Valentine’s Day holds special meaning for Vancouver dietitian Rebecca Tran and her husband, Amin. It was on this day two years ago that they went on what Rebecca calls their first “official real date”.
Amin, a self-described adventurer, sent flowers along with tickets to the planetarium at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre. “Then he rented it out at the end of September—and that’s where he proposed to me,” Tran recalled in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.
The couple are expecting their first child, a boy, on May 7. And this happy tale of love came about with the help of a professional matchmaker, Jacquie Brownridge, who is managing director of the dating service It’s Just Lunch Vancouver.
Brownridge told the Straight by phone that the company has been in business for 25 years, and that in this era of Internet dating it continues matching couples “the old-fashioned way”.
“We’re time-tested, real-life matchmakers and our goal has and continues to be to help successful singles meet other singles who share similar interests and values,” Brownridge said.
A prospective client might see an advertisement and call the office, and if there’s a potentially good fit, they’re invited in for an interview. That’s when they get an opportunity to share their goals, relationship history, and interests. It’s Just Lunch Vancouver checks driver’s licences and other identification to make sure that people aren’t using false identities.
“Our service is based on really getting to know them, and then we begin the personal-search process,” Brownridge said. “When we find a promising match, we call both parties.”
It’s Just Lunch Vancouver reveals a few details about the clients so they have enough to start a conversation. But the matchmaker knows that they share some core values and interests. Then the company arranges for them to meet for lunch, after-work drinks, or a Sunday brunch.
“We do everything, so all they have to do is show up and have a good time meeting someone new,” she noted. “So it’s a very easy, simple process. And if they hit it off, they exchange contact information during the date and make a second date.”
The company also asks the clients to call back while the experience is still fresh in their minds to talk about how the date went. According to Brownridge, everything is kept confidential: this is purely so the matchmaker can gain greater insights into what might make for a successful pairing in the future.
“The goal is to get people meeting as many people as possible,” she said.
Tran said that she was on her fifth date through It’s Just Lunch Vancouver when she met her future husband. She arrived at lunch and there was a bouquet of flowers on the table. “We kind of clicked right away,” she revealed.
One of the reasons she liked dating through It’s Just Lunch Vancouver is that the men she met were successful and intent on making a commitment. Tran also acknowledged that once she reached her mid-30s, she wasn’t interested in dating anyone not looking to form a long-term partnership. Amin had a similar outlook.
“We were both at the same spot in our life at the same time, which is super important,” she recalled. “We knew exactly that we wanted to get married, have a family, settle down, and just kind of go with the flow.”
At first, Tran admitted, she felt trepidation about signing up for the service. Part of the reason was the cost. However, she pointed out that people make significant expenditures on clothes and travel for themselves. “But people don’t think they need to make any investment in finding love,” she stated. “They hope it will just happen, and sometimes that doesn’t happen. And if someone has paid a couple of thousand dollars to find somebody, you know they’re serious.”
She also admitted that Amin didn’t fit the description of the type of man that she thought she would be attracted to. Brownridge said that’s not unusual at all. In fact, Brownridge declared, if married couples are asked if they ever thought their spouse checked off every box on their list, they invariably say no—but they’re often still happy with their choice.
She said she feels that if someone has a list of 10 things they’re hoping to find in a partner, it’s a positive sign if six of them are present in a potential match. “That’s because sometimes chemistry just takes over.”
She recommends that people should relax before going on a first date and focus on talking about hobbies, interests, and favourite vacation destinations rather than work. Brownridge pointed out that men are often comfortable discussing sports or politics but they might feel “weak” opening up about their emotional needs. According to her, that’s where a matchmaker can act as a “wing woman” by actively listening before presenting potential dates. “As long as someone can make the first step, we can take it from there,” she said.
In recent years, Brownridge has had several parents come forward to purchase memberships for their sons or daughters, some of whom are working professionals in their 30s. In some instances, the initial contact with It’s Just Lunch Vancouver is made by someone hoping to have grandchildren.
Brownridge insisted that even if the parents are paying the way, she keeps everything confidential with the clients. “We don’t report back to Mom and Dad,” she said with a chuckle. “Never, never—or anybody else, for that matter!”