Dating today can be one of two things – for those having fun, it’s great. For those panicking about meeting someone, the search to find true love can be exhausting. Women are at a disadvantage, particularly if they are hoping to have a child with the biological clock ticking faster and faster as they approach forty. Men on the other hand have the upper hand with no biological clock. But this doesn’t make dating any easier. There’s a pub culture in Ireland and so very often those hoping to find their soul mate, it usually involves getting out the Sunday best on a Saturday night and heading to the nearest bar to expand our romantic horizons.
For those who aren’t stuck in the pub dating rut, matchmaking is a viable and often successful option. It’s arguably a better way of whittling away the time wasters and concentrating on those that may possibly be a match, there are various internet dating sites, dating websites and dating agencies but ultimately going down the matchmaking route takes all of the hard work out of the equation so it suits really busy people that are too time poor to waste nights in bars or hours every night on dating websites. It suits particularly shy or quiet people that hate the prospect of trotting up to a potential match (virtually or in person) and trying to amaze them with their opening line.
The matchmaking scene may not be often talked about but it’s bubbling away privately and getting serious results for users, many of whom are seeking to meet their perfect match. Generally about half of those that use a dating agency have online dated first. It certainly works for some people though. In fact, research carried out by the Oxford Internet Institute last year found that 1 in 16 Irish people commenced their relationship online. It’s a fact that is not surprising considering the millions of euro generated each year in the online dating industry – finding love is big business. When it comes to Matchmaking agencies though, users are definitely looking for either a serious relationship or to get married which is not always the case though with online dating.
And when it comes to tying the knot, it would seem that people in Ireland are either holding off saying ‘I Do’ or it is taking them far longer to find ‘the one’. In fact, figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal that most men in Ireland are 34 when they walk up the aisle, while women are on average 32 years old. Compare those figures to the 1970s when the average age of a bride was 24 and 26 years old for a groom. Fewer Irish people are tying the knot however – the latest figures from the CSO illustrate that in 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available) nearly 20,600 couples married – the lowest figure in recent years since 1998. Therefore, cohabitation is on the rise among couples in Ireland today. What’s more, we’re opting for fewer religious services when we are tying the knot – 67% of those marriages were Catholic, 29% were civil services and the rest were Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Methodist, Jewish and other ceremonies.
But civil partnerships are bucking the trend – since they became legal in Ireland in 2011, more than 2000 people have entered a civil partnership with 1000 of those happening in 2012. It’s estimated that the number of gay or lesbian people in Ireland in civil partnerships are much higher as those figures don’t take into account the numbers who entered into civil partnerships abroad.
So has the dating scene in Ireland changed over the years? Rena Maycock, Director of Intro Matchmaking has noticed a considerable growth in the number of those over 50 who are seeking a new relationship. “We meet so many women who may have been proposed to in an era of love letters and they have been tapping away on the keyboard looking for love before coming to us. We interview every candidate and match him or her according to their interests and personality and so, there’s a sense of reassurance for those who may be bereaved, separated or divorced for example and they want to meet somebody but are anxious about the process. It is a big step but we are with our clients every step of the way and you’d be surprised at the number of people in Ireland that are actively seeking love – of all ages.”
And then there are those who prefer to stick with tradition. The annual Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna caters for those singletons that want a bit of craic. It attracts over 20,000 people to Co. Clare every September and has seen successful pairings over the years, spawning happy couples and new friendships. It’s not for everyone and is very public so for those seeking a quieter means of finding their soul mate, it’s best to stick to other dating options. Years ago we may have had yentas or parents to help us get married, today we have freedom to fend for ourselves in searching for a soul mate. With the options endless, it’s up to you to choose how you will find that special someone.
When it comes down to it, most people are on the search for love and companionship – humans are loving creatures. While the options of finding that one true love may vary, at the end of the day all of us want to be loved or certainly find someone to grow old with.