Dress code, silverware, napkins, table settings… There’s nothing quite like the prospect of a Royal Navy mess dinner to give you the etiquette butterflies. But this tasty bite of British seafaring tradition is a solid grounding for a social life, and so it also amounts to a thorough and effective preparation for dating. Where better to pick up first date etiquette tips than the Senior Service of the British Armed Forces?
Dating manners, from the high seas
Think about this: if you you’ve mastered punctuality, conversation and ‘passing the port’ to a standard acceptable at a mess dinner, then it’s safe to say you can navigate the niceties of dating manners. And for those of us who haven’t seen naval service, here are 12 points of naval etiquette that we think are great dating etiquette rules as well.
1. RSVP in a timely manner
This point is dating etiquette for women, 101. Invited out for dinner? As tempting as it is to play it shy for a while, be inspired by our servicemen and servicewomen on the high seas and do give a prompt answer!
2. Dress appropriately
Correct dress code is – as with all armed services at all times – absolutely vital at a mess. Take a prompt from our oldest armed force, and choose your wardrobe carefully. ‘Dress appropriately’ is your mantra. And if you don’t know what that is, find out, even if this means asking your date what kind of place you’ll end up in.
3. Punctuality is best, boys
There is absolutely no such thing as being fashionably late to a Royal Navy mess. If a pre-dinner gathering is involved such as 1900 for 1930, its purpose is to let guests relax and informally get to know one another, possibly over a drink, before dining. This all holds true for even the most casual date. There is no such thing as being fashionably late for a date, ever.
4. Officers, escort ladies to their chairs…
…and assist her in taking her seat. We know this one can be awkward and runs the risk of offending one’s sense of equality. But, gentlemen, better to risk offending your date by being over courteous than appearing boorish and ill-mannered. And wants to be thought of as a boor?!
5. Put away the smokes
This is an easy rule to follow on most (indoor) dates these days, unless you want to get kicked out of a restaurant or fined. But play it safe and extend it to your outdoor smoking breaks as well. And for goodness’ sake don’t leave your date sitting there alone while you quietly toke outside. That’s definitely poor first date etiquette.
6. Appropriate conversation
There should be no discussing political or controversial subjects at a Royal Navy mess, and you’d be wise to extend this to a date. Save it for your mates (or at least the 3rd date).
7. No acting in a boisterous manner
Admittedly this rule is likely to apply less to a date than to a group of drunken sailors. But heed it all the same, and watch the alcohol intake, as the two are often connected…
8. Table manners: posture
Here’s a golden piece of dating etiquette for men. This may not come as a surprise, but the Royal Navy aren’t big fans of lolling or lounging at the mess dinner. Nor do they fancy diners with their elbows on the table. Your date doesn’t like this either.
9. Table manners: napkin
Napkins can become a bit of an eyesore, even for the most polite and careful diner. The navy knows this, and now you know it. Keep your napkin flat on your lap, out of view of your date.
10. Table manners: silverware
Those progressively smaller forks and strangely shaped knives and spoons can really give diners a headache, so here’s a tip: work from the outside in, with the exception of your soup spoon, which is usually at the top. You may not be taking your date somewhere showy enough for this sort of arrangement, but it’s important to know what to do, if it comes up.
11. No speaking with your mouth full
Where have you heard this one before? Not your mother by any chance? Now you’ve heard from the Royal Navy too. First date etiquette 101 folks.
12. At the end of the meal, wrap it up!
At the end of a mess dinner, all china and silverware is removed from the table. If you haven’t finished some of your food in reasonable time, now is when you surrender it with grace. Just like a tableful of starched officers, your date doesn’t want to sit listening and watching while you can’t finish. Wrap it up! If you want to keep the date going afterwards over a drink, we’re not stopping you!
Share your dating etiquette tips
Do you have a tip about first date etiquette for men or women that the Royal Navy can’t tell us? What’s the most crucial piece of advice you’d give yourself if you could revisit a bad first date? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!