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Three-minute speed date has couple rushing to the altar

Thursday August 9, 2012

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Editors note: This article was written by Nic Fleming and  first published on April 9th 2004 by the Daily Telegraph covering the first ever couple to meet and get married as a result of an Original Dating speed dating event. 

His claim to make the world's best lasagne may have closed the deal. Or it could have been his poetry recitals? She was also amused by his doodles of his nasty sporting injuries on a napkin.

Whichever one of his qualities caught her eye, he certainly made an impression. A few text messages, a two-and-a-half-hour telephone call, a dinner date or three and just 20 days later, they became engaged.

When they walk down the aisle for a traditional Catholic service at St Francis Xavier's in Hereford in August, Mario Bassi and Caroline Eversham will become one of the first couples in Britain to marry after meeting at a speed dating event.

Speed dating involves 20 to 25 single men each being given three minutes to woo each of an equal number of single women. Those who later express a mutual interest are put in touch with each other by the organisers.

The phenomenon, an American import, took off among young, wealthy and time-poor Londoners early last year. Now close to 10,000 people of different ages and backgrounds attend events in over 40 British towns and cities every month.

With around 20 couples engaged to marry this year as a result, speed dating is about to leave its novelty status behind to claim a place as a serious and mainstream form of 21st century courtship.

Mr Bassi, from Hereford but of Italian descent, decided to get serious about finding a partner on reaching his mid-thirties, having spent the previous four years focusing on building up his management consultancy business.

He and a friend paid £20 for tickets for an event run in the Zeta cocktail bar at the Hilton hotel in Mayfair, central London.

Mr Bassi, 36, said: "When I saw Caroline there was an immediate physical attraction. She was confident, spoke first and took control.

"We quickly moved beyond the surface level and talked about values such as honesty, empathy and passion which we were both looking for.

"I can honestly say I knew after those three minutes that I wanted to have a long-term relationship with her."

Miss Eversham, a special needs teacher from Reading, was there with two colleagues from St Mary's Primary in Islington, north London.

Her first potential suitor spilt his drink over her. "The first two or three encounters were a bit awkward," she said. "They were nice enough but there were a few too many hedge fund managers in suits.

"I spotted Mario across the room and felt a strong attraction, almost a sense of recognition. The three minutes passed quickly but we covered a lot of ground. I felt thoroughly entertained."

There followed a modern whirlwind romance involving e-mails, text messages and long telephone conversations.

The relationship blossomed and 20 days later, after a few glasses of wine, Miss Eversham told Mr Bassi that a psychic had told her a year earlier that she would meet, marry and have two children with a tall, 36-year-old man with an Italian connection, strong values but not much hair. He immediately proposed.

The couple's understandable enthusiasm for speed dating is shared by growing numbers of Britons. Original Dating, the company responsible for bringing Miss Eversham and Mr Bassi together, is this month increasing the number of events it runs from eight to 15 a month.

Susan Quilliam, a relationship psychologist, said: "It might take you six to 12 months to meet as many eligible people in the course of everyday life as you would at a speed date event."

Nic Fleming