Dinner dates can be fun and a great way to meet a partner. Don't let any potential gaffes get in your way. If you follow these simple suggestions, you may be off to a promising start.
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a couple on a dinner date
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From picking the restaurant to picking out your outfit, going on a date can be a nerve-wracking experience. Worrying about whether or not you're making any major manner mistakes can be very distracting when trying to have fun and get to know someone. There are a few dating habits you might have that aren't actually as polite as you may think they are.

1. Having too much liquid courage

Even though drinking alcohol in moderation can be healthy, be careful not to overdo it on a date. What you might think of as "liquid courage" could actually turn sloppy and have the opposite effect that you intended it to.

Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert, author and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, offers her advice on what's appropriate when it comes to drinking on dates: "Drinking too much shows a lack of control and/or poor judgment. Plus, the old adage, 'loose lips sink ships' still applies. You may say something that you would not have said if you were sober."

And on that note, try to avoid drinking in advance! First (or second and third) date jitters are completely normal, but showing up with even a slight buzz could be a turnoff.

2. Playing with your food

You might think it's funny to blow bubbles in your drink or mess around with your food while at home or in the company of friends, but it's not the time or place to do this on a date. Even if you think it could be a way to show off your funny side, they might not want to see your tricks with your food (especially if you're dining at a nicer restaurant). Save it for the privacy of your own home.

3. Assuming the other will pick up the check

According to Gottsman, if you are the inviter, you should pick up the check and tip: "The protocol is, you invite, you pay, and you also are responsible for the tip."

However, there are exceptions to this guidance. "Although this rule can be relaxed once you are in a relationship, when you ask your date to split the bill it may come across as cheap," Gottsman shared.

And, some people on dates might be more comfortable splitting the bill than having their date pay. If that's the case, vocalize your desire to chip in—and reach for your wallet.

4. Commenting on their food choices

Even if the food your date has decided on isn't your style, don't make it about you. Confirm that they like their food, but don't question why they chose their order or how much they are/aren't eating. Even if they are feeling too nervous to eat, it's probably not something they want to discuss while getting to know someone new.

5. Ordering food for your date

Even if you think it's impressive that you can guess what your date might want to eat, don't order for them without checking first what they'd like. You should not ignore your date's opinion because of what you think they might like. "You should never assume what your date wants to eat. It's dismissive and comes across as somewhat arrogant. Although it may appear to be chivalrous in another time, it's most respectful to allow your date to order for themself," says Gottsman.

Depending on the setting, it could be appropriate to place the order for your date, but only if you've confirmed the selection with them.

Bottom line

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and don't overdo it. Even if you're feeling nervous, lay off the sauce! Try not to play with your food or assume what your date would like to eat. And don't get judgy if you don't like what your date orders. Lastly, if you are the one who extended the invitation, you should pay, unless you two come to a mutual agreement otherwise. If things go well on the first few dinner dates, try planning a date night at home to lessen the pressure and show off your cooking skills.