The Great Bill Debate: Who Pays For A First-Date Dinner?


“Next time you want to start a verbal bonfire, ask a group of men and women who they think should pay on a date.”

This is how Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior staff writer, began a column in 2003 about the great bill debate. She outlined several guidelines aimed at solving this timeless problem, many of which still apply in 2010. For example:

You pursue, you pay. The person who initiates the date should pay. If one person has been doing the paying on the early dates and you continue seeing each other, then you should start alternating who pays when you go out.

But we all know that times have changed with the recession. Fellow CatholicMatch blogger Paul Jarzembowski recently wrote about how young adults should be cautious about news that our country’s recession has technically ended.

Jeanne Sahadi wrote her guidelines for paying on dates more than seven years ago, so I would like to know what your guidelines are for today’s dater. If I’m sitting at a restaurant on a first date with a check in between my date and me, what’s the protocol? If he doesn’t offer, should I think less of him? Does it even matter? What unwritten rules do you follow?



  1. Vivienne-926474 July 1, 2013 Reply

    I am not sure where all this fits in. I would not offer to pay for anything even if I asked the man out. I would not offer to pay or share for anything on any date . I feel this practice is more feminism equality mess. I think a woman can expect to be taken out on a date by a man, even if at her own instigation, and for the man to pay because he is in her company. The woman ought to thank the man and show appropriate appreciation but not feel obliged to “pay” in ways sinful or otherwise for his company. This is what I grew up with. It has all to do with gender specifics in my view.

  2. Shannan-733493 July 1, 2013 Reply

    In my experience, the man pays for the first date. I usually offer to split the check, but he declines. I am appreciative, and we both feel good.

  3. Jim-826315 September 10, 2012 Reply

    This does not seem like something people should stress over. There is much more to a relationship than who pays the bill. I have not dated much, so my firsthand experience is minimal. I am usually fine with paying the whole bill or going dutch, but a strong opinion either way might turn me off a bit. I would definitely plan to be the breadwinner if I am a father of young kids, but I would be more flexible at all other stages of a relationship.

  4. Louise-865591 September 8, 2012 Reply

    I’m not sure about a “first date” but at a first meeting is it ok to ask for sepatate bills? Does this seem tacky?

  5. Jim-397948 November 14, 2010 Reply

    The GUY pays always for the first date!!!! No questions asked!!!

    • Carlos-342100 November 17, 2010 Reply

      The man pays for the first date, period. This shouldn’t even be a discussion.

  6. Eleanor-607703 November 14, 2010 Reply

    On my first ever Catholic Match face to face date, when the check came I asked my date if he would like to go dutch. He offered to pay so I accepted that and thanked him. I agree that if one continues to date, they should alternate paying and also that if you asked the person out, you pay.

  7. Joseph-561868 November 12, 2010 Reply

    Ok so here is a guy’s perspective here in case you are interested. To be honest, I think the “who should pay” matter really depends on the people and situation. Personally, I like to do so as a sign of generosity (rather than for the sake of tradition) but sometimes the person I was with gracefully declined and we both paid our own way or she went ahead and treated me without me saying a word (so yes, it can and does happen Alicia) which made me feel very inclined to return the favour should we meet up again.

    I guess the only thing to watch for is that you are not being “used” (or there is a lack of generosity) should someone never offer to treat and/or the “same person” (guy or girl) is ALWAYS covering the expense on all subsequent dates.

  8. Alicia-481430 November 11, 2010 Reply

    If girls are being asked to even consider paying for a FIRST date, please don’t complain when they are found lowering their standards or putting up with a guy that doesn’t treat them right. Obviously, the bar is being set quite low for ladies now-a-days and it’s quite sad. Maybe you should discuss things like “how to set the bar high and make a man realize your worth” because guys will only climb as high on the latter as girls will make them go. If we’re paying for the very first date, what is that saying to a guy about the girl’s worth?

  9. Alicia-481430 November 11, 2010 Reply

    Is this seriously a topic in a Catholic forum? Does this really need to be discussed with girls? 1. The girl should never be the initiater and 2. the guy should always pay on the first date. What happened to the days where guys would jump ouver backwards to win a date with a girl? Guess those days are gone along with marriage being forever….

  10. Jacqueline-198 November 9, 2010 Reply

    We have a saying in Spanish that basically says, ‘he who invites, pays’, I think it’s sweet, romantic and chivalrous. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it’s the interest in getting to know one another. I’m an old fashioned kinda gal and I like that a man offers to pay for a date. I have had no problems also pitching in at a date, if he pays for dinner, I offer to leave the tip, if he refuses and we decide to have dessert and coffee elsewhere, I pay for that, or if we go to the movies, we’ve split the cost, snacks etc. I think it’s the right thing to do, again, if finances are an issue (with so many unemployed) fun can be had on a budget!

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