Navigating Group Dates

Men's Dating

Navigating Group Dates: An Expert Guide to Socializing & Romancing

Mackenzie Buck

Written by: Mackenzie Buck

Mackenzie Buck

Mackenzie Buck is an experienced writer who earned a master's degree with distinction from the University of Manchester. Her relationship advice has been featured on the New York Post, among other publications. She has worn a variety of hats in the digital marketing space over the years and is excited to bring her unique voice and storytelling chops to DatingAdvice.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is the Editor-in-Chief at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being "boy crazy," but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating and relationship expert. As an English major at the University of Florida, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about a variety of subjects. Now with over 1,800 lifestyle articles to her name, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com.

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Group dates are arguably one of the most common tropes in sitcoms and romcoms, up there next to coffee shop meet-cutes, a “Princess Diaries”-esque makeover transformation, or a dramatic last-ditch sprint through airport security. 

The thing about group dates is that they actually happen. And, for some people, they can also be quite the tool for elevating their romance game. In this bite-size but comprehensive guide, we unpack the concept of the group date, dish out some helpful do’s and don’ts, and share tips for how to best use this activity to either create or nurture meaningful relationships in your life. 

By the time you’ve read to the end, you should feel prepped and ready enough to hit “Confirm” on that reservation for four. Let’s get right to it. 

Definition | Types | Do’s & Don’ts | Etiquette | Afterward

What is a Group Date?

To sum it up nicely, a group date is everything a regular date is, but with more than two people present (usually in numbers divisible by two). The context of the group date can vary, depending on who’s involved and what the motivations are. 

Group dates involve multiple couples

For example, a group date can be two best friends who met another duo of best friends on a night out and want to explore the possibility of a romantic connection in a low-stakes environment. 

Or, a group date can be three couples who live in the same neighborhood and want to get to know each other over a couple bottles of wine or a game night. Either way, the end goal is to connect and build relationships on both the romantic and friendship levels. 

Navigating Group Dynamics 

I know I just said, “Double the couples, double the fun,” but I (kind of) lied because it sounded cool to say. The truth is that more people doesn’t necessarily make a date night more enjoyable, especially if the vibes among the couples are highly mismatched. 

Now, this isn’t to argue that couples need to be clone copies of each other to get along, but the dynamics of the people involved do have to work — or, at the very least, not clash. If you’re the person organizing the group date, we would encourage you to pick a couple (or couples) that have similar personality types, energy levels, or even interests as you. 

For example, if you know another couple that’s equally obsessed with period pieces as you and your partner, they’d likely be a great choice for a “Pride and Prejudice” trivia night. 

Advantages and Disadvantages 

I can personally say that every time I start talking to a new guy, I don’t wait long before including him on a double date with me, my lifelong bestie, and her partner. That’s because my friendships are incredibly important to me, and I want to see how well my new boo and my long-time boos mesh before we take things any further. 

Plus, my bestie is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, so if she doesn’t like him, I’ll know right away: It just ain’t gon’ work. 

Advantages

This opportunity for a preemptive test run is one of the primary appeals of group dates.

Some of the advantages include broadening your social horizons, maximizing fun, strengthening pre-existing friendships, and limiting pressure through the use of one (or more) social buffers

On the flip side, there are some less-than-ideal outcomes to consider when stepping into group date territory. For starters, the couples on the date could straight up not vibe. Whether it’s conflicting personalities, preferences, or political views, it’s always possible that what started as a romantic night out will end as a dating horror story for the books. Hey, at least you can look back at it and laugh, right? 

Disadvantages

Additionally, planning becomes a lot more complicated when you have multiple people with different tastes to consider. Some could be craving Chinese food, while others are itching for empanadas. 

Some could want neither and suggest that you all take a trip to Cook Out instead. At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. 

Lastly, group dates can end up with one or more people in the group feeling uncomfortable or left out. Perhaps some party members are more familiar with each other than the others and get too caught up reminiscing on old stories, or maybe one couple’s idea of a fun evening is a night-in with takeout while the other’s is bar hopping through the city until last call. 

The former two choices are a lot more common, but there’s always potential for a Ryan Reynolds-Blake Lively-type scenario where your date hits it off more with someone in the opposite couple. All is fair in the game of love and war, I guess.

3 Types of Group Dates

If you’ve ever partaken in a group date before — or hope to in the future — chances are it’ll fall under one or more of these three categories:

1. Casual Outings

These types of group dates are low-key, low-pressure, and typically low on the spectrum of financial investments. A day at the park, a movie night, or a visit to a local outdoor brewery are a few examples of date nights of this caliber.

2. Organized Events

Although it’s true that all group dates are “organized” in one way or another, this type of group date requires a bit more structure and planning. It typically revolves around a singular event, such as a concert, an art show, or a sporting event, and, therefore, can burn a bigger hole in the wallet.

Save money by organizing a group

That said, the couples involved in this type of group date are encouraged to put more thought, planning, and consideration into the occasion than perhaps they would on a more casual endeavor. 

3. Double Dates

Double the couples, double the fun. This kind of date is characterized by two doe-eyed duos turning their intimate night out into a party of four, giving all parties involved a chance to connect with their romantic partners while also connecting with their friends. Double dates can be ideal for close friends or for integrating new partners into the friend group (a test run, if you will). 

Do’s and Don’ts of Group Dating

No single strategy can prevent dating fails with a 100% guarantee, but consider a handful of do’s and don’ts to reduce the risk as much as possible. Let’s take a look. 

Do Communicate Beforehand

People may complain all they want about the back-and-forth texts, the restaurant brainstorming, and the reservation confirmation emails, but keeping everyone in the loop is the best way to manage expectations and maximize fun. 

Don’t Exclude Anyone from the Planning Process

Imagine you and your partner want to visit a family-owned farm, and you decide their horseback riding event is the way to go. The only problem? You didn’t run the details by the group, and it turns out one person has a hay allergy and another person has a fear of horses.

Be inclusive

One way to prevent an awkward group date would be to make sure all participants are involved in the curation of the itinerary. Get opinions on all the wheres and whens. Discuss the details so you aren’t putting anyone in a situation they’d rather avoid.

Not only does this limit the risk of sour feelings (in more ways than one), but it gives all members of the group a sense of ownership and satisfaction over their contributions.

Do Choose Appropriate Activities

This rule sort of falls under the previous one, but we’re giving it its own section anyway. Remember that not everyone likes the same things you do and that a good group date attendee considers the interests and comfort levels of all participants. 

Don’t Overlook Individual Preferences

I know you want to show your group date attendees the hush-hush pizza spot with a five-star rating on Yelp, but what if someone in your group is lactose intolerant?

In other words, before pulling the trigger on an activity (restaurant outing or not), make sure you’ve checked in with all members of your party to see what suits them, what their no-gos are, or if they’ve got any of their own ideas to contribute. 

Do Dress Comfortably

Make sure your outfit matches the energy of the outing. You don’t want to be the one person who shows up to an ax-throwing joint in a full suit. 

Don’t Be Overly Competitive or Dominating

Whether during the planning process or during the actual date night activity, it’s important not to let your need for control or your competitive nature get the best of you. Nothing spoils a good time like a fistfight over a game of Fish Bowl, am I right?

4 Etiquette Tips

Just as with regular dates, group dates come with their own rules of thumb that ensure all participants leave feeling respected, appreciated, and included. 

1. Show Appreciation to the Host

If the activity of choice takes place at a person’s home, make it a priority to thank them and show your gratitude for their role in making the fun memories possible. Bringing over a small gift — such as a bottle of wine, a candle, or a home-cooked dish — is always a good idea, too. 

2. Talk About Split Bills and Expenses

Deciding who is paying for the dinner or activity is a necessary part of the dating experience, and that includes the group dating experience as well.

Pay Your Way

If you plan to get up and make a trip to the bathroom right before the server brings the bill, you can almost guarantee that’ll be the last group date you’ll ever go on.

Do the right thing and pay for your portion of the bill (or expense, if it’s non-food related), or come together to find a method of payment that works for everyone.

To limit the awkwardness as much as possible, you could also agree upon payment during the planning process itself so no one is left feeling surprised or put out. 

3. Respect Personal Boundaries

If this is an introductory group date (as in, one or more participants are unfamiliar with the others), it will be especially important to tread lightly when it comes to physical touch, personal space, and topics of conversation. If you want to be extra cautious, you can chat with your date (or any members of the group that you’re comfortable with) and clarify any topics or behaviors that are off-limits.

4. Balance attention Between Individuals and the Group

What makes group dates so fun is also what can make them uncomfortable. You get to spend time with the person you love or are interested in, while nurturing and/or building friendships. This can be extremely rewarding, but it requires a certain level of skill.

Be intentional about how much time you dedicate to your partner versus the attention you pay other members of the group and, with time, your balancing act should feel more natural. 

After the Date: Reflection and Following Up

When all is said and done and the axes have been thrown, it’s time to pause and reflect on the (hopefully) good times that were had. Follow these three steps as part of your reflection process.

Check In With Your Partner

A post-date debrief is ideal for communicating your feelings about the experience, hashing out any minor disagreements that may have come up, or pointing out any boundaries that were crossed along the way.

This will do wonders to strengthen your connection and ensure that any subsequent group dates just keep getting better and better.

Follow Up With Individuals or the Group as a Whole

Just as you debrief with your partner/date, you should also debrief the other members of the group.

Call or text to follow up

Ask your friends how they liked the date, if they had any roses and thorns, or even call back any funny moments that came up. 

Plan Future Outings

If you enjoyed the group date, you should reach out to the members of the group and let them know you’re interested in running it back.

For example, you could send out a group text that says: “Last night was sick! Round two next week?” or “Thanks so much for hosting, (insert name here)! We had the best night! Next time, (insert name here) and I would love to have you guys over at our place!”

Make Meaningful Connections by Socializing Regularly  

Two-person dates are fun and all, but sometimes you want to switch up the pace a bit. Group dates, whether they go well or not, have a way of doing just that. If you have a new love interest that you’d like to introduce to your friend group, a group date with one other couple from the group can be a great way to ease them in. 

Or, if you just moved to a new city with your spouse and are looking to make new friends, a date night with the couple across the hall could be an effective way to build meaningful connections. 

No matter the scenario, group dates are a tool to help us nourish our relationships, enrich our social lives, and, of course, try out as many local restaurants as possible. Keep these tips and considerations in mind and you’ll become a group date pro (and highly-esteemed Yelp reviewer, probably) in no time. Happy dating!