Marriage Tip: The 6 O’Clock Dinner


This makes us sound 1,000 years old, but here goes…

A couple weekends ago, Alex and I wanted to go to a buzzy Mediterranean restaurant in Nolita. The catch? The only available reservation was 6:15 p.m. Although we usually head to dinner much later (usually around 8:30, and in my twenties, I’d often go after 10, crazily enough), we decided to go for it.

And that is how we discovered the genius of early dinner reservations.

Our typical date night:

6 p.m. Feed the boys dinner
6:30 Bath
7:00 Pajamas/teeth
7:15 Books
7:30 Song
7:32 Another song
7:34 Put Anton back into his crib
7:36 Another song
7:38 Put Anton back into his crib
7:40 Another song
7:42 Anton, get back in your crib for the love of all things holy!
8:00 Sitter arrives
8:15 Head to restaurant
8:30 Drink wine, eat food, have a chat
10:30 Cab home
11:00 Pass out, exhausted

Our new-and-improved date night:

6:00 Kiss the boys goodbye, as they eat dinner with a beloved babysitter; head to restaurant
6:15 Drink wine, eat food, enjoy sparkling conversation
8:15 Cab home
8:30 Home
Make out?
Play games?
Watch a movie?
Night cap?
10:30 Cuddle up and fall asleep

In sum, you get two date nights for the price of one.

Bonus: Early reservations make it much easier to book tables at cool restaurants that otherwise feel impossible to get into. Plus, I actually like the 6 p.m. vibe: You settle into the quiet room, have a serene conversation and soak up the amazing atmosphere. And, by the time 8 o’clock rolls around, the restaurant has woken up, with crowds filling the space. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds: first, you enjoy the restaurant as your own little hideaway; then you see the full performance of the restaurant, without having to elbow your way through the crowd.


Thoughts? Is this a no-brainer thing you already do? We are converted! Or do you prefer your kids to be asleep before you head out?

P.S. Jerry Seinfeld on kids’ bedtime routines and a fun time to have sex.

  1. Megan says...

    This is our favorite thing to do. Living in a city where reservations are a nightmare it’s like gaming the system! Plus our nanny babysits, and bonus then tidies the house and does our laundry. She’s a gem. It’s date night times 100 to come home to a fully sorted house!

  2. shopgirl says...

    Plus, eating much later after six o’clock is not good for the figure. It goes directly to the hips and waist .. ;-)

  3. Dabney Morris says...

    yes!!! this is what we finally figured out after many years! let the babysitters do the work when you are paying them to and you go out and enjoy!! life changing!! xo

  4. Beth says...

    Works for teenagers too…mine love the ‘Free for all Friday’ where they can either have pizza delivered, or practice their skills in the kitchen. (This happens whether we go out or not). They clean up and check in with any other plans for the evening. We are home before their curfew…….which is never a bad thing! Incidentally, my 15 year old daughter just doesn’t sleep late on weekends. I have discovered that breakfast out while running errands is a great way to connect, without having to compete with a teenagers social life (and media). Highly recommend.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that!

  5. Gauri says...

    We are travelling to nyc to visit my in laws with my 3 year old and 10 month old. My in laws are older and can’t take care of both the girls. What’s the best way to find a trusted sitter? My in laws will be home too … To help out? Thanks Jo! Absolutely love your blog!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so sorry for the late reply! we’ve had great luck with sittercity, and if you email me directly i’d be happy to put you in touch with some of the sitters we use, too! hello at cupofjo dot com xoxo

  6. Megan says...

    My husband and I do this all the time to hit great restaurants with limited availability (or we decided to try last minute). We’re 32 with no kids, so we don’t always head straight home- but we get a great seat at the trendy bar of the moment before anyone else has ventured from dinner!

  7. Genius!

  8. Rosalba says...

    Hi! This sounds great, but I was wondering. If it’s the same as your everyday routine for the boys. I have a three year old (and a 14year old) and I still don’t have a set bedtime routine. He’s crazy!! Do your kids still take afternoon naps? What time do they typically go to bed/sleep? How many hours do they sleep? I’m sorry about all the questions, I’m really just looking for a guideline to see if maybe I can apply it to my sweet but lively boy to bring some order and perhaps more alone time with my husband. :) thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note! toby doesn’t nap anymore, and anton naps on weekdays days from about 12:30-2. (he usually skips his naps on the weekend since we’ll be out and about.) then they go to sleep around 7:30/8pm and wake up around 6 or 6:30am. hope that helps! there are some great articles online about sleep, and the book The SleepEasy Solution really helped us in terms of schedules, routines and sleep while traveling. good luck! sleep can be one of the hardest parts of parenting!

  9. Jessie says...

    We have our babysitter come at 5:30. This way I can have an hour to do what I want to do without kids and out of the home. My husband meets me at 6:30 for dinner and then home by 9 pm. For us paying her $20/hour for three kids she’s got to work. We get home, girls are asleep, and I’m not exhausted.

  10. Good share, thanks. We generally have the babysitter come at 6 and then head out for cocktails before dinner and then home around 10:30. We like to buzz around to a couple bars, fun spots before settling into dinner. Feels like our courting days :)

  11. We’ve been doing this for years and works beautifully! I think we would fall asleep at the dinner table if we tried to make 8:30pm reservations! ?

  12. though i do not have children, I love the idea. we are very busy so a early date night sounds fun; though we try to do weekend ones. there had to be some median because I am very organized with my life and well he doesn’t have the hang of it yet, so maybe after work we should meet up. earlier the better I see in this case it makes things more fun. great post!!!

  13. We need to find a sitter who can put our boy to bed! That’s my mission! It’s also a treat to skip the dinner/bath/bed/go to sleep routine once in a while!

  14. Totally love #2 best! :0)

  15. Totally agree. And we’ve discovered the ‘afternoon/early evening date’ is our thing. Babysitter from 3pm (or older brother now he’s turned into a teenager) then off for a great afternoon walking around Portland, browsing in stores that we haven’t even seen before (let alone walked into) stopping for a coffee, then somewhere for wine or cocktails, wandering some more, then dinner and then home around 8pm for a lovely evening home on the sofa watching a movie etc etc. Love this way.

  16. Magyn Merrick says...

    I think it’s funny that I’m at the point in my life where I think, ” An early dinner? What a novel idea!” But this certainly strikes a cord. In Memphis, and especially downtown and in midtown where my husband and I live, eating late is just the norm. I once went to a restaurant at 5:30 and they hadn’t even turned the lights down or the ambient music on yet! It was off-putting because I had still wanted the restaurant vibe. I’ve always been a very late eater. Growing up we’d usually eat around 8 o’clock. My husband, on the other hand, now frequently urges me to try to make it earlier. Giving it a try.

  17. Mindy says...

    We’ve been in the early dinner club for years. Now that we have a toddler, it just makes life even easier. Ours is not such an easy-sleeper for others, so we try to role in right as it’s put the kid to bed time (or a little later because she has a special energy reserve when different people are playing with her). The sitter gets her ready in all ways except the actual putting her in bed part. For us, that takes maybe 10 minutes, and then it’s back to whatever adult activities have been inspired by date night part 1. =)

  18. Alyssa Leister says...

    This post is fun and made me laugh. We always ate dinner around 5:30/6 at the latest as I grew up. So I’m a habitual early-eater. (I also usually have breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, so waiting much longer means I’m pretty much hangry!) I always laugh when I’m starting to date a guy, because early vs late dining can totally be a big deal. One guy I dated was so frustrated that I’d make us eat so early. I tried to explain that a happy girlfriend is a FED girlfriend. :)

  19. I don’t have kids but this sounds brilliant! I will remember this for sure–thanks Joanna!!

  20. Benay says...

    I love how “New York” this post is. I feel like barely anyone goes to dinner past 8 or 9 outside of NYC or the larger cities. But my mother has always preferred to eat early (we’re talking 4:30/5!) so I discovered early eating as a young kid. My husband and I love it! We don’t even have kids and we’re barely 30 but we do exactly what you said: early dinner, maybe grab dessert on the way home, cuddle up at home with dessert and a movie/game/etc.

  21. Vicki says...

    When my boys (4&7 now) were babies, I went out after I put them to bed because I couldn’t bear the thought of them crying because they couldn’t get to sleep. But now I also love an early dinner, the sitter does all the work! And my boys love to have someone else to play with before bed – the sitter has more nighttime energy than I do because she is fresh to the situation. It’s a win for everyone!

  22. Yes! Early is where it’s at! Sometimes we opt for going even earlier: on weekends we’ll get a babysitter from 3-6pm (the time we’re a bit worn out of kids!) and go for a super early dinner. I figure, if we’re up at 6:30am and have breakfast at 7, then we’ll eat lunch at 11 so we’re ready for dinner by 4! Then we come home feeling all refreshed, bond with the kids during their dinner and bedtime, and we’re ready to relax more!

  23. Carmela says...

    Even better, 6:30 pm “walk-in without a reservation” dinners . Make going to a popular restaurant on the spur of the moment possible and stress free. Started when we were dating and meeting casually after work, and now 20 years in has become one of our things.

  24. Ashley says...

    Why should you do all the routine of getting the kids fed/bathed before you go? Isn’t part of the treat of having sitter having someone else cover the routine? For what it costs to hire a sitter you should get a break. Heck yeah go early!

  25. leathermansgal says...

    This post is so interesting and timely! Do the boys go down for bed okay without you or Alex there? I have a one year-old and we have yet to try a date night that doesn’t involve either A. going out before it is his bedtime, or B. going after he’s already asleep.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we have a few regular date-night sitters, so they go down fine with them now. the boys are really comfortable with them. maybe it would work to have a sitter come over to do the bedtime routine with you, and then do it on her own the next time? of course, i still can’t help always texting our sitters trying to casually ask, “all good?” and “how goes?” …little ones always seem so sweet and vulnerable before bedtime!

  26. Allison says...

    8 pm dinner is so strange to me! we always go out around 6/6:30 and are usually home by 9 ish (unless we are out with friends, then we stay longer) if i’m paying a sitter, then they are doing the hard work of the bedtime routine! i don’t need to pay someone to sit in my house while my kids are just sleeping!

  27. Love your new date night routine! We do the same… Our fr Ends take it up a notch they book a sitter for a Sunday and have the day with one another.

  28. Theresa says...

    My Mom always had early dinners, so as an adult, I like to do that, too. When I got married, my husband and I always had 6pm or earlier dinners and now that we have a toddler, it’s the best way to go, especially because I am in bed at 10pm! When I was single and travelling in Spain, I knew dinner times were later and tried to wait as long as I could. I went to a restaurant at 8:30pm and they said they were closed, to come back! I quickly realized you spend your time eating tapas, having a drink and then go to dinner…Argentina is the same way! If I lived in Spain or Argentina, I could adjust, but I am an early bird!

  29. Courtney says...

    We start even earlier, like 5pm! We get the fun happy hour vibe at the fancy downtown places (and the happy hour prices!). Our new thing is sex when we get home (8:30) as soon as the sitter is gone. Then we can put on our hiking socks, eat ice cream and watch a movie ;) Thanks for talking about love life for adults, Jo!

  30. Stella says...

    We recently discovered the joy of the weeknight date. Easy to get a babysitter (usually grandma), easy to get a table, and so low-key without pressure of “we only do this once a month so it has to be the BEST NIGHT EVAH! TRY ALL THE THINGS!” I’ve now set it up with my mom for it to be at least a monthly thing and if we need it more, there is always his mom!

  31. Joy says...

    Are late dinners an American thing? Because in Canada, at least as far as I can tell, it’s normal to always have your dinner, at home or otherwise, between 5:30 and 7. If I have to wait past 6:30, I get cranky! If my husband and I have planned to go out to dinner, we usually go as soon as he’s home from work, which is 5:30. I’ve always been so baffled when I hear people in movies make plans for dinner at 8pm lol.

  32. Amy B. says...

    We discovered this years ago and agree that it has been life-changing. Sometimes, we even get the babysitter late afternoon so we can sneak in some (fun) errands like glasses or furniture shopping and then drinks/dinner. Often our 2nd date is movie night at home with another glass of wine.

  33. Gemma says...

    Yup. We’ve been fans of the ‘early bird special’ since our daughter arrived 3 years ago. We’re in bed by 10pm most nights. Rock n’ roll!

  34. April says...

    i love heading out around 6-7pm then the sitter can do dinner and bedtime giving us a break and we can have a peaceful evening. rather than feeling disheveled, frazzled and tired after kids dinner and bedtime and then heading out for an evening like “ok lets have fun now! ” lol
    also there’s nothing worse than being all dressed up and dealing with bedtime and diapers, etc.

  35. I dont have kids but I prefer the 6pm specially during the week! If I wait until 8:30pm, I’m already tired and it’s just not the same. At 6pm you can have drinks and enjoy the night.
    A Hint of Life

  36. Jessica says...

    At this point in time (our daughter is only 7 months), we put her to bed before heading out. I like to nurse her just before I lie her down. On a normal night in though, we have an early (early!) dinner all together. I’m talking 5pm. I grew up in Eastern Canada where this is very typical (actually, lunch or mid-afternoon is often when the largest meal of the day happens). I couldn’t imagine having to do the whole bedtime routine, then cook dinner, THEN clean up. Whew. 7:30 pm is when I get to sit back with a beer and just breathe. :)

  37. Try to start your dates at 5pm! Even better! haha. That is what I do.

  38. Christina B says...

    On Valentine’s day my husband and I went to a matinee and then wandered in to a fancy restaurant we had been dying to try. We got a great table at 5:30 and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves; about 7 the reservation-holding couples started filing in. We then headed to our favorite cocktail bar (and got our usual bar seats since it wasn’t super busy yet) and had a couple of drinks, then were home by 9. It was honestly one of y favorite V-Days ever.

  39. Shhh! You’ve let our secret out! ;) (works for brunch on weekends too in busy places like Williamsburg)

  40. Heather D says...

    I love an early dinner with my hubby. We don’t go out often (to save money!), but when we do, we’ll eat dinner super early, like 5pm. Then we run an errand or two afterwards, maybe get some groceries while holding hands, then come home to cuddle up and watch Netflix! Win!