Pre-Dating featured in the WALL STREET JOURNAL

Remember Speed Dating? It’s Back
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.

‘It’s like reclaiming agency over your dating life,’ said one speed-dating attendee. ROGER KISBY FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Rachel Wolfe Feb. 14, 2023 10:19 am

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. 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.

Taking charge 

… 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.

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.

…“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,” …

A singles mixer at a dog-friendly cafe, in New York City. PHOTO: TESS MARTY

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 was so packed with about 80 people that some of the dogs needed to be picked up to avoid getting trampled …

… 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.  


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… Plus, “I was very sick of being inside and experiencing everything through an electronic filter,” he says of swiping through people’s dating profiles.

At one speed-dating brunch, all the women got 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 events, but wouldn’t ordinarily make such a grand public gesture. “Great idea, but could use some tweaks.”

Write to Rachel Wolfe at