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|Amber Brooks • 1/04/18|
The Short Version: In today’s technological age, sometimes singles get caught up swiping through endless prospects on dating sites. Superficial and impersonal communication tools don’t satisfy marriage-oriented singles, however, and that’s why Anna Maria Basquez started running speed dating events in the heart of Colorado. Denver Catholic Speed Dating invites men and women of faith to meet one another face to face and make long-lasting connections based on shared values and experiences. The events, held about once a month, give dozens of single people the chance to gather at a restaurant and meet one another in stress-free mini dates. If you’re tired of messaging date prospects you’ll never meet, you can attend a Denver Catholic Speed Dating event or Denver Christian Speed Dating event to introduce yourself to a friendly community of faith-driven daters.
Denver native Anna Maria Basquez found her calling as a speed dating organizer in early 2011 at a pivotal time in her life. She had been saying daily devotional prayers to St. Bridget of Sweden for over a year, taking about 20 minutes out of her day to remember the Passion of Christ and reinforce her faith in God.
“It’s a very involved and penitential prayer,” she told us. “It’s one of the most difficult Catholic devotions.”
One day, after her prayer, she started writing invitations for a Valentine’s Day event she was hosting for her regular after-Mass dinner club. The more she thought about it, the more she realized she didn’t want to do a run-of-the-mill meet-and-greet where singles barely talked to one another — she wanted to do something to help people actually connect with one another.
So Anna decided to host a Catholic-oriented speed dating event at a local restaurant. When Valentine’s Day came around, over 70 single men and women showed up eager to meet one another.
“Denver Catholic Speed Dating took off,” she said. “From there, the idea was planted, not to arrange marriages but to give people more options of dating methods.”
Anna told us that within three weeks of her first speed dating event, eight of the participants had started dating their future spouses. Not all of these couples met at the event itself, but Anna said the overall experience helped participants focus on what they want in life, which led them to search for and find their significant others.
“When people started to get married because of my events, I knew I had to keep doing it,” she said. “I think that was God’s sign to me that this was going to be more part of my life than just a passing thing.”
Over the years, Denver Catholic Speed Dating has proven itself an effective way to network with eligible, values-driven singles. The average participant is a working professional who wants to settle down with someone within the Catholic faith. Her events have attracted many high-caliber singles, including pro golfers and entertainment journalists.
Today, Anna organizes speed dating events in Denver as well as in major US cities that request her events, including Seattle, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and Dallas. She actually hosted a Philadelphia speed dating event in 2015 the night before Pope Francis flew into the city from New York. “You could feel the intensity in the air,” she said. “It took the feeling about the importance of what I was doing up several notches. It was such a shock.”
Anna got her bachelor’s degree in accounting and journalism and said her combined business savvy and people skills helped her succeed as a speed dating event planner. Although she once had dreams of working for the FBI, a torn ACL led her down another path, and she has found fulfillment bringing people together on mini dates.
“One thing I was not planning to do was become an entrepreneur,” she said, “but it’s been really fun and interesting, and I’m sure it will endure.”
Every month, Anna began by putting on a speed dating event for 24 to 30 Catholic daters in the Denver area. The popularity of the events has led her to grow her team and increase the frequency of her events over time. Anna said she prefers to keep the events somewhat small and intimate so attendees have time to talk and get to know one another, but she also hosts large blow-out parties and packs the room with Catholics interested in getting in a relationship. Some people even fly in from other states to attend.
Denver Catholic Speed Dating’s structured events give singles the opportunity to mingle within the local Catholic community. Many come away with new friends and date prospects in their contact lists.
In addition to running Denver Catholic Speed Dating, Anna has also started Faith Match to connect Catholic singles on blind dates. Singles pay $75 for up to three matches and $100 for up to five matches. Simply fill out a questionnaire about who you are and what you want in a partner, and Anna will start pairing you up with compatible dates.
Anna said Faith Match’s typical client is a working professional who’s too busy to find a date in Denver. Sometimes they’re always traveling for work and rely on Anna to set them up on a date when they’re in town. She said she’s even gotten calls from the airport from singles eager for romance.
Additionally, Anna has run speed dating events for major Catholic conferences in the US. These events can have up to 100 attendees so it’s a lot to orchestrate but well worth it when she sees dozens of couples matching with each other in one eventful night.
“It’s really been an adventure because I didn’t expect that fanfare from across the country, so it’s been exciting,” Anna said.
Anna has spent years watching singles meet and relationships blossoms, so she has a pretty good idea about what works and what doesn’t. Oftentimes she offers herself as a resource to daters in faith, so she can help them find a committed partner in the Catholic dating scene.
Her first tip is to take things slowly — date a few people in chastity — and never be too quick to reject a first date. She recommends not getting affectionate (as in, kissing) until after a few months of seeing someone and definitely not until after the exclusivity conversation has happened. Light hugs are okay. “Be conservative during dating, but be liberal in finding someone,” she said. “Love can’t be measured by a formula, so people should always give each other at least two dates to get to know one another.”
It’s important not to rule someone out too soon, Anna said, because you never know what could happen. Your perfect partner isn’t necessarily an exact copy of yourself. When she hosts speed dating events, Anna encourages singles to take inventory of what they want in a partner but to also be flexible enough to recognize when someone who may not check every box is actually a perfect fit with their values and life goals. “We also have to use the opportunity of dating to find out how we ourselves are going to contribute to a lifelong relationship, she said, “and work on those things in the meantime, always taking stock of what we bring to the relationship too.”
“It’s all based on giving someone a chance,” Anna concluded. “If we use too many existing character traits put together by a machine or an organization to measure each other by, we can miss the mark.”
“If we size people up before even meeting, we are taking ourselves out of God’s path toward someone.” — Anna Maria Basquez, Founder of Denver Catholic Speed Dating
Anna’s values-based approach to dating has led many singles to find and maintain long-term partnerships. She told us that as long as singles are true to themselves and their values, they’re going to be successful because Catholic singles crave authenticity.
“Let the conversation flow and be authentic,” she advises speed daters. “It won’t always be a perfect mini date but, if you feel the time given to speak to a person was not enough, definitely mark the word Date.”
Her final piece of advice to singles is to be open to life’s surprises and trust in God to guide them along the way. She said the most successful participants at her speed dating events don’t get in their own way by putting up roadblocks as to why it won’t work with someone. They welcome conversation and connection with a new love interest, and they don’t give up when it doesn’t work out perfectly.
“Each day is such a gift, and you can’t waste that. Always keep your heart open,” she said. “In our faith, we’re supposed to denounce heartbreak. We’re supposed to understand that God came so that we can have life and have it abundantly.”
Over the years, Denver Catholic Speed Dating has helped many men and women spark with someone on a mini date and go on to date long term. The events are responsible for about 25 marriages and a handful of babies. Anna said she’s grateful to hear so many success stories from happy couples and to be part of so many touching love stories.
Sometimes Anna even plays an active role in the story. In November 2012, she got stuck in an unexpected blizzard and was going to be late for her own speed dating event. She had no choice but to call a woman at the last minute and recruit her to help out. From her car, Anna called someone who had said she wanted to help on that very day, but it was such a small event Anna hadn’t thought that she’d need the help. Until the snow started falling.
Fortunately, the woman lived close by and agreed to get the event started. She ended up meeting her future husband at that event, and they now have a child together. It was remarkably good timing. Anna said that as soon as she arrived, the blizzard ended, the skies cleared up, and it was a beautiful sunny day.
Anna said one of her favorite success stories came when a woman from Virginia met a man from New York. These single 29-year-olds moved to Colorado within a month of each other. They were both from small towns where it was next to impossible to meet a Catholic single their own age, and so they had settled in Colorado hoping to meet potential spouses. Although they came from separate parts of the country, they found each other thanks to a Denver Catholic Speed Dating event. They got married September 2017.
What inspired Anna about this story is the commitment that both individuals showed to finding their spouse. They took an active role in their dating lives and moved to another city in search of success. They weren’t afraid to get out of their comfort zones and try something new.
“I think a lot of us rely on prayer if we’re dating in faith,” Anna said. “We think God will sometimes do everything for us — and that can happen — but you have to meet Him in the middle if you really want Him to help you out.”
When Anna goes through her rolls and removes the singles who’ve gotten married, she said she can’t help but notice that those who have the longest lasting relationships are the ones who put themselves out there, trust in the process, and take the time to get to know one another as friends before making a serious commitment.
In October 2016, Anna attended the wedding of Sharon Bonham and Elvis Fernandes, who met in 2014 at one of her events. The 36-year-old woman had never been to a speed dating event before, but she took a chance and ended up meeting her life partner because of it. They now live happily in Aurora.
“It is a beautiful thing to introduce people to one another. It’s really rewarding,” she said. “Ultimately, I’m just one of the cornerstones of how they met — they built the rest.”
Through prayer, planning, and perseverance, Anna established Denver Catholic Speed Dating as a heartfelt alternative to online dating. In 2011, she felt compelled to create a dynamic Valentine’s Day event for Catholic singles. Years later, she would learn that St. Bridget of Sweden was actually one of the few married saints canonized by the Catholic Church. How fitting! Anna said she believes St. Bridget’s hand guided her to found Denver Catholic Speed Dating.
“If we do ever get married, you will have to be an honorary guest at the wedding because you played an instrumental part in our meeting!” — Brandi B., who met her fiance at a DCSD event
From her first speed dating event, Anna has offered Catholic singles a wholesome place to come together and have a conversation with dozens of local date prospects. Every time she hears back from a couple who met at her events, she’s reminded of the importance of her work. Today, she encourages daters of faith not to give up hope in their happily ever afters because you never know what life has in store for you.
“Love is a choice,” she said. “If you want to keep God working with you and working for you, you make that choice to honor the virtue of fidelity.”