An event where everybody knows why they are there: the prospect of making a connection with someone; a person who they might eventually go on to marry.
It might strike some – in a culture averse to commitment and intimacy – as an idea too confronting to work, but the sheer numbers say otherwise.
Dating and Degustation is, by demand, in its third iteration and will take place again on 13 February at the Radisson Blu in the heart of Sydney.
It is an event which will bring together men and women, aged 25-45, for an evening of fine dining and casual conversation, with each participant meeting a different person across each of the night’s six courses.
The event’s tagline – “recapturing the spirit of authentic courtship” – is particularly telling.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, it is a shared, “upfront” understanding of the evening’s purpose, says Catholic Youth Services (CYS) events co-ordinator Emma O’Shea, that helps people relax and feel at ease – that and the pre-dinner drinks.
“We wanted to make this event very intentional,” Emma says.
“We try hard not to make it feel manufactured but at the same time I think people appreciate that there is a space where they don’t have to pretend they are not looking for someone.
“A lot of people have bonded over that shared experience, and not just romantically but with friendships as well.
“We encourage the men that if they are interested in one of the ladies that they would speak to her afterwards but otherwise we leave people to it.”
This time, CYS has partnered with the Life, Marriage and Family Centre, expanding the top end of the age range for the event in recognition of demand from lay Catholics across the board.
“Both times we’ve held Dating and Degustation we’ve had massive waiting lists. Single people are obviously keen to try these types of events,” Emma said.
“The fact that it’s been so popular means that we are encouraged that people are wanting to find their vocation, and this (marriage and parenthood) is certainly a great vocation.”
CYS have made adjustments along the way in response to feedback which has been universally positive.
“I was very pleased with the night,” one woman said. “I have never done anything like this before so was apprehensive going in, but was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the night, conversation and food. The pre drinks was a very good idea.”
One man said: “It was a lot of fun and a lovely chance to meet and chat with a lot of people that you might not have the opportunity meet otherwise.”
“Once you meet everyone else over the pre-dinner drinks and have a good laugh at all finding yourselves at a Catholic speed date, it’s not that scary.”
For more information about Dating and Degustation, call 02 9764 4357 or visit catholicyouthservices.org