Oonagh McAteer, founder of Diamond Dates, says she was always interested in pairing up family and friends ever since she embarked on a wishful childhood project.
“I remember when I was little my granny died and after a while I decided my grandfather would suit my available granny on my other parent’s side. Needless to say I was Jane Austen’s Emma in the making back then as my living grandparents had no desire to be paired up whatsoever,” she jokes.
But her lifelong interest coupled with her own stints on well-known dating sites prompted her to become a professional matchmaker after experiencing the emotional pitfalls of the online modern dating game.
Ms McAteer set up her business four years ago and now runs Diamond Dates near her home in Banbridge.
She says the trials and tribulations of online dating are well documented, from being ignored or ‘ghosted’ after initial overtures, or profile photos from another century.
“We’ve all experienced it. There’s being mislead by people masquerading as young, free and single when they are neither, or profiles that are not even a real person on some sites. It can seem as if life is made up of dating disasters and hopes can quickly fade of finding ‘the one’,” she explained.
“The path to my true love certainly didn’t run smooth and I had any number of mismatches and disasters that I laugh and shudder at in equal measure. I met my husband online and I didn’t like putting all that information out there or not knowing if people were real. I wished I could call someone and let them sort it out for me and that’s how Diamond Dates started.”
So if you have done multiple rounds on well-known dating apps to the point of desperation, worry no more, says Ms McAteer, (39) whose agency operates across Northern Ireland and the border counties.
She continued: “Using a dating agency rather than online means an actual person is there to talk to and they can help and advise you. Some people are out of practice dating and the scene has changed so much, but with an agency you know that the people are real and they won’t disappear without explanation.
“I have a wide age range from 25s to my oldest ever being 92. There is no online form to fill in as I go through the client’s interests and desires with them. The form filling and profiling is all done by me. I choose only the person or persons who would be most suitable and who I have knowledge of. It’s the old matchmaker system in the modern age and a solution to the anonymous lottery-style method of finding love on online dating sites.
“If there are problems with a person finding love and they don’t know why they are still alone, we work through those issues. It’s a personal, private and bespoke service. My clients tell me what they want and like and I go and find that person for them.”
And with Covid-19, the love guru says romance is blooming with socially distanced dates actually helping people get to know each other at a slower and better pace.
“It has actually become more romantic with coronavirus. Lockdown meant online meetings and phone conversations, but now I’m seeing clients really enjoying walks on the beach, picnics and bike rides. They are having more fun than they would on the usual meal out or a drink together,” she added.
“The initial shock of lockdown passed very quickly and enquiries started to pick up. I see people now wishing to adapt and move on as the virus seems to be here for a while. People don’t want to wait.
“Interestingly, lots of my new clients only realised how alone they were during lockdown. Where you had a person getting social interaction and meeting people at the pub, nightclub or on events like hen and stag parties, weddings and concerts, they only realised that their social life had all gone and they were left feeling lonely.”
However Ms McAteer says she is always on the lookout for prospective suitors: “I could be on Facebook or doing something in my day where I might come across someone who is available and who would possibly suit a client. I can then ask them to allow me to do an introduction.
“I do this job because I’m a passionate believer that everyone needs help or could at least do with having someone on their side looking for them too. Some want to start families and others are seeking friendship and romance.
“From being a young matchmaker, I have continued to play Cupid throughout my life. I’m a romantic at heart and I have always loved to see people find happiness.
“I have always believed there is someone for everyone and I am only too happy to help people find their soulmate and the love of their life.”
If you are looking for love and companionship you can contact www.diamonddatesni.com or call Oonagh McAteer on 075 1840 3695.
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