Who Pays the Tab on a Date?

Dating Couple

The dating scene is certainly not what it used to be, which is one cause of so much confusion about who pays for a date.

But no matter your dating preferences or what type of relationship you're in, there is one foolproof method to use when figuring out who should pick up the check: the person who asks for the date, pays for the date.

Why Asking = Paying

Think of it this way.  When you host a party, you are responsible for the food, drinks, venue, entertainment, and decorations. 

So when you invite someone on a date (whether platonic or romantic), you are in essence hosting that person.  Therefore, you are responsible for the food, drinks, entertainment, etc.

One exception would be if the two of you agree ahead of time to split the cost of the evening.  Or, if you're already out and your date wants to add an activity that wasn't on the agenda.  For instance, "There's a wonderful dessert place just up the block.  How about some cake and coffee on me?"

How You Ask Can Determine Who Pays

There is a definite difference in the way the following question is posed:

  • Would you like to have dinner with me?
  • Would you like to meet for dinner?

The end result could be the same - you'll probably have dinner with this person.  But the first question indicates that you will be that person's guest.  The second question indicates that you'll see that person out for dinner and will likely sit at the same table.

Which means that the person asking the first question is the one definitely responsible for picking up the check.  The person asking the second question could offer to pay your tab as well, but has not made himself responsible for doing so.

The key word in the above questions is "meet."  When you meet someone for an activity, you have your own transportation, you may arrive separately, you pick up your own tab, and you go your separate ways.

The first question is more indicative of an actual date ("with me") where the two of you go together, arrive together, and leave together.

What If?

What if the person who asks, doesn't understand she is supposed to pay?
When you are out with anyone, it's a good practice to be prepared to pay the tab, or contribute if you need to.  This a habit for me because my mom used to have my sister and I carry "mad money" with us whenever we went out.  Just in case . . .

What if there is an issue with a woman asking a man for a date?
A woman who is shy or uncomfortable asking a man for a date might approach it like this.  "I happen to have two tickets to the theater for Friday's performance.  Would you join me?"  This way, she already has the tickets and won't be paying the bill in his presence.

What if the dating couple in question is a same-sex couple? 
The same rule applies.  If you ask someone to be your guest (date), you are responsible for the costs.


Knowing who pays should help make the process of dating a little easier.  Unfortunately, nothing quells the nerves of someone who asks another person out, and wonders if his feelings will be returned.

We all want to be liked, especially when we spend one-on-one time with someone who could be really special.  No matter what the outcome of the payment arrangements for your date, always treat the other person with kindness and respect.  After all, it took a lot of nerve for him or her to ask you out.

You may also enjoy reading . . .