One of the most daunting aspects of being set up on a blind date on dating reality show First Dates UK isn’t only that the singletons are going to have dinner with a total stranger. It’s that the fancy restaurant Paternoster Chop House in London, where they share casual conversations and a light meal, is strategically fitted with 42 cameras and there are about 70 crew members watching their every move. That’s enough for someone to miss their mouth with a fork and have their food spilling on their clothes for their date to see…

But because the First Dates UK matchmakers work hard to pair couples who are compatible and share common interests, it isn’t long until the singles feel comfortable around each other. If they run out of topics to talk about or there’s an awkward silence, the charming host Fred Sirieix and the staff (who are actually actors in real-life) keep them engaged and entertained throughout the evening. At the end of the date, the couples pay the bill and decide whether they’ll go their separate ways or exchange numbers.

There have been dates that were nothing short of cringeworthy, where a single landed with a frog instead of a Prince Charming. But there also have been romantic dinners with sparks flying, cute giggles and the couples smiling ear to ear because they’d found “the one” on a TV show.

As dating “scientists”, we viewers (and wanna-be daters) get to analyse how and why that little touch of magic happened, and then steal all the best tips to use for ourselves. So, put on your white lab coat, take out that magnifying glass, and check out how these past First Date couples got it right:


Give your date room to speak

A first date, much like a job interview, is all about putting your best foot forward and impressing the person on the other side of the table. Cassius watched a ’90s rom-com ahead of his date with Danielle in S1 (2013) because he certainly was in it to win it. He arrived at the restaurant with roses in one hand and chivalry throughout the date. He attentively listened to her and asked follow-up questions. She was just as interested in him. There was an undeniable connection, and they agreed that they’d clear their schedule to hang out with each other again.


Give the date time

Dan and Adam didn’t know what they were walking into when they agreed to take part in the show in S2 (2015). Dan had been single for eight years, so he joked that he was desperate and lonely. As for Adam, he had no expectations, but he was eager to have a great time. The couple enjoyed each other’s company so much that they forgot that they were on a date and were eventually kicked out of the restaurant. “We were told that if we wanted dessert, we had to take it outside,” says Adam. The couple were engaged on the show’s annual Christmas special months later, and are now planning to get married in Cape Town (sometime when international travel is allowed post-Coronavirus).


Work your quirk

It was love at first sight for executive assistant Victoria and sales manager Scott when they laid eyes on each other in S4 (2015). She was bubbly and fashionable and was searching for a mature man who could handle her drive and zest for life. And she found that in Scott. He thought that her fascination with numbers was cute and endearing. Their time on First Dates not only led to a follow-up date, they moved in together after three weeks and were also engaged by the time that the show’s Christmas special rolled around that same year. Alas, they called off the wedding after seven months and broke up. However, their First Date is still one of the sweetest and most romantic in the history of the show.


Be open to trying something new

Look out for vivacious and hilarious Coryn this season. Her list of requirements is very brief: she’s just keen to meet someone with whom she has a connection. It can be anyone, with any gender. “If it’s a girl, I’d like someone more ‘butch’, not necessarily pretty. If it’s a guy, maybe tattoos, a bit of a beard, just hot though,” she says while laughing before sipping her cocktail. Her upcoming date with Liam could see her strategy paying off – not just because he has the required striking beard and tattoos across his arms, but he makes her chuckle.

First Dates UK S5 starts on Wednesday, 20 May on BBC Lifestyle (174) at 22:00

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