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A Novel Dating Idea: Meeting Lots of People in Person Quickly

Hey, wait a minute. Buried at the end of this article is the fact that 2/3rds of those attending speed dating events are women! Where do they get off mentioning gender? That's so binary? Get your pronouns, straight bastard.


Sorry, the point is that people that identify as folks who can bear children are at a distinct competitive advantage.


This whole thing seems rigged.


A Novel Dating Idea: Meeting Lots of People in Person Quickly

Daters with swipe fatigue are signing up for singles’ nights and speed-meeting events

‘It’s like reclaiming agency over your dating life,’ said one speed-dating attendee.


By Rachel Wolfe, WSJ

Updated Feb. 14, 2023 12:21 pm ET


Speed dating, a relic of the “Friends” era, is having a moment.


Daters’ app fatigue and appetite for getting to know others in person, instead of through their phone screens, is driving interest in rapid-fire meetups and mixers.


Ticketing platform Eventbrite listed approximately 11,000 events mentioning “singles” and “dating” in the 12 months leading up to Feb. 1, up 25% from the same stretch of 2018 and 2019, the company says. Attendance is up 15% over the same period.


Even dating apps are getting involved.


Bumble began hosting in-person meetings in 10 cities last year. The Blink Date, an app that immediately pairs users up for conversations, has also helped organize about 25 in-person singles events over the past year as a form of promotion, founder Taly Matiteyahu says.


Taking charge

Julie Spira, a Los Angeles dating coach, says her clients are clamoring for old-school speed dating and singles mixers. “If you don’t RSVP when one was just announced, you can’t get in,” she says.


Plenty of people remain committed to apps—Match Group, whose dating apps include Tinder and OkCupid, reports 16.1 million paid subscribers, a decrease of 1% over the past year. Yet for some who entered the dating pool thinking swiping was the only option, a room full of single strangers feels retro, in a good way.


“It’s like how my grandparents met,” says Meredith Hughes, a 29-year-old graduate student at the University of Cincinnati.


She has gone to about a dozen speed-dating and other dating events since last summer.


Looking for love this Valentine’s Day? Many people are finding it at work. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, around a quarter of U.S. employees are romantically involved with someone at work right now, or have been in the past.

After splitting up with her boyfriend in the spring, she didn’t want to get back on dating apps, where she says she found inauthenticity at best, and lewd or sexist messages at worst. She’s now all-in on in-person meetups.


“Even if you have to fake your way through the six-to-eight-minute date, it’s only six to eight minutes, and you’re able to instantly see whether or not you have a connection with someone,” Ms. Hughes says. At $39 a ticket, the events are a cost-effective way of going on 10 dates amid inflation, she adds. “It’s like reclaiming agency over your dating life.”


Attendance at speed-dating events put on by Pre-Dating Speed Dating waned as dating apps took off in the early part of the last decade, says Linda deLucca, the company’s co-owner. Many of its competitors shut down.


In the past year, however, Ms. deLucca says demand is higher than when the company started in 2001. For the first time, it is hosting multiple speed-dating events on the same night to accommodate everyone who signs up. Pre-Dating operates across 70 cities in the U.S.


MyCheekyDate runs speed dating for gay and straight singles in about 50 cities in the U.S. and another dozen around the world. It is offering about 50% more events per city a week than before the pandemic because of increased demand, founder Anoush Stevenson says.


“There are so many horror stories with app dating that I think people are really just ready to meet eye to eye and feel that chemistry in person,” Ms. Stevenson says.


Clear ground rules

Scott Jackson, a 46-year-old salesman in Port St. Lucie, Fla., started going to singles events in November. He says he likes knowing that striking up a conversation with a woman at a dating event won’t freak her out.


“Everyone is there to meet people,” Mr. Jackson says. Even when there’s no spark, he says people are a lot nicer when making their lack of mutual interest known than they would be in other in-person scenarios.


Before the pandemic, about 15 people normally showed up at singles nights at Boris & Horton, a dog-friendly cafe in New York City. Earlier this month, an event run by Blink Date was so packed with about 80 people that some of the dogs needed to be picked up to avoid getting trampled, the organizers say.


Co-owner Logan Mikhly says more customers now work from home and are looking for socializing they don’t get during the day. Plus, some who got dogs during the pandemic want to meet other dog lovers. She plans to cap attendance and charge a small entrance fee for future mixers.


Last March, 500 people signed up for a “Chaotic Singles Party” within 30 minutes of a TikTok post landing to announce the event, event organizer Cassidy Davis says. The wait list was an additional 900 people long.


The only problem: That first event was about two-thirds women. “I was like, ‘Oh God, careful what you wish for,’” says Nick Zayas, a 37-year-old screenwriter in Los Angeles who ended up meeting his now-girlfriend, Amy Kersten, at the party.



Mr. Zayas says he was tired of going on expensive dates that went nowhere with women he met on dating apps. “I joked that I was hosting the Nick Zayas charitable foundation for single women and cocktails,” he says, adding that two rounds of drinks in Los Angeles could easily cost $80. (The ticket to that first Chaotic Singles event was $5.) Plus, “I was very sick of being inside and experiencing everything through an electronic filter,” he says of swiping through people’s dating profiles.


Ms. Davis says gender representation at the sold-out events has mostly evened out over the course of the 16 she has since thrown. There have been other bumps.


At one speed-dating brunch, Ms. Davis gave all the women balloons and the men pins. A man could pop a balloon to end the speed-dating portion and share a meal with the woman whose balloon he popped.


“Only one balloon was intentionally popped the whole time,” says John Horan, a 30-year-old production coordinator in Los Angeles who says he didn’t want to draw the room’s attention with a loud bang when he was hitting it off with someone. He says he enjoys Chaotic events, but wouldn’t ordinarily make such a grand public gesture. “Great idea, but could use some tweaks.”


Write to Rachel Wolfe at rachel.wolfe@wsj.com

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