There are all sorts of ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you’re single, you could spend it in a state of debauchery with friends. If you’re happily coupled up, you and your honey can snuggle up on the sofa, watching the ball drop. But what if you’re at a relationship stage somewhere between single and spoken for? We’re glad you asked! Here’s how to have a great New Year’s Eve date no matter what point you’re at, relationship-wise.

If it’s your first date: keep it low key
Yes, some of us have first dates on New Year’s Eve — it can be fun, festive, and exciting... and, notes David Coleman, coauthor of 101 Great Dates, there’s that expectation of a kiss at midnight. “With most dates, you have to wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of a date,” says Coleman. “But on New Year’s, it’s customary.” The bad thing? The expectation of a kiss at midnight. “If things haven’t gone well and you know you don’t want to kiss your date, the strike of midnight can sound like The Tell-Tale Heart.” Not to mention that you’ll have a completely awkward situation on your hands (and lips). So to prevent any “expectations,” Coleman suggests avoiding dates that are tremendously romantic or too formal, like a fancy-schmancy restaurant. Instead, he recommends something more low key, where the pressure is off. “When we act like a kid or a teenager, we revisit a time in our lives that was effortless, humorless and enjoyable.” Think arcades, a bowling alley, or a viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
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If you’ve already been on a few dates: make it social but special
Parties are everywhere on New Year’s Eve, but couples who have been on a few dates and aren’t exactly serious yet should skip the ones where groups of committed or married couples are clustered. “It may set the couple up for too much pressure or high expectations,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. Hit up the parties where you know your single or newly coupled friends will be, bring a token gift for the host, and enjoy yourselves.

If you want something a bit more intimate for you two and another one or two couples, follow this suggestion from David Coleman and have a theme night — say, New Year’s, Italian style. Pick a type of food and build an evening around it. For example, prepare an Italian meal, watch Under the Tuscan Sun (or The Godfather, depending on your shared tastes), and listen to Monteverdi.

If you two have been dating for a couple of months: ring in the romance
When you’re involved with someone but haven’t said the “L” word or sworn yourselves to exclusivity, why not use New Year’s Eve as a way to take things to the next level? “If you’re craving some alone time, do something luxurious,” suggests April Masini, author of Date Out of Your League. “Hire a pair of masseuses to come to your home and give you joint massages.” Masini also suggests making a tradition out of giving each other New Year’s surprises, planning an evening at your honey’s favorite restaurant or treating your sweetie to a pedicure given by you. These are all romantic gestures that will make for a memorable start to your year together.

If you two are exclusive: savor spontaneity
You and your honey have probably had your share of romantic evenings — some seductive jazz, a glammed-up meal at an incredible restaurant…what you two could use is something surprising and off-the-beaten path. How about peering through a telescope at various constellations? Making s’mores if one of you has a fireplace or is bold enough to fire up the barbecue on a December night? What about renting an Elvis-in-Hawaii movie and making some hula moves together? Unconventional, yes — but sometimes that’s just what a rock-solid couple needs to liven things up.

Laura Leu is a writer in New York City who has written for Stuff, Maxim, and Sync.