First Date Tips for a Fun and Safe Meetup
By Cady Drell
Editor’s note: this post was published on March 30, 2021. We urge readers to abide by guidelines issued in their local areas since then.
First dates are generally a bundle of excitement, nerves, jitters, and sparks. We all want our first dates to go well (especially if they’re with a Bumble match we’re particularly interested in!), and one way that you can more easily have fun on a date with someone you’ve never met before is by making sure that you’re being safe.
“First dates are anxiety-inducing enough without the added layer of worry [about safety],” says sexologist Gigi Engle, author of All the F*cking Mistakes. “If you have extra precautions in place that make you feel like you’re not in harm’s way, you’re going to be able to let some of those anxieties go and relax and be yourself.” And without that anxiety, you can fully invest in getting to know the other person and staying in the moment, which will inevitably make the date go better.
We asked experts for first date tips that will keep you safe and able to focus on having a good time. (And if you want all the best advice on staying safe while dating during COVID, check out our Dating 101 in 2021 guide.)
Start with a Video Hang
Hopping on a video call before meeting in person is a great way not only to get a better sense of the person and how well you get along, but also to make meeting in IRL much less nerve-wracking. Bumble even has in-app Video Chat and Voice Call features to make it as easy as possible—and to ensure you don’t have to give out personal info like your number or email address before you’re ready. “It’s an extra layer to the vetting process to have your first date via video,” says Engle. “It gives you a chance to see if you want to continue and actually make the commitment to seeing somebody in person.” (Plus, virtual dating is 100% COVID-safe!)
Try Some (Minor) Online Vetting
Of course, you or the other person might not be down to start the relationship on a video call. If that’s the case, try to at least confirm who they are online before meeting up. Cyber Dating Expert founder Julie Spira says that a quick search is par for the course these days. She recommends doing a rudimentary Google search or social media scan to verify simple things, like that their name is what they said it was or that their pictures are current. Bumble also has a photo verification feature that gives users a blue check mark when they get their pictures confirmed by a real person, so you know that who you’re chatting with is who they say they are.
Phone a Friend
When you head out to meet a date IRL for the first time, tell one of your buddies where you’re going and who you’ll be meeting. Making sure someone knows where you are is a basic necessity. To be even safer, Engle recommends dropping a pin on your smartphone map app of choice to show where you’ll be meeting and sending it to a friend, or using the Find My Friends app to share your location in real time.
Find Your Own Transport
Spira recommends planning your transport to and from the date in advance to take some pressure off and to stay safe. “On a first date, you should never have anyone pick you up at home,” she says. It’s also smart to keep your home address—and other personal info like your office address, and whether or not you live alone—private on a first date.
Plus, having your own transportation to and from the date ensures that you can leave if you get uncomfortable or need to go for any reason. If you take public transportation, make sure to have enough cash on you to get home on your own.
Take Charge When Picking the Location
When it comes to first date locations, Spira recommends a public, outdoor, COVID-safe location that can still be romantic and fun, like the putting green, a hiking trail, or a picnic in the park. “Have two date ideas that make you feel safe ready to go in your hip pocket,” she says. “Because the person that you’re chatting with may be excited about meeting you, but may not know where to go either.”
And when you’re meeting up with someone for the first time, “don’t go to their apartment or to a non-specific location,” says Engle. “Try to meet somewhere where other people will be present. That way you’re out in the open and not risking your bodily safety.”
Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
Going to the bar can seem like an easy date activity, but for the first meeting you might want to stay dry. “When you drink alcohol, it brings down your defenses,” says Engle. “I recommend sticking with a non-alcoholic date, and there are plenty of things you can do—go to a farmer’s market, go for a walk, get a coffee or tea.” If you do opt for drinks, keep track of your intake and remember not to leave drinks unattended with someone you don’t know.
Consider Making it a Group Hang-Out
If you don’t love the idea of meeting someone you don’t know solo, pitch a group outing and suggest your date bring a friend, too. (And don’t forget to have a COVID safety talk beforehand!) “I tell people to get creative, and make it a friend date,” says relationship expert Natalia Genevieve. “There are less expectations and it takes a thumb of pressure off.” If you decided you liked the other person, you can move on to more intimate date ideas from there.
Know Your Boundaries, and Don’t Feel Pressured to Change Them
You likely already know by the time you’re meeting up exactly what you feel comfortable doing on that date. So if you want to go for coffee but your date keeps insisting on drinks, you should tell them you aren’t comfortable. If their reaction is flexible and open, that’s a good sign. On the other hand, says Engle, if they show resistance or keep pushing, that’s a red flag. “They should be respecting your boundaries,” she says. “Be straightforward, and they should immediately back off. If they don’t, then that person is not for you, because I can almost guarantee they will try to push your boundaries in other ways. And your boundaries are valid, whatever they are.”
Trust Your Gut
If you get a weird feeling from the other person, even if you can’t really put your finger on why, it’s totally fine to leave. You can make an excuse or just immediately call a car, but feeling uneasy doesn’t lead to a positive outcome. Spira notes that you should feel like your date is prioritizing your safety, because if they are, “you’re going to respect the person more, and you’re going to feel more comfortable if you’re in a place that makes you feel safe,” she says.
And when you feel safe, you’re more likely to have a good time, which means you’re more likely to go on a second date. Check out more first date safety tips here.