So, why not make it easy on ourselves, pre-empt a ‘gunfighter’s staredown’ when the bill arrives? Instead, why not manage expectations early doors, and communicate. A simple: ‘I’m looking forward to this, are we going Dutch?’ gets it on the table at the outset. 

However you manage the ‘who pays’ conundrum, getting out there and enjoying life again is what it’s all about. Paying will happen organically and naturally if a relationship is going to happen.