First Date Etiquette – Who Should Pay?

The old expression of “Men pay the bill” isn’t always the case anymore. Things can get a little confusing, people have a wide range of expectations, and the meaning of paying might be a little different depending on who you’re out to dinner with.

If you’re looking for some advice on first date etiquette, this read is for you.

First Date Etiquette: Bill Paying

For heterosexuals, recent studies have shown that the male should still pay on the first date out. But those rules are subjective, and for those apart of the LGBTQ+ community, it gets even trickier.

Below we have a few tips and tricks to consider when you’re trying to figure out who should hold the bill.

Ask and You Shall Recieve

A general rule of thumb to go by is that the person who initiated the date is the person who should pay the bill.

Think of this rule as a default setting, though, not a line to fight over.

If the restaurant server sets the bill in the middle of the table, then the initiator is the one who should make the first moves at it.

If the server hands it to the person who did not initiate the date, it’s okay for the initiator to say something along the lines of, “Here, let me get that.”

Then, if the person who did not initiate offers to help out, you don’t have to brick-wall them.


Like in any healthy relationship, communication is key.

It’s okay to talk about it or push for your chance to pay or help pay. It shows that you care and that you’re not in it for a free meal or something.

But don’t over communicate it. You don’t have to be the guy that says to your date, “I’ll pay” two hundred times. If they want to pay or split the bill, it’s okay to let them. You could offer to shout the icecreams.

Don’t try to control everything or assert your position as the voice of the date.

On this note: move past the paying.

Once it’s settled it’s settled, you don’t have to keep bringing it back up.

If you’re the person that received a nice meal paid for by your date, it’s good to give a genuine “Thank you” but you certainly don’t have to say things like, “I wish you would have let me pay.”

If you need extra cash for the date just in case, you can hit up the Bonsai website.


Let’s say you wanted to pay, but you also thought it was sweet that your date footed the bill and you didn’t want to ruin that.

What do you do to show that you’re willing to participate in this too though?

One loop-hole is to find other things you can pay for.

Below we have a quick list of ideas you could try on your next date:

  • Will any Ubers be taken? You could be the one to make that call.
  • Doing drinks after? Why not pick up the tab on the first round?
  • Any outdoor activities? Ice cream or coffee goes great with walking around…

Use these loop-holes to prolong the date if you’re interested, and to reinforce that you’re interested.

What Paying Means

Paying for the meal or a cup of coffee can mean a lot of things on a first date, but there are also some myths we want to cover.

If your date pays for you, it does not mean you have to go on a second date. And PAYERS: Just because you paid, it does NOT mean you ‘deserve’ a second date. It was a gift, which means it doesn’t come with conditions.

Make sure your expectations are in check. Pressuring people into a second date by paying for the first is a bad move, and is a rocky way to start any relationship.

It’s alright to initiate a second date after the first one comes to a close, but you must leave room for someone to decline.

Leaving the decline open feels risky because nobody likes being rejected, but when you ask if someone would like to hang out again and the response is a “Yes” you’ll know it’s genuine.

As the payer, this gives you a lot of initiation potential on the first date.

As the receiver, you’re not out of the driver’s seat, though.

If someone does, the door is two-way in asking about the second date. We’d go to say that as the receiver you have more potential to initiate the second date and that can be a nice reward for the one who paid on the first.

First Date Cost Warnings

Let’s say you got the “Sure” from your dream person.

Where are you going to take them?

People might want to jump right to the best place they can think of — the one with the high chandeliers and the fine wine glasses — but should you?

A rule of thumb to follow is that the initiator of the date should be fully prepared to pay for the date.

Never expect the person, you’re taking out to split the bill or pay on their own. It’s nice when they offer, but expecting it is a recipe for disaster

That being said, is the fine-dining experience in your price range? What if she orders the $65 rack of rips? You cool with that?

$24 glass of wine too?

You don’t have to go to a McDonald’s, but a casual place is often a little better than the flashiest place you can think of.

Plus — choosing a place that’s more your style will mean more.

Trying to impress someone can make them feel uncomfortable. A $120 dinner bill might show your capability, but it can also show your blindness to the person you’re taking out.

Go somewhere where you don’t have to learn the environment yourself. This way, you can give the person your their with your full attention.

More Dating Tips

The easiest way around it is to say as the bill lands, “should we split it or will you let me treat?” That way your date knows you’re willing to shout if they’ll let you, but respect their decision to keep things even if they prefer.

We hope this guide on first date etiquette has given you a little more confidence for your next outing. And we hope you’ve learned that gender has taken the backseat in today’s culture.

If you’re looking for more dating advice or gear to wear, check out our blog where we post tons of content. If you don’t see something you’re looking for there, feel free to reach out and contact us. Good luck and remember to show kindness!

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