Nail the right atmosphere
The difference between a second date and an anniversary should be reflected in your choice of venue. If you need something to make a good impression early on in a relationship, consider fun, energetic venues that share dishes and encourage using one’s hands, because it helps break the ice. However, if a bigger date is nigh, don’t just spring for a fancy bistro with low lighting. Ask her what she’d like to do. It’s a great failsafe and lets you impress her with your interpretation of her tastes.
Scope out the place
Chances are that sharing a fancy plate of pasta isn’t the only thing on the menu for your special night out—you may want to present her with a gift, throw her a surprise party, or even propose. That’s when you need to actually check out the place to make sure it’s a good fit. Does it have separate booths where you can pop the question in private? A coat check to stash a present? Is the chef willing to accommodate dietary restrictions?
Does the staff do favours?
Speaking of pre-arrangements, your experience can be heightened if you get the staff on board. When making reservations, find out if the joint entertains grand plans and make sure they’re cool with playing along. That champagne glass on the house isn’t going to come on its own, and neither is a moment of privacy for you to get on one knee. However, if you are planning on pulling extra actors into the play, be sure to leave a lavish tip, or agree to an up-front cost for services rendered—most restaurants worth their salt won’t require the latter, but don’t simply assume.
Think of what comes next
Make dinner only part one of your elaborate plan. Rather than stick to the same restaurant for dessert, head to a nearby cafe for something sweet. This, of course, requires you to choose a location proximate enough for her to walk to in heels. For part three, a more intimate setting—such as a park, boardwalk, or a boutique cocktail lounge—is fitting. These changes of location keep the forward momentum of the date going and create the illusion of a much more action-packed evening.
Give yourself a lot of time
It may comes as no surprise that you had better do all your planning well ahead of time. Restaurant reservations fill up, special accommodations may require fair warning and you may even need a few weeks to scrape together more cash if you’re going all out. Above all, however, you’ll want to make sure it’s not a stressful spur-of-the-moment occasion for the lucky lady.