I took a quick sip of my Red Bull and vodka as the three-minute bell rang for what seemed like the twentieth time. Because it was the twentieth time. I had just completed a whirlwind hour of speed dating, or Courtship for the Attention-Impaired. Scribbling my score card with the last in a series of cryptic descriptors - which, about a dozen dates ago, I assumed would be adequate memory joggers - I left my table to rehash the evening with my housemate/fellow dater.
The night of zipping through handfuls of men was…an adventure. Speed dating drew everyone from cocky, job-focused city boys to the shyer types who'd usually hesitate to approach girls. We'd each found a few guys who seemed worthy of second dates, but we'd have to wait a day or two to see if they agreed.
Speed dating, despite its goofball representation in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, is a technical process. It involves ticking a card with "yes", "no" or "friend" each 180 seconds, logging said ticks on a special website the following day, and waiting for any matches to show up on a personal account page.
The stigma attached to speed dating is disappearing, says Danielle Waller, events manager for the 5-year-old company SpeedDater. "I think that if you haven't had a look online or been to an event, you're in the minority," she says. "Especially in a city like London - the pace is often just not conducive to meeting people."
Guests are guaranteed at least 10 dates per event, and SpeedDater's London venues can accommodate a maximum of 25 women and men. The company's parties draw about 300 to 400, but an event like a wine tasting will be considerably smaller and more intimate.
Waller says the company's most popular London events are graduate-professional nights, which routinely get at least 20 couples, followed by elite-professional nights, which include champagne and canapés in the ticket price. About 80 percent of people at all events (my housemate and myself included) find at least one dating match.
"We always recommend coming with an open mind and to not take it too seriously," explains Waller. "If you're looking for your future husband or wife, speed dating might not be the best thing for you. I'm not saying people don't get together or get married - but it's as much about the fun of it and enjoying meeting new people as it is to maybe meet someone special."
With that said, Waller got quite a shock two months ago when she received an email from a man asking to see his friend's old dating profile. He was set to be the best man for his friend, who'd met his wife-to-be through SpeedDater's online dating site. The funny thing? The best man's uncle met his wife at an event the year before.
- Liya Donaldson
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