Original Dating pride themselves as UK’s leader in speed dating and singles parties. I went along to two of their singles events in London and Hertfordshire and I believe they’ve still got some work to do, to earn that title!
Why I ditched the dating apps
In early Jan, I made a vow to myself to get off the dating apps and meet people in real life. I had become so blunt with matches online, after being catfished and asked for sex on far too many ocassions. I was so busy trying to catch people out that I became angry with the whole experience.
It seemed a bit of a coincidence, but on my way to Original Dating’s lock and key party, I stumbled across an article about how London Millennials have dumped their dating apps, opting to find love in real life. Although old enough to be their mum , I could relate to so much of what they were saying… I particually like the reference to dating apps being like ‘catalogue shopping for humans’.
Original Dating, speed dating event, St Albans
Back in late summer 2022, I tried Original Dating’s event in St Albans. As a speed dating virgin, I was relieved that I could find a small, local event that definitely eased me into the experience gently, with just 15 men to meet.
Each lady was given a number and asked to sit at individual pub tables. Guys entered the room, one by one, (a great opportunity to check out the talent – like your very own catwalk show 😂), picked a table, and we were advised that we would get a few minutes with each person. On hearing the bell, guys then rotated to the next table, and so on. Half way through we also had a break for re-stocking the wine.
OK, so you have to shake the odd clammy hand and listen to someone’s obsession with their cats, but I was pleasantly surprised at how doable this was. It’s reassuring that you’re not going to get stuck with a random for more then a few minutes too!
At the end of the event, you are invited to stay and mingle at the bar.
The day after, you will be asked to go online to select the profiles that you’d like to match with. If the other person feels the same, you will have the ability to message them directly.
Speed dating, St Albans, review
The event is pretty well organised, but the dingy side room in the pub and sign up on arrival could be better.
Overall speed dating event review: 7/10
Original Dating, lock and key party, London
Hosted in the same square as Channel 4 show ‘First Dates’ restaurant, with the beautiful backdrop of St Paul’s Cathedral, the location for this Lock and key party set high expectations.
I was warmly greeted on arrival, checked in my coat and then did the usual ladies room checks to fix the wind swept hair and streaming eyes. I looked in the mirror, took a deep breath and told myself ‘I’ve got this’. This was followed by a not so confident fast march across an empty room to order a well needed drink… I convinced myself that downing a short, stiff drink wasn’t the ladylike thing to do and instead opted for a white wine spritzer… a large, elegant drink that I could sip happily away at for some time. Well, at least that was the plan, LOL.
Within just a few moments I got chatting to a friendly guy and the room filled up very quickly, having been given strict entry times. There wasn’t however much conversation happening at this point though, as there was a large crowd waiting to order drinks at the bar.
I collected my lock and was relieved to see that it could be worn around my wrist. Earlier that day, I did joke with friends that it’d be a bit pervy for men to pick up a lock around our chests.
The event leads tried to make an announcement on a microphone that didn’t work, but the gist of it was that for those that were successful with a padlock unlocking would be entered into a raffle later that night.
The event was advertised at ages between 25-45, and I was sceptical because that’s a huge age gap. As a tall, 39-year-old woman, my strategy was to gaze across the room, and look for
- The men taller than around 5’8″
- A silver fox (that way I wouldn’t embarrass myself by hitting on a 25-year-old)
- A well groomed and presented gentleman
There were maybe 3 out of the 100+ men at the event that seemed to match my wish list. The problem was that there was absolutely no organisation to the evening, it was a total free-fall. Your usual busy bar in London on a Saturday night with one difference. It was impossible to make a bee-line for the guy of interest because the little lock on our wrists ‘aka meat’ gave every predator in this den the ability to pounce. Don’t get me wrong, I met some fascinating people, but unlike speed dating where you know you can escape after three minutes, here I ended up making polite conversation because I felt too rude to excuse myself and walk away.
It was so loud that I spent the evening shouting at people and either had to ask people to keep repeating themselves, or felt uncomfortable at feeling the breath of predators at my neck.
To make it worse, I queued for 30 minutes to get another well needed drink… there just wasn’t enough staff to deal with the demand. At least I killed the time by chatting to a group of women that were hilarious.
I finally managed to tap the guy on the shoulder that I’d been wanting to speak to all night, but he fell into the ‘I want kid’s bucket’ and so our conversation quickly came to an end. (I have a wonderful 10-year-old son and I’m not willing to go back to sleepless nights and dirty nappies). Before he moved on, he said,
“Women have watched far too many Disney movies and it’s impacting dating. Women are never happy because there’s always too many qualities to tick off our wish lists and it’s far from reality.”
It felt pretty deep for someone that I’d only just met. Possibly hurting from the desire of wanting to settle down and have children, with his body-clock ticking. It does appear that people in London tend to have children later, and this study shows that this is the case.
Were dating events in London, at the age of 39 therefore not going to be my bag because too many men fall into this bucket? I don’t think that was the case, mainly because men I spoke to had travelled in from all the surrounding London borders including Surrey, Essex, Kent and Hertfordshire. Some had kids, some wanted kids and some just weren’t interested. It takes me back to my reference to dating being like the film Serendipty, with so many elements needing coming together to find a match.
Anyway, back to the event…I got speaking to a few more people, but at 11 pm, numbers were now dwindling, so I called it a night.
The following morning, I was invited to an online portal to view the profiles from the event and select ‘yes’, ‘friend’ or ‘no’.
By 5 pm the next day, I was welcomed back online to view my matches. Of course, anyone that felt any chemistry exchanged numbers at the event, but at least there was an option to message others. I have no doubt that some great friendships could form from nights like these.
London’s lock and key party review
This event is the perfect example of taking the commercialisation of an idea too far. 250 tickets sold at £25 each and for what? A bar full of single people, that could be 20 years your junior, with no attempt to organise people into groups of interests or goals?!
What went wrong:
- Too crowded
- No structure to the evening
- Not enough bar staff
- Too greater age gaps
What went right:
- Greeted and welcomed
- Cloak room consideration
- Nice venue and location
Overall dating event review: 4/10
Dating events in person
Although I didn’t have a great experience at the lock and key party, it has not put me off trying more dating events in person. We win some, we loose some, either way, I would still 100% prefer to attend singles events than deal with dating apps.
So, whats next for me?
My diary is pretty full over the next few weeks with ski lessons, theatre and seeing friends, but I will look to book another speed dating event soon.
A friend gave me a very good piece of advice this week, which was to treat my free days as a date. Go and take yourself out for the day, learn to enjoy your own company and do what’s going to make you happy.
I’m also researching solo holidays, so if anyone has any suggestions please do let me know 🙂