Neha Middela

Cave à Vin wine bar, along with Elm City Speed Dating, hosted a crowd of around 30 singles for their fourth event on Thursday evening.

Participants donned name tags with their name, pronouns and the genders they generally find themselves romantically interested in.

The event was led by David Weinreb, a Magnet Resource teacher at Fair Haven Middle School and Antonietta Delli Carpini, a local creative arts therapist.

“One of the premises of this is to bring lots of people together and provide a structure that feels efficient and safe and fun,” Weinreb told the News. “I care deeply about setting up prompts that I think can invite interesting conversation and help people connect.”

The event began with a series of light-hearted, three-minute “dates” with a choice of “connect” or “play” prompts for each one. Participants answered “connect” questions ranging from “If you were a deli sandwich, what would you be?” to “If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?” “Play” prompts included pretending to eat saucy spaghetti while making conversation and teaching each other abdominal-strengthening exercises.

Following this first round of dates, participants played a game of “human bingo,” for which they had to move around the room to find someone who fit certain characteristics. The bingo board included boxes with categories like “plays a brass instrument” or “meditates.” Weinreb explained that they added the bingo game to allow for opportunities to continue approaching people in a low-stress environment following the initial speed dates.

Weinreb added that both he and Delli Carpini felt a “natural draw towards facilitation,” because of the nature of their professions. He noted that the activities for the night were specifically chosen to ensure that attendees felt comfortable, noting that “structure can be calming and safe for folks.” Delli Carpini agreed, and said that part of her role was to “set the tone for a light-hearted, playful mood, which is great for dating.”

Participants within the event specified a variety of reasons for attending. Liv Doolan, a local resident, mentioned that she doesn’t like to meet people over dating apps like Tinder and Bumble and prefers meeting people in person. She said that she was intrigued by the premise of the event, as she had seen similar events “in the movies.”

Aly Fox, another participant, said she has attended other Elm City Speed Dating events and has met many people through them.

“I have been dating in New Haven for many years and I think this is an excellent way to practice having and breaking through awkward situations,” Fox told the News. “I love the practice of trying to have meaningful conversations about sometimes quirky and crazy stuff.”

The event, which was RSVP only, had attendees who found out about the event through a variety of avenues. Doolan mentioned that she had heard about the event through a friend, who participated in a previous speed dating event. Angela Gordon, another attendee, said she found the event online after she Googled “speed dating.”

Most people at the event identified as female romantically interested in men, although a few participants identified as queer. An LGBTQ advocate for New Haven public school students himself, Weinreb said he has spoken with Patrick Dunn, the director of the New Haven Pride Center, so they can plan an LGBTQ-specific event in
the future.

“I’m really interested in seeing how this will evolve and making it more inclusive to LGBTQ people, people of color, all kinds of diverse populations,” Delli Carpini said. “I’m so excited to see where it goes and how it transforms.”

Past Elm City Speed Dating events have incorporated artistic activities like origami. Weinreb said that an event in February with an athletic or dance activity is in the works. After the event, he said he was “thrilled to see many New Haveners engaging authentically with each other” and that he looks forward to reviewing feedback.

Elm City Speed Dating has hosted previous speed dating events at a variety of local restaurants and bars, including 116 Crown, Elm City Brewing Company, and local art studio Creative Arts Workshop.