How many times has someone declared to a friend over bottomless mimosas, "I have the perfect person for you!" Only, said pal never actually meets up with Logan from payroll—or she does, and finds her well-meaning cupid was really reaching when she guessed he was five foot nine.
Well, for Emily Holmes Hahn, founder of elite matchmaking service LastFirst, this proclamation isn't idle brunch chatter; it's an actual business proposal. The promise is right there in the name: sign up for their services, and you'll go on your last first date. Get it?
"I don't want to overstate our mission as something grandiose," says Holmes Hahn, "but I do think we're doing our little part to bring the humanity back into the dating business. When someone really wants to give themselves over to this process—be a little flexible and learn things about themselves and grow through the experience—then it works so well."
But how does it work, exactly? And it does work: Holmes Hahn approximates they've matched more than 150 couples, and more than 30 have married since LF's 2014 inception. Plus, on average, it takes only about six weeks to find a client a committed, lasting relationship.
It starts with a referral, Holmes Hahn explains: "They come through social networks, through press we have, and by our good reputation in the field." Hopefuls apply on the website for one of three memberships: Social, Active, or the LastFirst Circle.
The Social membership is for females of any age, and if they are accepted, LF may make select introductions to their Active or Circle members. Social members will also be invited to special events, but there's no guarantee of a match. The Active Membership, reserved for males aged 40 and under, is described as more "proactive." Those clients are offered biweekly intros to Social or Circle Members—in addition to special event invites—and each match is carefully selected. Finally, Circle Members—who can be males or females of any age—receive all the Active perks, plus unlimited consulting and "targeted recruiting." Holmes Hahn personally assists in your matchmaking, even looking outside Social or Active Member networks if she chooses, and provides post-date feedback following every introduction, a first-date planning concierge, and even couples consulting should a LastFirst-organized relationship blossom and continue to need a little TLC.
"Clients are free to stop using the service whenever, but some, men especially, really love that extra hand-holding," says Holmes Hahn. "We'll book reservations for special dates but also help them through things like how to communicate and disagree in a healthy way."
After applying, you sit down with the LF team for a one-hour consultation. "That's my favorite part of the job—learning everyone's story," says Holmes Hahn. Prospects can expect to talk about background, values, and relationship goals. Then, they'll answer fun questions like "If you could have a dinner party with five people living or dead, who are you inviting?" or "What country do you feel you personify?" But, they should also be prepared to address very specific, very personal matters. "We're asking people about their relationships with their fathers right off the bat," says Holmes Hahn. "What broke up their marriage if they're divorced? Since we're professional matchmakers, people open up to us a lot more quickly and intimately than if we were randos casually asking these kinds of questions."
And the LastFirst team isn't just listening during these interviews; they're watching and feeling people out. "More important than what people say is their mannerisms—how they sit, what jokes they're laughing at, how they treat our office employees, how they react when they enter a room," says Holmes Hahn. "It's all these intangible essences of a person that you can't articulate and a computer algorithm on an app can't detect."
Next comes the detailed bio, which Holmes Hahn describes as a kind of "marketing elevator pitch" for a human being. LF doesn't share last names, photos, or career specifics in order to provide some discretion. "We paint a really vivid picture of the person without showing an actual picture," she says. LF also takes care to describe members in great physical detail because they "realize physical attraction is important in this industry" and want to ensure their matches have "more than some sort of physical connection too."
Now the circulation of the bio begins—going out to one possible match at a time. If he or she approves, a date is scheduled, and the LF team provides a code of conduct for both parties. "It walks you through every step of the date," says Holmes Hahn. "It ups the ante and makes it more of an occasion. When someone is offering you such detailed guidance, it smooths things out and sets the stage for the date to go really well."
What do these superior dates cost? Holmes Hahn declines to say, other than to explain that the Social membership requires a "much lower" consulting fee, compared with the Active or Circle membership pricing. But when asked if that means most clients come from a certain career field or socioeconomic background, she has a surprising answer: "The service is expensive, but we actually have a really diverse membership across lots of industries—medicine, law, finance, acting, film production, art." She also says that while most Circle members are men, they've recently hit a record high of 25 percent female clientele. "We have a really strong success rate with the women who hire us because as the newer market for us, they automatically become our passion projects," Holmes Hahn says. Ages for both sexes range from the upper 20s to early 60s, with a real concentration of men and women in their 30s and early 40s.
So let's talk cost versus value. What makes LastFirst worth so much more than a free Tinder or OKCupid profile? To find out, we asked an actual paying member—a female client who met her husband through LF (Holmes Hahn was invited to the wedding!).
"We could tell right away the process was very different than what we'd grown accustomed to with online dating," she tells us of her and her husband's experience. "Emily and her team could tell us about a person in such detail before we met with them that we weren’t surprised or wasting our time sorting through profiles and doing the back-and-forth texting that you usually do to weed out the creeps." Our source also said she and her husband appreciated the thoroughness of the initial questionnaire. Although it felt "intrusive" and "uncomfortable" at first, they left with a heightened sense of self-awareness. "It's then helpful to the process when each person has had to take a serious inventory of how they feel about certain topics," she says.
"We really want to do this in stark contrast to what you're getting online," says Holmes Hahn. "We want fewer, better dates."
One means to that end is their one-by-one approach. "We want to avoid that 'candy store' mentality," says Holmes Hahn of a dating approach that overwhelms you with too many enticing options at once. "When you're only focusing on the person in front of you, you actually have an opportunity to really connect."
"It sounds cliché, but so much of a successful relationship is about chemistry and focus," says Holmes Hahn. "Those are the parts that have been diminished by modern dating. Not to keep hating on dating apps, but all you know are these on-paper things like values, religion, education, and looks. Not to say those aren't totally valid, but they become less important when you have a real love connection. What if someone makes you laugh really hard, but there are a couple of those other things you would change? Apps have created this mentality like 'Well, I'll just go back and play again until I get someone who makes me feel this way, but also has x, y, and z and is an inch taller.' We're searching for unicorns!"
So how does the LF method translate to advice for any singletons out there looking for love? "Making a long list of qualities that make up your perfect husband or wife is probably a bad place to start," the LF client told us. "Identify things that are important to you, but being flexible really advances the possibility of meeting the 'unexpected match' who on paper does not meet your demands but winds up being such an amazing partner because of the connection and chemistry."