Should you pay on a first date? An etiquette expert settles the question

The first date debate: Who picks up the bill?

First dates can be nerve-wracking. And when you make it to the point where it's time to pick up the bill, things can get even more stressful. Who's supposed to reach for the check? Do you split it?

CNBC Make It turned to Lizzie Post, etiquette expert at The Emily Post Institute, to help you figure out exactly what to do.

"We really believe it's the person who does the asking who should do the paying," says Post. "Or at least who should be prepared to offer to pay." They should also be open to the idea of splitting the date, "if the person who was asked on the date offers that up as an option."

That's not to say you have to ask to split the bill if you were the one asked out, says Post. That comes down to personal preference.

The one thing to absolutely avoid doing on a first date is to view the moment when the check comes as a test. "A lot of people think that it's OK when the bill comes to watch and just see if both parties actually try and take care of it," Post tells CNBC Make It. Using it as a measure of character is unnecessary: "People are already nervous on a first date. People forget their own names sometimes, and you're going to judge them on the bill?"

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Ultimately, the goal is to make the other person feel comfortable, but there's not always a clear-cut strategy for how to do that.

After all, "some people feel really strongly about paying in full for that first date and really treating someone to a date," says Post. "And other people feel really strongly about splitting it so that there's no feeling of obligation. It's this one moment where you kind of have to feel each other out."

There's also nothing wrong with a budget-friendly date that avoids the bill situation altogether, she adds: "Dates can be lots of things so, if you're on a real budget, going for a walk can be a really great date."

If you're out for dinner or drinks though, don't read into things too much. "Just be understanding and recognize that just because someone doesn't want you to pay for a first date, doesn't mean they aren't interested in date number two," says Post. "Or, the vice versa of that is, just because someone wants to pay for a date doesn't mean you have to marry them."

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