First date tips: 14 ways experts reckon you can make your next date your best yet

First date nerves are out of the picture this Valentine's Day

first date tips
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If you're frantically searching the Internet for first date tips while trying to get ready, let us stop you there. Valentine's Day might be just around the corner, but that doesn't mean you need to put pressure on yourself. You've got to do what feels right for you - and by that, we mean curl up on the sofa with your girlfriends and a bottle of Amie, if that's where your heart's at. 

That said, if you have got a date in the diary, good for you. Fun fact: it only takes daters 25 minutes to decide if there is a spark on a first date. The research from Britannia Rescue also found that a fifth of Brits have made excuses to leave a date early.

Fear not, though, as after you've read our handy first date tips, that won't be the case. Keep scrolling as the experts share their fourteen top tips, covering everything from the most basic first date etiquette to how to know whether to go in for that first kiss. 

Read our expert-led guide to dating profile tips, while you're here, alongside our explainers on dating advice for women, first date questions and what to wear on a first date, to boot. 

For tips on what to talk about on your first date, scroll advice from:

14 first date tips, according to top experts

1. Be authentic

Yes, we know what you're thinking - what a cliché. But being authentic is so important that all six experts mentioned it in some capacity. 

The best piece of advice I've ever received is to think of a date as a way to explore who you are, too - all you have to do is be yourself.

"Let them get to know the real you," shares Ari Brown. "This will set the framework for a genuine relationship from the start."

"You want a date to celebrate who you are right now and not who you were, think you need to be for others, or even who you hope to be in the future," they continue.

2. Hold off fantasizing

It's all too easy to start daydreaming about what your crush might be like (cough, Harry Styles, cough). But one basic first date rule a handful of experts shares is to put an end to any fantasizing, where possible. 

Remember it's your very first date (and potentially one of many) so it's best to not arrive with a whole heap of expectations. Leave the fantasizing for at least the third trip out. "We can often spend hours messaging our potential date, so much so that we can create stories and narratives which are far from the truth," Thomson explains.

"We imagine our future with this person before we’ve even met them - and when we do, and they don’t meet this idolised version you have built up in your head it can be hard to get past your disappointment." Do try and remember "take them at face value" and as they truly are, Thompson adds.

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3. Get erotic

Yes, you read that right - Paris Smith suggests getting your sexy on before you've even met your date. "Connect to your erotic persona by taking a few cheeky photos or videos of yourself celebrating your body and sexuality before you go out. Act as the woman you want to be - unapologetically expressed and deeply connected to pleasure," suggests Smith.

Wondering what your erotic persona is? "This is the way we identify and experience ourselves when we are being sexual," explains Smith.

Try this: Wear your favourite matching lingerie set to get you in the mood while playing some of your favourite upbeat music. "The point of this pre-date is to boost our confidence so that we feel capable of being desired by witnessing this sexy part of ourselves," says Smith.

first date tips

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4. Get your headspace right

There's often pressure on your outfit, makeup, and date location but none of that matters compared to the actual connection you have with your date. Taking time to get in the right headspace before you head off is super important, share the experts. 

Why? Well, because a positive mindset can be key to a good date, shares Johnson. Try this: "Spend ten minutes to engage in some meditation or other relaxation exercises like progressive muscle relaxation. This will help to relieve the tension in your mind and body,” she suggests.

Caparelli agrees, adding: “Going on a date after bathing in self-love is only going to boost your self-confidence so that you can be yourself while also keeping a sharp eye out for those things in your date you may not want in your amazing life." 

5. Get comfortable

As well as getting yourself in the mood, be sure to wear an outfit that makes you feel both sexy and comfortable. "Dress to feel attractive over dressing to look attractive. Heels that cramp your feet after two steps, do not a sexy moment make," suggests Smith. 

We couldn't agree more - here at Marie Claire UK, we're all about doing what makes us feel good, rather than what looks good. Wear what makes you feel comfortable without worrying about what your date thinks - remember first date tip number one: be authentic.

As per the research above, they found that 68% of daters needed to feel comfortable on a date to be able to enjoy yhemselves. It's a first date tip for a reason..

6. Understand what you want

Knowing what you want - and sharing that information if asked - is key to any good first date. If you're just looking to hook up, make that clear. Similarly, if you're searching for the one to start a family with one day or experimenting with your sexuality - honesty is always the best policy. 

Before you go on your first date, it may be good to have in mind what your looking for in case the conversation comes up, share the pros. "I would advise staying true to who you are, even if you’re fearful that your truth may be a dealbreaker,” says Caparelli. “Keep in mind that you don’t want to be with someone who you aren’t a good match with, and being honest about yourself will only help you find that right person.”

At the same time, don't stress about it too much. "Try to maintain an open mind by taking a relaxed approach when meeting someone new," suggests Thomson.

7. Be in control

This goes hand in hand with knowing what you want. Ask yourself, what do you really want from the date? "Don’t hand over complete control to your date - instead, lead them towards what would please you so you can test how attentive they are to your pleasure," says Smith.

Try this: once you've made clear what you want to do on your date, enjoy it! If it's dinner and drinks, enjoy the food and alcohol, but try not to go OTT on the booze (unless that brings you joy). It can be useful on a first day to stay in control, especially if you haven't met the person before.

8. Enjoy yourself

Remember, you're dating to find the person you want to spend your life with (or even just for the thrill of it). Either way requires you to feel comfortable and have fun with them. 

Sure, this sounds simple, but it's not always the case. Fun may not come naturally if the first date nerves are kicking in or if it's a more serious dinner date. "Instead of the age old question of what they do for fun, ask your date what their favourite ways of having fun are. It allows you to learn more about your date’s interests and may give you inspiration for your second date," suggests Brown. See: the more you know, the more fun you can have.

Fun fact for you: 58% of daters cent require lots of laughter for a first date to be classed a success, according to the BR research. Plus, 86% of LGBTQIA+ Hinge daters say a date is successful if they have fun, as per Hinge's dating report.

first date tips

(Image credit: Getty Images / Janine Mclaren / EyeEm)

9. Broach the sex talk

No, it's not time to ask Google to play Let's Talk About Sex, but according to the experts, it's a good idea to bring sex into the conversation. 

Why? "How they talk about sex tells you a lot about their relationship to it and if they are someone you want to be in the sheets with," explains Smith. "Don’t seem so shocked - it's not like you weren’t thinking about sex the whole time anyway!," they continue.

Remember: Let's not judge anyone on their sexual preferences or past. You may not agree, but don't be rude about it.

10. Embrace the awkwardness

Yes, really. Sure, you might be cringing just thinking about the potential awkward silence but if the experts say to embrace it, we'll try our hardest. Meeting someone for the very first time IRL is bound to be a little awkward, so try not to stress about it.

“Meeting new people is weird in general,” Johnson reminds us. “You’re not going to make it through that entire encounter without doing something that shows you’re a human," she continues, we have to remember we are being authentic after all!

Remember, don't ignore the awkwardness but rather embrace it. “Remembering that if it’s awkward for you, there’s a good chance it’s awkward for them,” says Pirbhai. “Acknowledging the feeling in the moment—without feeling like you need to apologize or take accountability for the awkwardness, just pointing it out—can be helpful." 

From there you can move on and start a new conversation. Or maybe order another delicious Picante cocktail...

11. Actively listen

Listen up! You want to be listened to, and heard, but it works both ways. "Being present and curious with your dates helps build connections," shares Brown.

"Some common active listening skills include eye contact, open body language, removing distractions, and reflecting on what your date is saying by summarizing their statements. These tools show you care and want to understand them," they continue. 

Got that? 

12. Ask questions

FYI, listening and asking questions go hand in hand. 

"A majority of LGBTQIA+ folks say they wouldn’t go on a second date with someone who doesn’t ask questions. For those on a new journey, being curious about other people’s experiences helps establish a connection," explains Brown.

Try this: Ari-Brown recommends leaning into the novelty of your experience and allow yourself to enjoy learning more about your date. You won't regret it. 

13. Put the phone down

No phones at the table apply here. If you are actively listening and asking questions, it should be a no-phone zone (unless you're ordering an Uber to leave). 

As per the research above, 37% of people made an excuse to leave their date because they were constantly checking their phone. 

Do try and keep the phone to a minimum on a first date - treat others how you wish to be treated, and all. 

14. Check in with yourself

Finally, all six experts shared that it's key to check in with yourself when you're on a first date. "Focus more on how you feel in your body with this person than on how you might be coming across to them. If you feel safe, excited and want to touch them (or for them to touch you) it’s a good sign. Note red flags are feeling judged, bored or not liking their smell," shares Smith.

Pirhbai encourages asking yourself questions. “How are you feeling? Are you happy? Are you enjoying yourself? Are you feeling uncomfortable? Periodically, it’s okay to say, ‘I need to go to the restroom, I’ll be right back.’ It’s okay to take little breaks and just go check in,” she says.

Try this: Date finished and wondering if it was a first date success or not? This is the time to check in with yourself again. How did you feel while you were on the date, and how do you feel now? 

Pirbhai tells us if you had a good time, then it's fair to assume the other person enjoyed themselves too, so don’t overthink it. 

So there you have it: a handful of first date tips from some of the best experts in the business. Remember this, though: sometimes the best advice is to simply enjoy yourself and remember not to add any pressure. 

When it does go well, make sure to check out our guides to the best sex positions and the best sex toys. Happy dating, lovers.

Dionne Brighton

Dionne Brighton is a writer at Marie Claire UK, specialising in all things shopping, beauty and fashion. Born and raised in North London, she studied Literature at the University of East Anglia before taking the leap into journalism. These days, you can find her testing out the latest TikTok beauty trends or finding out what the next full Moon means.