You never want a first date to end too soon or go too long.
The ideal length of a first date is a balancing act.
If a date is too quick, then you won’t have enough time to get to know each other. You might seem disinterested or like you’re not invested in making time to date.
If a date is too long, then you run the risk of killing momentum and feeling fatigued, losing your date’s interest, and ending the date on a lower-energy note.
Here’s what you need to know about how long a first date should last.
Determining the Ideal First Date Length
First dates can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 hours. So what’s the ideal length?
Research suggests that a first date should ideally be no longer than an hour, with some guidelines saying that 57 minutes is the sweet spot (though, of course, it would be odd to set a timer for your date and end it at exactly 57 minutes).
Other experts in insights say an ideal first date should last around 90 minutes.
There are some good reasons to stay on the shorter side for a first date.
Keeping your first date within an hour makes sure that it stays brief yet still allows for meaningful interaction.
In an hourlong first date, you have enough time to assess your chemistry with your date, share stories and laughs, and even create some shared experiences and memories (especially if you’re doing a more active date). Yet you also avoid the risk of drawn-out awkward silences or feeling too burnt out and fatigued.
When on a first date, to decide how long it should last, think about factors like the flow of the conversation, your energy level and your date’s, the type of activity you’re doing, and how much chemistry you feel.
The setting of a first date plays a key role in determining how long it should last. While coffee dates can be just 30 minutes and allow for swifter exits, dinner dates or hiking dates may require a longer time commitment that goes well over an hour.
The Importance of Respect and Comfort
A first date that is too short may leave you or your date feeling rushed, and even devalued, while a date that lasts too long can feel awkward and make your date feel like you don’t respect their time.
Keeping your date under an hour, or at least under 90 minutes, provides just enough time to gauge interest and build rapport while respecting each other's time and boundaries.
Considering Pressure Levels
Think about how you can better manage expectations and pressure during a first date. Limiting the date to an hour can help keep you and your date at ease, preventing any unnecessary anxiety or expectations for more. By keeping the date short, you can quickly decide whether there's a mutual connection without feeling overwhelmed or setting high stakes.
Romantic and Sexual Tension
An important factor to consider on a first date is the balance between emotional, romantic, and sexual tension. Finding that sweet spot of maximizing emotional connection and physical attraction is key to having a successful first date. An hourlong date allows for emotional and romantic connections to start forming while maintaining a sense of intrigue and desire for more on a second date.
The Mystery and Intrigue Factor
While first dates are all about getting to know one another, don’t give away the whole story of you all at on once.
It's best if you refrain from revealing too much about yourself on a first date. This allows for a sense of mystery and intrigue to build. Keeping your first date within an hour can help with this goal, leaving both of you eager to learn more about each other in future dates.
Factors Influencing the Duration of a First Date
How the First Date is Set Up
When planning your first date, take into account how you met this person and initiated plans for the first date. For instance, if you met through a dating app, you might want to keep the date a bit shorter, an hour or less, since you're total strangers. However, if you met through mutual friends or somewhere in person, then you may find it more comfortable to plan a date that goes beyond an hour.
Type of Activity or Meeting Place
What you’re doing on a first date matters for how long it should last. If you plan a casual coffee date, it may only last for a half hour to an hour. A hiking date, meanwhile, might last three hours.
Compatibility and Chemistry
How much chemistry and compatibility there is between you and your date will play a big role in determining the how long that first date lasts.
If you're having lively conversation and really enjoying each other's company, then you might extend the date beyond what you’d planned, which can help you discover more shared interests and form a deeper connection.
However, if things feel forced or awkward, then it's best to limit the date to an hour or less.
Physical and Non-Verbal Cues
Body Language Signals
Paying attention to someone’s body language can give you clues about their level of interest and comfort on a first date.
Some positive body language cues to look for in your date include open posture, mirroring your gestures, consistent eye contact, and leaning in during the conversation. Some negative body language cues that may signal disinterest or discomfort include crossed arms, constantly looking at their phone, or turning their body away from you.
Flirting and Physical Touch
You can flirt on a first date through playful teasing, compliments, and subtle physical touch. Confidence is key for successful flirting, as is consent and respect. Always be sensitive to and aware of your date’s boundaries. Pay attention to their reactions and adjust your flirting accordingly to respect their comfort level.
Some examples of flirting include:
Lightly touching their arm during conversation
Establishing inside jokes
Eye Contact and Connection
Maintaining good eye contact is an essential part of building a connection on a first date. Eye contact shows that you’re confident and that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know your date. It also helps create a sense of trust and intimacy.
The Importance of Boundaries and Expectations
Sexual Intentions and Hookups
In the world of modern dating, particularly when using apps like Tinder, it is important to feel out and communicate your and your date’s intentions regarding physical intimacy vs. emotional intimacy and commitment.
If you’re interested in a casual hookup, you should hint at this or explicitly discuss it before the first date to ensure you’re both on the same page and can plan the date accordingly.
When looking for a hookup on a first date, that first meeting has a different story to it. Time doesn’t matter in the same way, since the date can last as long as you need to feel comfortable turning it into a hookup, or it may start off with hooking up at someone’s place from the getgo.
Long-term Relationship Goals
When seeking a serious relationship, it's equally important to set expectations and make sure both you and your date share similar long-term goals, though these conversations need not all happen on a first date.
As a general rule of thumb, though, open communication will help gauge your compatibility and develop a genuine connection with mutual goals.
If you're uncertain about your date's intentions, you can ask them directly or discuss your own interests in pursuing a serious relationship and openness to other possibilities. Remember, feelings of connection can develop gradually, so don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself or your date on the first time meeting one another.
Ending a First Date
Reading the Signs
While on a first date, be aware of the signals and body language from your date. Pay attention to whether they seem engaged in the conversation, whether they maintain steady eye contact or look away often, and whether they seem to be genuinely enjoying their time. See if they are open and easy to talk to, or if they seem distant or distracted. These cues can help you determine if the date is going well or if it's best to wrap things up.
How to Politely End a Date
If you feel that the date went well, you can express your gratitude by expressing you had a good time, and then either explicitly stating your interest in seeing your date again or more subtly hinting that you’ll be texting them. Give a friendly hug or go for the kiss if you’re feeling up to it.
If you don't think it was a good match, still be respectful and courteous by thanking your date for their time. When the date reaches a natural lull, such as after finishing a meal or when there’s a brief silence in conversation, make your exit. Avoid overthinking the situation. Simply say something like, "Hey, this has been nice, but seeing the time, I should be heading home now."
Planning for a Future Date, If You’re Into It
If you feel that the date has gone well and you'd like to have a second date, then go ahead and suggest setting up a second date at the end of your first date. This isn’t essential and can be done over text later on if that’s your style. It’s really a matter of personal preference.
Ideally, think about a common interest or a shared activity that you talked about during the conversation on your first date and suggest something on that theme for the second date.
How to get more first dates from dating apps
Hopefully these tips give some insights into how long a first date should last.
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