Coupling up in Kamloops the old fashion-way

If you’ve ever tried navigating online dating sites, chances are you have your own little set of horror stories — the guy whose profile picture was snapped 40 kilos and four million hair follicles ago or the woman who claimed to be an avid hiker but arrived in flip-flops and was out of breath just walking to the trailhead. When it comes to looking for love in this crazy world, for most of us, swiping right on a dating app or getting winks just aren’t working and, as such, Tara Holmes is finding herself busier than ever.

That’s because Tara is a matchmaker.

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“The problem with online dating is people treat those pictures like they’re disposable, but these are actual people!” laments Tara, who runs her matchmaking service, Holmes is Where the Heart Is, from her base in Kamloops. “It’s one thing if you want to shop for shoes like that, but to go swiping through people, well, it’s gotten kind of sad.”

For the past five years, Holmes has been doing things the old-fashioned way by taking time to get to know her clients personally and then setting them up. And since the pandemic, the awkward handshakes and hugs have gone to the wayside, and instead of sitting in coffee shops or restaurants, prospective couples are meeting outdoors to hike, snowshoe, golf, ski or go for a walk. “People find they have more meaningful conversations when they’re out doing activities,” she says.

So how does it work? It starts in a similar way to an online site as singles answer questions about their age, lifestyle, hobbies and what qualities are most important in a partner, as well as the deal breakers, but that’s where the similarities end. 

Tara meets each applicant in person and spends at least an hour with them, “digging deeper” to help with finding a match. And unlike a dating site, she doesn’t just rely on the people who have signed up. 

“I’m almost like a private investigator,” she laughs, “and prospect for my clients.” 

For example, if someone says mountain biking is a deal-breaker, she’ll contact the local mountain biking clubs to see if anyone there might be suitable. If you have a fetish for firefighters, she’ll go knocking on the firehall door for you. 

“Some people feel kind of embarrassed that they need my help, but I tell them, everybody who does online dating is getting help. Nobody seems to meet organically anymore, so regardless of whether you’re getting a friend to set you up or trying online dating, nobody just walks up to strangers anymore on the street and asks if they want to go out.”

A big plus to using a matchmaker is the privacy it offers. Unlike online sites, Tara does not post photos of her clients. She has also weeded out the smokers, partyers anti-vaxers and Trump fans. 

With clients ranging from ages 25 to 95 spread throughout the Thompson-Okanagan area, she is currently in search of young women who are ready to settle down. 

Does it work? Holmes’s track record seems to say it does, with a website boasting testimonials of couples who met, moved in together or got married thanks to her skills. 

“My goal is to arrange two to three quality dates a month, and I only send one match at a time,” she says. She also recommends more than one date with a person because first dates can be very nerve-racking. 

“Three is the magic number. Usually, by the third date, couples know if they’re going to keep seeing each other or move on.”

She also reminds her clients that nobody will tick every single box. “What people have to realize is relationships are built on compromise and that having some independent activities and interests is a healthy thing.”

For Tara, the most important key to successful dating is starting out happy and single. “I cannot work with people who are angry, have resentment, aren’t over their past relationships or hate their job. People have to be in a good place in their life — a partner won’t fix that. Happiness has to come from within.”  

Top photo by Kelowna photographer, Victoria Blaire. victoriablaire.com