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How Long Should a First Date Last? The Exact Timing for a Good Date

So, you have been talking to someone and are going to meet them soon. But, how long should a first date last? Here is everything you need to know.

how long should a first date last

First dates have the ability to make magic happen, but how long should a first date last?

You meet someone and they are exactly as they claimed to be when you heard about them. They are cute with perfect candor.

Or, sometimes a first date has the ability to bring hell on earth. You’re gritting your teeth and suffering through their awkward conversation, rude demeanor, or straight-up weird behavior. You’ve been counting down the seconds until it’s been an appropriate amount of time to politely bail.

All of this social anxiety begs the question: how long should a first date last?

First date ideas

Before we get into the specifics, let’s look at some easy ideas for what you can do on your first date. After all, some date ideas work wonders for a first date, and some are just wrong! Here are a few of the good ones. [Read: 20 ways to perfect your first date conversation]

1. Coffee

Heading out for a coffee and seeing whether or not you get along. This is an easy and cheap way to have a first date.

It doesn’t require a lot of time commitment, and if it’s not going well, you can always make an excuse to leave.

2. Dinner and a movie

Who doesn’t like going out to eat and a good movie? If you are going to do this, then you should go out to dinner before the movie on a first date.

The reason for this is because you can’t talk and get to know each other during a movie, so it’s best to get that over with before you sit in the darkness without talking.

3. Photography hike

Taking a fantastic photography hike is a fun and unique first date idea. Everyone has a camera in their phones these days, so it is fun to look around, enjoy the scenery and take some beautiful photos. Y

ou can even have a contest to see who took the best picture. Plus, it gives you photographic evidence of your first date if you two continue to see each other. [Read: 13 warning signs to look out for on the first date]

4. Dinner and pool

Go out for dinner at a pub and play pool. Irish pubs are always a fun place to try, regardless of whether you are in Ireland or not. Getting some good bar food and playing pool or darts is a great way to get to know each other.

5. Cocktails and music

Head out for a cocktail and some live music. Everyone likes music, so try to find a place where you can get drinks, some food, and listen to a live band or singer. Ask your date what kind of music they like first. [Read: 30 fun first date ideas that’ll leave them wanting so much more]

6. Picnic

If it is spring or summer, you can pack a picnic to have in a garden or a park. It’s great to see the newly budding flowers. This option is cost-friendly, too. You can pack your own sandwiches and some wine.

7. Theme park

If you have a theme park near where you live, then that is a great way to add some thrills into your first date. But make sure you have a sense of how adventurous the person is, because you don’t want them to be too scared!

8. Beach and ice cream stroll

If you live near the ocean or a lake, why not take some wine, food, or ice cream to the beach? Everyone loves looking at the water, and so this could be a romantic way to start off what could be a new relationship.

A first date is designed to test for chemistry and to get to know the person next to you. Now that you have your date planned out and ready to go, it’s time to figure out how long you should be hanging out for before you call it a night. Want more first-date ideas? Here are the top 50 awesome first date ideas to completely wow your date!

How long should a first date last?

Should a first date be confined to a 30-minute time limit or should you let it go as long as it’s fun? What constitutes ‘enough time’ to get to know one another? Is it okay if a first date lasts for 10 hours?

When it comes to how long a first date should last, the real answer is that it should last long enough for you to get to know your date. Whether your date lasts one hour or four hours, you should make sure you plan it accordingly.

Your first date should include a fun activity that leaves you enough room to chat and get acquainted. Here are the answers to these questions and more in our guide to first date etiquette, and how long a first date should last.

Different strokes for different folks. Some claim 30-minutes is long enough while others prefer a two-hour time limit on their first encounters.

Here are some guidelines to follow when deciding how long a first date should last. [Read: 18 signs your date really likes you on your first date]

1. Long enough to get to know one another

The date should last as long as it takes to get a good idea of who you’re sitting across from. There’s a common understanding that people make snap judgment first impressions of others within the first 7 seconds of meeting!

That’s not a lot of time to impress your date. Therefore, you need to commit yourself to giving this person a fair chance to get to know them before cutting your date short.

2. Short enough to bail if it sucks

You want to plan an evening that is both fun, active, and allows time for chit-chat. That being said, you also want a date that you can bail on if things aren’t going very well.

Planning a 4-hour lunch cruise around the harbor sounds romantic, but it isn’t exactly bail-worthy. *unless you brought a lifejacket!*

It’s always good to have a friend ready to be your scapegoat for a date-gone-wrong. Tell your BFF to call you 30 minutes into the date. Tell your friend that if you pick up the phone, that means the date’s going awry and you’re using them as an excuse to leave.

If you ignore their call, things are going well! [Read: How to end a date – The good, bad and the ugly examples]

3. Don’t overkill your time together

Dates can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 hours; the latter being a bit of an overkill if you’re just meeting for the first time. Unless you guys have really hit it off from the get-go, odds are you’re going to have an awkward silence or two during the course of your date.

Dragging a date on for hours on end may sound romantic, but it may end up ruining your date if you run out of things to talk about. [Read: 14 signs you’re unintentionally ruining your first date]

4. Don’t play by someone else’s rules

Some singles prefer to meet up for coffee to get a real feel for one another. Coffee dates are great for either first dates or first meets. First of all, everybody loves coffee.

Second, if you aren’t feeling the spark, you can leave as soon as you’re done with your cup. But if the date picks up, you can always turn your coffee date into a meal or a walk to spend a little more time together.

If you’re headed out at night, as most people prefer, you may be together until the wee hours of the morning talking and getting to know one another. [Read: How to end a date the right way without feeling awkward]

Other considerations for how long a first date should last

Here are some other things you need to consider when you are trying to figure out how long a first date should last. Some of these, you might have never thought about before!

1. The longer the date, the more expensive it is

If you are the one paying for the first date, then you need to think about how much it will cost. If you don’t make a lot of money, then this is a very serious thing you need to keep in mind. [Read: How to behave on a first date – 28 tips to impress anyone instantly]

If your first date lasts over an hour, then you will most likely spend more than $10-15. Let’s say you are going out for drinks. Let’s face it – cocktails aren’t inexpensive. So, the longer you are there, the more you will drink, and the more you will spend. You might even get hungry and order food.

And what if you have several dates lined up that week? It can really add up.

So, you don’t want to throw away your money on a person who you might not even like. That’s one good reason to keep a first date relatively short, unless the two of you are really hitting it off and you think it could really go somewhere.

2. The length of the date can shape your perception of the other person

Let’s say that you are a guy and you are paying for the date. If you are freely giving a woman your time and money – and a lot of it – she might perceive your value to be less than it really is.

In other words, in her mind, if you’re a “hot commodity” and have lots of dates lined up with other women, she might want you more. [Read: Having sex on the first date – should you give into the urge?]

On the contrary, if she thinks that you can just spend endless hours with her, she could think you are a little more “desperate.” That’s a terrible thing to say, but you do run the risk of having both people make assumptions – the guy can make assumptions about the girl too.

3. First dates that last over an hour can be uncomfortable

When you don’t know someone, there are a lot of ways a first date can go wrong. It’s more difficult to keep the conversation flowing naturally and keep having fun with each other.

After a while, the date could end up feeling like an interview. This happens quite a bit. For example, let’s say this person is just firing you question after question about yourself while saying very little about themselves. It can get exhausting if that’s how it’s going.

If this happens, the first date can turn awkward and you might get really turned off. Then, you might be looking at your watch wondering how you can gracefully end the date once you realize you are not into this person. [Read: What to talk about on a first date to make your date like you instantly]

4. A long first date can take away some mystery

The process of dating should be an exciting journey of getting to know each other.

So, if you have a first date that lasts for hours upon hours, then you have gotten to know the person pretty well at that point. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave less to discover on dates after that one.

That is also a reason why talking or texting a lot before you meet is also not a good idea. When you do that, it creates a false sense of intimacy. You feel like you know the person already, but you haven’t even met in person.

Plus, what if you meet them and they look completely different than their photos? Or, you don’t have the chemistry that you had hoped for? [Read: The best first date conversation – 23 tips to impress in minutes]

Bottom line

Put simply? There are no right or wrong answers for the question: how long should a first date last?

If your date is going amazing, keep it going for more than an hour! If you’ve been mentally rolling your eyes since your date started speaking, whoops, it’s time to go! Wait for an hour at most and tell your date you really need to leave.

[Read: First date moves that will guarantee a second]

So, how long should a first date last? Your date should last as long as you want. If you’re having fun, there’s no reason to tap your watch *cellphone, let’s be real* and say you’ve used up your allotted time together. So long as you’re enjoying each other’s company, your date could last all night!

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...