So you have a new love interest, or there is someone you wish to ask out, and you want to impress that person with creative and romantic dates. First of all, good for you! In this article I’m going to share a perspective on why romance is impressive, and then give some practical and simple ideas for creative dating. Hopefully you’ll find that impressing someone is not as hard as it seems, and when it comes to romance, a little goes a long way. But first, a little story.

My wife and I started dating in the fall of my senior year at college. To ask her on our second date I got one of those baby pumpkins and carved her name into it, then I stuffed it with a humorous limerick that I wrote on a tiny scroll of paper inviting her to carve bigger pumpkins after class. Do you know how tedious it is to carve someone’s name in a baby pumpkin?!! I was up till 3 in the morning! It was a lot of fun, very memorable, very impressive to Julie, and led to a fun and engaging date. A week later, I played a practical joke on her by taking a bag of leaves I had raked up that day and dumped them in her dorm room when she was away. With leaves painstakingly sticky-tacked on the wall, I left a message that said, “Enjoy Our Fall Colors.” With a different girl, that could have majorly backfired, but she loved the boldness and the ridiculous nature of that prank. The next day she sent me all the leaves in a bag through the college post office, and buried in the bag was a flash drive mix of her favorite music and an invitation to go for a walk in the Morton Arboretum. We went, and another creative and romantic date ensued. Now that we’re married, we don’t need to spend the same amount of energy to impress each other, but when we look back we are so grateful that the beginning of our relationship was fun, light-hearted, and creative. We still laugh about those days, I still love those special songs I shared with her, and we still go for walks in the Arboretum. But I don’t dump leaves in her room anymore. Our kids bring in enough messes!

These are just some of the stories that made dating fun and creative and romantic for us. And did you notice that none of it cost much money? In the end, making the effort to impress someone is way more fun and exciting than just settling for movies and a typical dating relationship.

1. Speaking from my perspective as a Guy: Why Does A Girl Want To Be Romanced In The First Place?

Answer: it proves to her that you are not just like every other guy, and that she is not just like every other girl. Let me explain. When you seek to win someone’s heart, you are proving that is your goal, not her body. That makes you different from the some other guys she might have known, and automatically sets you ahead of the pack in her mind. Furthermore, if it is her heart you are interested in, her passions, her sense of humor, her hopes and dreams that you want to understand, then planning dates where you can talk and really get to know her communicates that in your eyes she is special to you and that’s why you are showing interest in her.  However, if your goal in dating is just physical gratification, then the person you date is nothing special…they all have the same basic anatomy. With the girl you will some day fall in love with, it will be her heart and personality that will distinguish her from all the rest.

So what’s your goal in dating? If you’re trying to impress, just so you can get physical later, that’s shallow and sleazy and ultimately not that impressive. If, however, you are intrigued by her, drawn to her, and the more you get to know her the more you want to get to know her… that is very impressive! And believe me, she will notice. She will feel cared for and special if that’s your goal in dating. She will be impressed if you choose to think of her as a person, and if you show yourself to be curious to get to know her for who she is and not for what she can do for you. Just don’t be selfish, you know what I mean?!…  And if it’s your goal to honor and respect her body by keeping your hormones in check and postponing the physical stuff in order to build a healthy relationship, well then, my friend, you are nothing less than Prince Charming to her, I guarantee it. Wow, all that and I don’t even have to buy  cologne!

2. So What Am I Supposed To Do?

Now that we’ve laid the ground principle for why romance is important, let’s talk about what to do. Being romantic has much less to do with being smooth, rich, or deadly handsome, and much more to do with being creative, planning ahead, and doing fun things that allow for real conversation.

Step One: PLAN AHEAD. With romance, a little goes a long way. If you want to plan a wonderful date, spend just a little time the week before: brainstorming different ideas, asking older friends you respect about successful dates they’ve planned, and imagining what activities would allow you to really talk. Once you get an idea, do a little research online or talk to others to figure out how to make it happen. For example, if you want to go on a canoe ride down the Fox River, it will take you 5 minutes to go online, find a canoe rental company, make a phone call and get a reservation. Your crush will love it when you put just a little effort into planning a date. It is unimpressive to just go to the movies or even worse to show up and say “what do you want to do?” (Surveys actually show girls frown on that!) A girl will not be picky about what you do for a date (as long as it’s tasteful) if she knows you put some effort into planning it. Besides, if she really is interested in you, the most important thing she wants is the chance to be with you and get to know you a little better, too! To be romantic simply means to be creative. Honestly, the most romantic things are the simple things, like going for a walk or a bike ride, having a picnic in a park, swinging on swings, or getting ice cream. I bet if you sat back for a minute, you could think of a dozen equally simple yet creative ideas. Step one: plan. If you plan to be creative then you need to create a plan.

Step Two: GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER. Choose date ideas that allow for good conversation. Once you’re on the date, let your aim be getting to know her, which means ask tons of questions. Use good listening skills, make eye contact, and ask follow up questions to her answers. Really what it comes down to: just pay attention (hint, don’t go out to dinner at a sports bar with TVs all over the place if you’re doomed to be distracted. A good question to get interesting conversation flowing is: What is the one thing that you love to do so much that you lose track of time? Find the thing that she is passionate about, and then from there it’s easy, just keep saying, “That’s cool, tell me more about that.” But even the best conversationalists have a hard time talking for a whole evening, especially with someone they are just getting to know. The good thing about planning a fun activity is that it allows you to talk but also gives you a break from conversation when you need it. Put together, the combo of good conversation and a fun activity make for a great time! Planning a date like that will leave her with the impression of you as mature, different from the other guys, and (oh yes) romantic!

To recap: with romance, a little goes a long way, so even just a little planning and creativity works wonders, and choose dates that allow for good conversation. Now for some simple suggestions to give you a basic idea for what “creative dating” looks like:

1.     NO MOVIES. Don’t cop out because you’re afraid to talk, and the movie gives you an excuse.

2.     Canoe ride on the Fox River

3.     Walk in the Arboretum, Cantigny, forest preserve, along a river, or even just to the park

4.     Picnic in the park

6.     Swinging on the swings at the park, feeding the ducks

7.     Bike Rides

8.     Ice Cream

9.     Bike Ride to the Ice Cream Shop

10.  Card games or board games

11.  Go to Millennium Park in Chicago, and then walk along the beach or the Riverwalk. Take the train and you’ve just given yourself more time to talk, on the way in from the ‘burbs and back.

12.  Make cookies…or dinner (even if it’s simple as spaghetti, you get major “impressive” points!), just don’t ruin it by watching a movie afterward

13.  Bowling, mini-golf, Frisbee golf, bocce ball, trap shooting (seriously!)

14.  Get water colors and paint together; you can be silly or serious with this one

15.  If you’re up for spending money: Zoo (Lincoln Park zoo is free…just pay for parking), a Chicago museum, a concert, downtown Chicago

16.  Make up a humorous short story (puppets anyone?), and then make a short video of it (note: this is not the same thing as going to the movies!)

17.  Any combination of the above ideas; multiple layers to a date makes it exciting

18.  Most of the above ideas can be done in a group or on double dates; some are even more fun that way (bowling, canoe rides, games, making a movie…), and double/group dates are great ways to get to know someone without as much pressure squarely on you. Plus you get to see how they act around their friends and yours.

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