Date advice: who should pay?


We recently posed the question ‘Who should pay on a first date?’ to our eHarmony Advice regulars. There are few topics that polarise singles more, and this didn’t disappoint. In the comments we had every angle, from the men who felt it was their duty to pay, to the daters who thought each person should pay for exactly what they ordered.

It seems that – without some kind of mind reading device – there’s no way of knowing your date’s feelings on who should pick up the bill. But there are some simple guidelines that everyone can follow to avoid embarrassment, and post-date annoyance!

Who asked who?
This is a pretty easy starting point. It’s generally accepted that whoever asks the other person on the date is more obliged to pay. That doesn’t mean that they have to pay for everything, but they should be the one to offer to pay for dinner, or at the very least the first round of drinks.

Who suggested the venue?
When discussing this tricky subject, one of the eHarmony Advice team put forward her own story. On a second date with a banker he took her to a very expensive central London restaurant. He ordered the wine and generally behaved like an old-fashioned gentleman. At the end of the meal he discreetly paid, never once suggesting she contributed – and she breathed a sigh of relief. He had made it clear that he earned a very good wage and was happy to take her to pricey places. The moral of the story is that if you suggest an expensive restaurant early on in the dating game, you should be prepared to pay up. Otherwise you’re putting your date in a very uncomfortable position.

Which date is it?
If you’re on date number two and your companion insisted on paying for dinner on date number one, it’s time to reach for your wallet (unless, of course, you’re in the situation we described above). Many of the men who commented said that while they were happy to pay up on date number one, they’d be insulted if their date didn’t then reciprocate.

Can you offer to pay for something else?
If your date has insisted on paying for dinner, for example, then offering to pay for a round of drinks or coffee, if you go on, is surely just good manners. If they insist on paying, that’s their look out, but at least you’ve tried.

How far have you travelled?

One excellent point was raised by a poster called Gemma: “As more people are dating those who live farther away, I find it fair that the ‘local’ pays for the drinks of the other person has put in the effort to travel and see them.”

If your date has had an hour or more to travel to meet you, which will have cost them in petrol or tickets, then it’s only fair that you offer to pay outright.

Will you see them again?
You’re only just getting your main courses, but you’ve already realised that you don’t want to see your date again. In this situation it’s only fair that you insist on going dutch, or paying outright. After all, why should your unsuspecting date pay for your dinner and/or drinks when you plan on never seeing them again?

And finally…do you have to go to dinner?
Or in fact, anywhere that costs money? If you’re truly strapped for cash don’t assume your date will pick up the bill when you fail to reach for your wallet. Take control of the situation, suggesting a wander round a museum or art gallery, or a simple coffee if you can stretch to that.

Unfortunately there’s no way to know your date’s views on who pays. You could bring it up with them, but that might be a little embarrassing. The key is to always look willing. There’s nothing worse than someone who appears to expect to be paid for. Ladies, if the man goes for the bill as soon as it’s put on the table, at the very least suggest splitting it.

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