by Johnathan Arnold
Teen topics article. Practical advice for Christian guys preparing for a dinner date.
The only thing I can remember about my first date was that I was clueless. Perhaps I’ve blocked it out of my memory because it was so embarrassing. Thankfully, I can clearly recall my first date with my now-wife, and it was much better because I learned a few important lessons the hard way. Dating doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and most men make the same mistakes.
For Christian guys, dating is not primarily about impressing a girl. It’s about honoring God by showing respect, leadership, attentiveness, and commitment. Dating is noble and joyful. A Christian man should be a better date than any other kind of man. If you’re planning a dinner date, here are a few things that dad should have already told you.
1. Ask Her Dad For Permission
Put your best foot forward with her parents. Don't presume that it is okay to take a young lady on a date without her father's permission. It might frighten you to ask, but you will never regret it—especially if the relationship works out and you have to visit her home or, scarier yet, ask for her hand in marriage! If her father is hesitant, suggest going with a group of friends.
2. Choose The Restaurant
Don’t get off to an awkward start by endlessly deferring to your date. (For awhile, I was guilty of this.) The exchange often goes something like this:
“Where would you like to go this evening?”
“But I want to go where you want to go.”
“No, really, you choose.”
“I’d like you to choose.”
“I’m okay with anything.”
“But I might choose a place that you don’t like.”
“I’m sure it will be fine.”
The man in this situation may seem polite, but he’s almost certainly just terrified. Dating is terrifying for the same reason that it is exciting—it is an adventure into the unknown. When a man knows that his date approves of the restaurant in advance, it brings him a sense of security. It’s one less thing to worry about. But it’s also a sign of weakness.
When you are too afraid to choose a restaurant, you communicate to the woman in your life that you are indecisive and unable to lead.
A woman’s language is romance, and one of the most basic elements of romance is mystery.
Women actually mean it when they say that they don’t care where you take them — assuming you do not choose fast food or the greasiest restaurant in town. Women are more interested in romance. A woman’s language is romance, and one of the most basic elements of romance is mystery. Women care far more about the surprise than the entrée options. In every fairytale love story, the man takes the lead and demonstrates his devotion by preparing a thoughtful evening for the one he loves. Don’t be a wimp! Take time to find out what she likes, then put effort into planning a meaningful date.
Choosing the restaurant and planning the details of the date communicates that you are a decisive and capable leader, and that you care and cherish your date enough to assume responsibility for making her evening meaningful.
3. Dress Nicely, But Conservatively
Shine your shoes. Wear nice jeans or slacks (casual trousers) with a polo shirt or casual button-down. Don’t wear anything excessively colorful or attention-getting. Safe and traditional options are preferable (e.g. brown shoes, a checked shirt, jeans, and a nice jacket). Don’t try to do anything special with your hair—style it like usual.
Don’t attempt to be fashionable, but avoid major faux pas. Your shoe leather and belt leather should match (different shades of brown are acceptable). Match your socks to your trousers, not your shoes (or at the very least, do not wear white socks). If you wear a two-button blazer, only button the top button. Never wear black pants, which are reserved for formalwear.
Dressing nicely but conservatively communicates a desire to be attractive for your date yet enough humility not to draw attention away from her.
4. Open Doors
Politely say, “I’ll get the door for you” before she has a chance to open it herself.
Today, it’s rare for someone to pump your gas, carry your groceries to your car, or lead you down a dark auditorium aisle with a flashlight. For this reason, the simple gesture of opening a door is more significant than ever. Opening a door is a symbol of respect and meets a woman’s basic need for attention. It makes it clear that you are focused on her and her alone. When you walk ahead into Outback Steakhouse to order your ribeye, you make her feel like chopped liver — or whatever else you didn’t order on the menu.
If your date is prone to opening doors on her own, politely say, “I’ll get the door for you” when you pull into the parking space or approach the door to a restaurant.
Opening doors communicates that you are respectful and attentive. The most dutiful and admirable men never allow a woman to open her own car door.
5. Lead in Prayer
If you are dating someone with Christian character, she will be looking for evidence that you are a spiritual leader. The most basic opportunity that you have is to initiate prayer before the meal. It’s best to do this as soon as the waitress walks away from bringing bread or an appetizer to the table. Otherwise, your date may wonder if you plan to lead in prayer at all and end up being the one who suggests that you do so.
The most important reason to lead in prayer is not to please your date, but to please God. Don’t pray any differently than you normally pray over your food. Be short and sincere.
Dating is about glorifying God by demonstrating respect, leadership, attentiveness, and commitment.
Leading in prayer as soon as possible communicates that you are a spiritual leader and that you are committed to remembering God in your relationship.
6. Be Respectful to the Waitress
If your date is wise, she will pay close attention to how you treat others. If your waitress is not close to your age (or if you have a male waiter), feel free to make small talk about the day, the weather, or the menu. If your waitress has a name tag, say thank you and call her by her name after she serves you (e.g. “Thank you, Cheryl.”) If your waitress is a female close to your age, be polite but nothing more. Although you should avoid dating a hypersensitive or jealous person, it is important to be careful in your interactions with other women.
Being respectful to your waitress communicates that you value people and are not just putting on a show for your date.
7. Use Good Table Manners
If you're not familiar with every rule of etiquette, don't stress out. Your date may never notice good table manners, but she will certainly notice bad ones. Do your best to be polite and proper.
Using good table manners communicates respect, shows that you are a gentleman, and allows your date to focus on meaningful conversation.
8. Talk About Things That Matter
The purpose of dating outside of marriage is to learn more about someone you are considering as a potential spouse. Don’t waste your dates. Ask tough questions, but try to introduce them naturally. If you go to the same church, ask your date what she thought about the most recent Sunday sermon. Refer to something in the news and ask for her opinion. Find a natural segue to essential topics.
Talking about things that matter communicates that you are serious about dating, are looking for commitment, and are values-oriented.
The purpose of dating outside of marriage is to learn more about someone you are considering as a potential spouse.
9. Pay For The Meal
If you are dating a woman who is even marginally traditional, she will expect you to do this. (If she insists on paying for her own meal, run like the wind!) Nevertheless, most women will at least say something polite when you pick up the tab; for example, “I don’t mind paying for my own meal” or simply “thank you.” Take it as an opportunity to affirm that you are not merely paying because it’s your duty, but also because it’s your delight. If you actually mean it (which you should, if you’re the kind of person who is mature enough to be dating in the first place), respond with something sincere, such as, “It’s my privilege.” Or, if you’re afraid to sound like a Chic-Fil-A employee, try something a bit more chivalrous: “It’s my honor.”
It is best to always take a form of backup payment. If your credit card malfunctions, you'll be glad to have some cash on hand. Also, be sure to leave a generous tip — at least 20%. No one likes a miser.
Paying for the meal communicates that you are willing to assume the burden of responsibility for the people in your life.
10. Laugh About Your Mistakes and Move On
There are a hundred awkward things that you might do on a date and you are bound to do one of them. (Encouraging, right?) The good news is that your date is likely just as nervous as you are, and she will probably sigh with relief because you messed up first. Be a good sport. Be ready to laugh at yourself. Don’t allow it to ruin your night. Move on and don’t mention it again. Laughing about your mistakes and moving on communicates that you are humble, down-to-earth, and able to make the best of every circumstance. Owning up to mistakes and moving forward is a mark of character.
Christians shouldn’t be obsessed with perfect performance. The greater the guise you put on in dating, the greater the disappointment when you wake up on your first married morning to have your ideal shattered. Making a mistake may be the best thing that happens on your date, if it causes you both to relax and focus on what really matters: getting to know each other and glorifying God through a meaningful date.
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