A Belfast couple who met at a speed dating event have launched their own business to help singletons find their perfect match.
Gerard Auld and Leona McGlinchey have created their own speed dating company called Rate My Date NI and have already begun hosting bespoke events in various city bars.
Speed dating dipped in popularity as more people turned to dating apps — but the couple think the combination of Covid, and a backlash towards online dating, will boost interest once again.
They are banking on an increasing number of singletons wanting to meet face-to-face, and hope to create a fun environment to facilitate that.
“I think a lot of people are fed up of online dating,” laughs Leona, (34), from north Belfast.
“You invest so much time sending messages and almost becoming pen pals with someone, then you meet in person and realise there’s no physical spark, or they look nothing like their profile pictures.
“I remember a group of my female friends having a right laugh one night when we all realised we were getting messages from the same fella.
“It can be funny, but if you are serious about finding someone and starting a relationship then the apps can just be a huge waste of time.”
Gerard (38) thinks that as the world moves on from the pandemic, there’s a real desire for face-to-face interaction.
“People want to get out and about,” he says. “After nearly two years of being in and out of different lockdowns, a lot of people are feeling rusty when it comes to dating and meeting new people.
“Speed dating is the perfect way to ease yourself back in, in a room full of people who are all in exactly the same boat.”
Gerard and Leona met at a speed dating event.
“He was the first guy who came to my table,” says Leona. “We now jokingly call each other ‘table six’. Out of everyone at the event that night, Gerard was the only one I swapped numbers with.
“The rest is history. We started talking about running our own events because we’re living proof that speed dating does work, but then, of course, Covid delayed our plans.”
With restrictions on socialising now — hopefully — a thing of the past, Gerard and Leona have finally been able to launch Rate My Date NI, saying it may only take four minutes to find love.
For the uninitiated, the premise of speed dating is simple. Attendees are separated into two groups — usually male and female — with one party sitting on separate tables. The other parties move from table to table, with each potential couple being given four minutes to chat, before moving on.
The idea is to give singletons the opportunity to meet a large number of potential partners in a short space of time.
At the event, the organisers collect feedback. If two attendees both agree they would like to see each other again then this is called a ‘match’ and they will then be given each other’s contact details.
Gerard explains: “At the start of the evening we give everyone a match card, and then if you feel you have a connection with somebody you can tick ‘yes’ in the, ‘Would you like a second date?’ column.
“If the other person also ticks ‘yes’ for you then you’re a match. We email all our attendees the following day with details of their matches, so it’s very discreet. It’s then up to you whether you want to make the first move and arrange another date.”
In a bid to make matches more likely, many of Rate My Date NI events have different age ranges for attendees. On average each event is attended by around 15 men and 15 women.
Gerard adds: “Four minutes might not seem like much time, but it’s enough to make that initial connection and see if there’s a physical spark.
“Our events are organised so there are regular intervals, where people can meet at the bar and chat again. At many, there’s also an opportunity to remain at the venue for another drink afterwards.
“Our events take place in private rooms or spaces in bars like McHugh’s bar in the city centre.
“Some speed daters come alone, while others come with friends, but everyone is separated for the actual dating so everyone is in the same boat.
“It’s natural to feel nervous when meeting new people, but if you don’t connect with one of the dates they will be moving on in four minutes and you’ll have the chance to chat to someone new.”
Rate My Date NI has only been running for a few months, but Gerard and Leona have already had several success stories, with budding relationships beginning at their events.
The couple also planned some same-sex speed dating events to coincide with Pride.
“We want people to enjoy themselves,” says Leona. “Dating is meant to be fun. Think of it as a chance to practise your flirting and social skills, if nothing else.
“We’ve also had some interesting feedback from people who’ve come away from our events with new friendships.
“One woman told me that although she’d not met the love of her life, she has formed a new friendship group of women.”
Gerard adds: “When it comes to finding your perfect match, there really is no substitute for genuine, face-to-face interactions, and we provide a fun and safe environment to do that.
“There’s no exact science in the world of dating — what works for one person won’t work for another. But enjoying someone’s company online and enjoying being with them in person can be two very different things.
“So if you fancy trying something different, come out from behind your screen and give one of our speed dating events a try.”
For information visit: ratemydateni.com