Going out on that special occasion to celebrate with a significant other makes many of us feel nervous. It is a time where we want to make the best impression, but we often lack confidence, especially when we are at a loss as to what is/is not appropriate behaviour.
Fear no more, we have arranged a list of 10 rules below to ensure you always leave a great mark and feel at ease on that special occasion:
1. Let him take charge.
Even though we are in 21st Century, it is still appropriate for the gentleman to ask his partner out on a date, and as a result he should also be the one to make arrangements such as booking the restaurant or the tickets for the show. Call me old fashioned, but I never conform to women making that first step.
2. Getting your opinion counts.
Asking her what her favourite cuisine is (and in case of allergies) before booking is an added bonus and shows consideration and maturity. Choosing the right restaurant in terms of service and the quality of food can tell a lot about the person inviting and his level of finesse and sophistication.
3. Dressing right is key.
Dressing for the occasion is an extremely important point and can make or break a date before it even starts. Make sure you both dress conservatively and elegantly, to be on the safe side. For women, the little black dress is most appropriate, but not too little or short either. Always carry with you a shawl or jacket and your bag should be a small clutch. It is preferable not to bring a big bag as you will be lost in its contents and burdened with where to place it. For men, a casual dark suit, more on the smart side would be just the ticket. Avoid going too casual on a date, such as jeans or jogging suits as it shows that you have not made an effort for the other person.
4. Scenting it all in.
Beware of putting on too much perfume or a very strong scent, which can also put someone off, and this would affect the communication process between the parties and create a bad feeling in the air (pardon the pun).
5. Chivalry shouldn’t be dead.
Should he hold the door, be it a car door or any type of door and allow her in first? That was most certainly the ritual a few decades ago, but these days it is just a matter of reflex. I am sure not many women stay in the car waiting for their man to open the door for them, but I still believe in chivalry and at least this should be practised when allowing the woman in first and showing her the respect she deserves. More importantly, when at the table, a gentleman should let a woman sit first by holding her chair and he shouldn’t sit while she is still standing. If she gets up, it is recommended he does the same as a sign of respect or at least rise half way.
6. Watch your body language.
Both parties should be respectful and positive, which mainly means allowing the other person to speak, genuinely listening to them, and looking at them in a way that shows admiration rather than indifference. Smile, use positive eye contact, and be aware of the tone and volume of your voice.
7. Choose your words.
Don’t delve into some of the taboo subjects such as religion, politics or rude jokes. Discuss mainly common interests and get to know each other better. Respect each other’s opinions and try to see his point of view instead of trying to prove him wrong.
8. Be considerate.
Ladies, when your love interest takes you to a date, don’t take that as carte blanche to order the most expensive dish on the menu, be considerate! Gentlemen, show your date you genuinely appreciate her and treat her to the best you can afford. A few years back, restaurants used to hand the menu with prices only to the male guest, while his partner could make her choice without even being distracted with another version of the menu (with no price labels on it). One word of warning here, always treat the waiting staff with respect and kindness – using “please” and “thank you” - an important note, which can be fatal to the date, if done badly.
9. Mind your table manners.
Many become confused as to what entails proper behaviour on the dining table. Should we start to eat as we sit? What to do with the napkin? Which utensils to use and when? This is your opportunity to make a good impression and show your refinement. Always place your napkin on your knees when you first sit, never start until the host or the person who invited you gives you the cue to start. Plus be ware the fork is always held with the left hand - and knife and spoon are held with the right – always starting with the cutlery that is placed further away from the plate.
10. Create the perfect ending.
At the end of the date, the gentleman should tell his companion how much he enjoyed the evening and how much he appreciates her company. You should also reciprocate your appreciation and thank him for his thoughtful invitation. Make sure you always make a regular special effort to go out with your significant other to keep that sparkle in your relationship burning.
Sonya J. Sabbah is an Executive Coach, Image Consultant and Corporate Etiquette Trainer and author of “Etiquette in the City: Beirut”.