Dating During a Pandemic? This NYC Matchmaker Has All The Answers

Dating During a Pandemic? This NYC Matchmaker Has All The Answers

Dating During a Pandemic? This NYC Matchmaker Has All The Answers

Emily Holmes Hahn, the founder of elite matchmaking service LastFirst, knows dating and relationships like no other.

Emily Holmes Hahn, the founder of elite matchmaking service LastFirst, knows dating and relationships like no other.

Photography: Luke Dickey

Styling: Lauren Bensky

Text: Valerie Stepanova

Before she proclaimed matchmaking as her official line of work, the dating extraordinaire Emily Holmes Hahn worked as a personal shopper at Ralph Lauren Paris. Merging the worlds of fashion and social networking, she used her luxury business experience and familiarity with what high-profile clients are looking for to build and run a truly unrivaled company that takes dating to a whole other level. Targeted at New York's fashion and creative elite, the service has an 85 percent success rate — saving their clients' time with vetted, catfish-proof dates arranged by a concierge service.

When she first started LastFirst back in 2014, she couldn't have imagined the world where social distancing and self-isolation would become frequent (if not normalized) mode of operation. But as it happens, life sets its own rules — and here we are, staying home with little to no opportunity to socialize and meet new people. Though this makes one's dating life more complicated than usual, it doesn't have to mean that you can't put yourself out there at all: even during this time, there are ways to meet and interact with people in a safe way — and Emily is here to break it all down for you.

On first FaceTime dates, building a meaningful connection online and the future of dating life post-COVID — read the full interview with the expert matchmaker below:

Emily Holmes Hahn, Founder of LastFirst Matchmaking

Tell us a little bit about yourself and LastFirst. What first sparked your interest in matchmaking?  

I’m a Maryland native who has lived in Paris for 3 years and NYC for 12 total. I’ve always loved connecting people whether it be for networking, friendship or romance. I actually first became interested in matchmaking when I interviewed to be matched myself, by another agency here in the city. I thought it was such a refreshing concept to have the men pre-screened by professionals before I would meet them. Sadly I wasn’t set up on any dates because I moved to Paris shortly thereafter, but that same matchmaker ended up hiring me when I returned, so it was a very fateful interview!

I started LastFirst to combine my experiences working in fashion and working at that other matchmaking agency. I think we have a more downtown, stylish and discreet approach than anyone in this business. Most importantly, we are very passionate and proactive, and have matched a ton of amazing couples!

Is there a demand for matchmaking services still, or has it declined ever since quarantine started?

The demand has actually risen since quarantine! People are eager to use this time when work and social commitments are a bit slower to focus on their love lives, so we're busier than ever. I find that the pandemic has given couples an opportunity to become ‘official’ faster and to kind of throw themselves into relationships with fewer reservations. Everybody is craving connection now after the isolation period, and nobody wants to be quarantined alone for the second wave.

What practices have changed in your business in response to COVID?

First dates have all switched from an actual meet up to a FaceTime— other than that we are operating as usual.

Are there any new requirements that you created for your clients in response to the current public health crises?

There aren’t any requirements per se, but we won’t work with anyone who we see blatantly disrespecting the COVID-related “rules” or acting irresponsibly.

In your experience, what does dating usually look like for people in lockdown? How can two potential partners get to know each other while staying safe?

It varies couple to couple, but I think honesty and open communication are more important now than ever! After a distanced date or two if you feel like becoming more serious, have a conversation about your mutual expectations and what you need to know from them to feel safe and healthy.

Have people’s expectations changed during this time in any way? Do your clients ask for antibody test documentation or anything like that? 

We do have clients who require an antibody test before meeting, but that’s on them to ask since we arrange all dates as FaceTimes now. The main thing I’ve seen change is peoples’ openness to our match ideas, even when the person is outside their normal dating parameters (i.e. someone older or of a different religion, different physical type, etc.). I think that everyone is so hungry for romance right now that they are trusting us more, plus it’s so easy to just hop on a FaceTime— it’s a recipe for matchmaking success!

What would you say is the main difference between LastFirst and any mainstream dating app?

We are different in so many ways. If I have to pick one, it’s the fact that we use humans with real intuition to select your matches, rather than a computer algorithm.

Do you think at this time, people really are looking for a long-term partner? Or do they just want some kind of human interaction during this difficult time?

It’s both, no? I think all our clients are craving intimacy and connection in the short-term, and hoping the person they choose will end up lasting long-term as well.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start dating in quarantine? How people grow a meaningful connection and relationship when physical togetherness is scarce?

Use a matchmaker so that your time is not wasted swiping and ‘liking’ people who aren’t a fit! And, when you meet a great match, don’t be afraid to commit and really test things out with them for a bit. There will always be another match idea or another profile when you're ready, but you miss out on something special if you’re too much in the 'candy store mentality' and unable to focus on who you’re loving in the moment.

Do you think this time of social isolation will have a long-lasting impact on the way people date and/or interact with each other in general?

Absolutely, and for the better! I think we will forever be more thoughtful about how to spend our time outside the house and with people other than our closest friends and family. I think we’ll ask certain important questions or at least want to talk on the phone more before deciding to meet someone new. And with that, we’ll be going into dates with more confidence, openness, better energy and a much better chance of connecting. Also, a renewed appreciation for the little joys of first dates— putting on a great outfit, sharing your funniest stories, enjoying a special meal and learning new perspectives— will hopefully set an upbeat tone for dating in 2021.

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