1. Picking the venue.
If you are given the task of selecting a restaurant or activity, pick something that isn't too over-the-top or expensive. Opt for a something reasonably priced. When it comes to restaurants, pick a place with a wide variety of menu options. (You never know what your mystery man palate requires...he might be vegan or allergic to shellfish!)
2. Meeting up.
Ideally, the guy should pick you up from your home and drive you to the destination of the date. However, if this is not possible, meet at the location and don't be a second late. It's also a good idea to give a confirmation call the day before the date to make sure everyone is on the same page. This way you can avoid any confusion.
3. At the dining table.
Throughout the date, sit up straight and maintain good posture. Slouching and leaning on your elbows is considered rude and unladylike. Use your best table manners throughout the meal (I'll do a blog on restaurant dining etiquette soon!). And absolutely, positively do not look at your cellphone. It communicates boredom and disinterest.
4. The conversation.
Ask questions about your date and listen. It's in bad taste to talk about yourself the entire time. (Remember that episode of Sex & the City when Carrie nervously blabs on about herself to Aidan throughout their entire date? Don't do that.) When in doubt, ask him a question. If you're afraid the conversation will be dull, catch up on current events and pop culture as fallback topics. A few areas of conversation to avoid include politics, religion, money, previous relationships, deep dark secrets and the economy. Most importantly, never be critical in conversation or bad mouth anyone.
Be considerate of what you order. Just because you're on a date doesn't give you a free pass to order the most expensive thing on the menu. Instead, pick something at midrange price point. If you're still unsure, take a cue from your date: Ask him what he is ordering and pick something of equivalent or lesser value. If your date orders an appetizer or starter salad, follow suit and order something to start with as well. That way, you will be eating at the same time and can avoid the awkward "Do I dig in?" or "I don't want to sit here and watch you eat." This same rule of thumb goes for cocktails as well. If you decide to order an alcoholic drink, keep it to a minimum as they can get pricy and you definitely should not get drunk. Let your date learn about you in a sober state. Lastly, order items that are easy to eat and do not require your hands (no sandwiches, burgers, spaghetti etc.). I also suggest staying away from foods with excessive herbs and leafy greens. It's not worth risking the embarrassment living through 45 minutes of an intimate dinner with oregano lodged between your front teeth. Finally, take it easy on the garlic and onions too.
Put your knife to work! As you make your way through your meal, cut each bite into a manageable size to avoid looking like a hungry baby bird. Don't cut it up into pieces first and then eat, instead cut as you go. If you do not finish your meal, do not take it to go. Doggie bags are considered passè on a first date. (I wish I had known this when I started dating!)
A gentleman should always pay the bill. It may sound old-fashioned, but it's proper etiquette. The best way to navigate the bill is to subtly offer to pay. It's important to make sure your date is aware you didn't go on the date just for a free meal. The best way to do this is to reach for your purse when the bill comes to the table. Most likely your date will tell you not to worry about it and will take care of paying. If he doesn't stop you, don't be hurt. At this point, just split the bill. It should be noted that some guys find it insulting when you offer to pay so this is definitely something you need to feel out. Personally, I suggest sticking with the "subtle offer" since it's the best way to gauge the situation.
6. The goodbye.
Some dates go really well and the chemistry is on point, while others fail to impress. I suppose the silver lining of a bad date is that you walk away with a great story... Needless to say, for most, "the goodbye" is the most puzzling part of the entire date. By the end you should have a pretty good idea whether or not there will be another date. If you're hoping to rendezvous again, give him a warm hug, thank him for dinner and imply that you'd love to do it again soon. Save your kisses for date #2 (unless he is a cheek kisser). Otherwise, if you can't get away from him fast enough, shake his hand, thank him for dinner and leave it at that.
I hope you ladies find this helpful!