From redheads to uniforms, Caroline Delaney reports on dating websites that focus on connecting like-minded people
You don’t usually go to a restaurant and just ask for ‘dinner, please’ and who knows where you’d end up if you went to a travel agent and just specified that you wanted to go ‘abroad’.
And we all have dealbreakers in relationships - some would never pair up with a smoker; others would only opt for someone sporty or into off-beat travelling.
Matchmakers and dating site experts have cottoned onto this too and many now offer niche dating services. Indeed, some of these can be pretty specific — maybe you can only see yourself getting serious about someone who can crack a joke in Klingon; or perhaps it’s gotta be a farmer who’ll do it for you; or maybe you yearn for someone with red hair. Well, there are dating sites especially for all theres preferences and many more.
One of the newer ones is www.RedheadDates.com and it’s billed as a “niche dating site for flame-haired singletons and those who are looking to find a redhead lover”.
Site founder, Jonathan Bird, said it’s actually doing really well — and is proving especially popular here and in the US.
“The Irish community in America have really taken to this site and Ireland isn’t far behind,” he said.
It’s free to join the site and to send an ‘icebreaker’ message; and then there’s a paid-for more specific aspect to it as well which costs €34.95 per month.
But doesn’t it kind of objectify people with red hair?
Not at all, laughs Jonathan, who has Irish (Dublin) roots himself: “It’s more like shining a spotlight on where you want to look.”
He explains: “We have personal rules on how far we would travel for a job for example. And that applies to looking for love as well — some people don’t want to go to an international site and be presented with singles from everywhere. So you might only want to meet people from Cork so you funnel or target your search.”
Jonathan is managing director of a company which runs around 4,000 dating sites around the world and he certainly stands over his work — he met the love of his own life 3.5 years ago through a very niche site. TrekDating.com is for fans of Star Trek: “I wanted to teach myself software coding and I am a Trekkie myself so I thought why not TrekDating.com.
Jonathan and Dawn even brought elements of Star Trek into their wedding. Star Trek Movie director, JJ Abrams wished them well on their big day; and they had a two-feet-long Starship Enterprise model on a table at their wedding and some of the orchestral music played was from sci-fi films — but they drew the line at wearing Star Trek costumes for the ceremony.
While we’re on the subject of clothing, there is a plethora of sites specifying ‘men or women in uniform’. Now, Richard Gere in his dress whites uniform in An Officer and a Gentleman may have a lot to answer for, but there can also be a more practical reason.
The job you do can affect your dating — and your paired-up — life a lot. As one ‘uniform dating’ site notes: “All professions are demanding, especially those that require uniforms, and leave no time for a personal life. When you have hectic schedules and work long hours, often dealing with emergencies, finding someone can be a challenge.”
Similarly a livestock farmer will have ferociously busy times of the year when they may not be able to head off travelling so hopefully the singles hoping to reap a man or woman of the soil will be ready for this. Sites such as FarmersOnly.com promise to help you “find a farmer, rancher, cowboy, cowgirl or animal lover” as it’s “an online dating site meant for down to earth folks only”.
There can be a bit of a city perception that Macra na Feirme is a matchmaker for rural people. But this is definitely not the case, says keen Macra member, Lorraine Maguire.
Local Macra groups have organised events such as barbecues and sporting challenges — and some have offered Strictly Come Dancing or speed-dating evenings as charity fundraisers. “Macra is a sociable organisation for people keen on getting involved in anything from sports to travel, or drama and debating. It’s more an outlet for making friends,” she explains, conceding that romance may well happen for some members but it’s not the motivation for setting up the many events the organisation offers.
Personal appearance obviously plays a huge part of hooking up for many people and there certainly are niche sites to reflect this. It may seem that 9 out of 10 guys have a beard or moustache at the moment but if you really want to be sure you’ll meet a hairy-faced guy then check out stachepassions.com (“dating and niche social networking for singles with a passion for the mustache”) or bristlr.com (“connecting those with beards to those who want to stroke beards”).
Despite the popularity of dating sites it seems that checking out a potential mate in person is still the only way for many people.
Hugh Redmond has been running speed dating and mix and mingle events for 11 years now.
“We work to create a fun and comfortable environment for single people to have a relaxed time meeting up — whether it’s mix and mingle evenings or adventure weekends,” he said.
Hugh reckons his company getout.ie is behind thousands of ‘matches’; hundreds of relationships and dozens of weddings.
And one option that has really taken off is adventure weekends such as the one on Inish Mór on St Patrick’s Weekend.
“We had 45 singles staying in the one hotel for three days and they were able to enjoy activities ranging from a treasure hunt to yoga, biking or a ceili or a quiz — activities like this take away from the fact that it’s a singles weekend and people can just relax, have a few drinks and gauge who they might want to chat to,” he said.
Getout.ie is mainly focused in Cork, Galway and Dublin but have had people travel from Northern Ireland and even Switzerland to particpate.
One of getout.ie’s next events will be in Cork on July 29 — a mix and mingle at James St 1767 on Courthouse Street.
Now here’s a problem: what if you’re loaded and single but you’re wary of gold diggers and want to meet someone who understands how hard it is to find time to manage all that wealth? Well, berkeley-international.ie, which Hugh is also involved in, might be the solution to that particular conundrum.
“This service is and elite global matchmaking company for busy, successful and wealthy people who think nothing of popping to Paris for a date. It’s a bespoke service that is for people who lead content, busy and fulfilling lifestyles but reach a point where they don’t have enough time to find that special person.”
A risk that a less-well-off person might join this agency purely to meet a rich partner is pretty much offset by the €6,000 joining fee, notes Hugh.
But whether you’re meeting a flame-haired beauty or a mustachioed hearthrob or a jet-setting lover, the main thing is, as a wise person once warned me — ‘never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you’.
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