Bill Splitting Etiquette: A First Date Guide

by Miranda Athanasiou

When it comes to first date etiquette… is it really the man’s job to pay? Yes. But more importantly, how exactly do you avoid the awkward moment when the bill comes?

The notion that the man should pay on a first date is not archaic or unfeminist as some would have you believe. Women are programmed to be drawn to men who can provide for them. This is not to say we can’t provide for ourselves; there’s just something hot about a guy who can pick up a tab without so much as a blink of an eye.

I’m sorry to say this but even in 2015, there’s nothing sexier on a first date than the words, “I’ll get this”.

It’s not a matter of bank balance or wallet size, it’s a bit of good, old fashioned chivalry. With most women, it’s not actually about the money (believe it or not, most of us can afford our own lemon and herb Nando’s chicken) it’s a matter of, dare I say it, courtship.

Rumour would have you believe that some women feel “insulted” or “patronised” when a man insists on paying. These rumours were obviously started by men. We are actually quite happy for a man to pay, incidentally leaving us to spend our hard earned cash on that pair of shoes we had our eye on for date number two.

Regardless of what we think should happen, we can’t just assume a guy is going to pay and so it’s best to have a first date game plan, to avoid any end of date, bill-related awkwardness. We’re here to help. 

Don’t order too much, he might think you’re there for the free food.

As far as I’m concerned a man should pay for the first date. So, in exchange we graciously avoid ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. In fact while we’re at it, it’s also best avoid ordering everything on the menu. You might be a two starters, main, dessert and three cocktails type of girl, but for the sake of etiquette, show a bit of self-restraint.

There’s nothing wrong with being a hearty eater, but acceptable first date behaviour is that you don’t order half the menu. You don’t want him to think dating you will require a second job, in order to fund your expensive eating habits.

Don’t casually slip to the loo the moment the plates are cleared.

Not so subtle my friend, he knows your game. Yes, in an ideal world he will settle the bill while you pretend to powder your nose and you can both avoid the entire “should we split this” first date awkwardness. However, disappearing when it’s time to pay is about un-lady like as Keith Lemon in a low cut top; plus it serves well to remember, he’s not the only one who has to make a good impression on the first date.

When the bill comes, get out your purse like you’re intending to pay your half.

Perhaps even open it for effect. You want to make your desire to pay seem believable. Even consider adding a “how much is it?” as you casually poise your fingers over a £20 note.

If he offers to pay, don’t continue to insist on splitting the bill.

Many women agree that a man should pay on a first date, yet as soon as the bill comes, they begin insisting on paying for their half. Then should the poor guy actually give in and accept going Dutch, they brand him ungentlemanly and probably cheap. If your date offers to pay, perhaps give a small half-hearted protest, then gracefully accept.

If he does accept your offer to pay half, try to hide your obvious disappointment.

You ate half the food, so it isn’t the end of the world if you have to pay your half of the bill. It’s not ideal in the world of romance, but you are a self-sufficient woman and do not need to let him know how unimpressed you are. It’s only acceptable to glare if he begins itemising the bill. If the words, “well you had more wine so your half comes to…” come out of his mouth, you are allowed to judge him.

If he does pay, always remember to show your appreciation

A simple thank you followed by a, “I’ll get it next time” will suffice. However, if you also want to accept his kiss after the car ride home, that’s fine too.

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