Five ways not to mess up your big Valentine’s date

You think the hardest thing about Valentine’s Day is snagging a reservation somewhere without a drive-thru? Please. Who knew about the potential romance-killing Soup Spoon Faux Pas?

Uh, Sharon Schweitzer, that’s who. The founder and CEO of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, Schweitzer understands many people will be pitching woo across a fancy restaurant table over Valentine’s weekend. She also understands that bad manners can be a turnoff along the lines of watching someone pick his teeth with a butter knife — so she’s compiled a list of “dining etiquette points” aimed mostly at men, although they’re full of good info for women too. Or for anyone hosting a meaningful dining-out occasion, for that matter.

Some of the tips seem like no-brainers, including, “The person extending the invitation is the host and is responsible for the payment of the bill … Guests don’t split the bill.” Others are downright clever when it comes to not spoiling the mood, like suggesting you point out 2-3 wines in your price range to the sommelier, who “will stay within those ranges. Don’t say how much you want to spend.”

The full list runs to 21 tips. We’ve highlighted five of Schweitzer’s recommendations for ensuring you don’t end up alone and ordering into the clown’s mouth at the drive-thru next V-day:

  • If you want to be a sophisticated host, arrive early and provide a credit card, or call the restaurant ahead of time to pre-arrange payment. Your date will appreciate that everything is handled seamlessly.
  • Order the same number of courses as your date. This avoids awkwardness and allows you to pace yourself with your date.
  • If you must send your food back because it is not cooked to your liking, it’s your responsibility to insist that your date start eating.
  • Boiled lobster? Artichokes? Avoid panic attacks by planning what you’ll order ahead of time. Read the online menu, call the restaurant about daily specials and do your research beforehand.
  • (And our personal favorite for making you seem all James Bond suave while eating soup:) Differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack – remember the proverb, “Just like ships that sail out to sea, I spoon my soup away from me.”

For more cool etiquette advice covering everything from Chinese New Year to the gym, check out the blog on Schweitzer’s web site (www.protocolww.com).

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