Last week I made the somewhat impulsive decision to attend a Muslim Marriage Introduction event. I’d always written these types of events off as “not my kinda thing” and rather cynically considered them to be more about the organisers making money rather than making the effort to match people up.
They were back on my radar thanks to Instagram adverts and chats with a friend in a different city who had attended one of these things recently. So I found myself on Google having a little browse. Sure enough there was an event coming up in Manchester and it was in a few days time. It was organised by Nur Networks, who I hadn’t heard of before and it was at one of the nicer hotels in Manchester city centre, so I thought let’s give it a go.
A little about my background for context, I’m in my mid-to-late 30’s, I’m a divorcee, have been single for around 7 years, and as a practising Muslim, marriage is quite important to me when it comes to having a personal relationship with someone. There have been a few short-lived relationships over the last few years, but pretty early on if it seems like we’re not heading for marriage then I don’t want to wait around to “see what happens”. I’m a woman who knows what she wants!
I have quite an active social life, I meet lots of new people in the various activities I take part in, and some of these spaces are networks of Muslim people specifically, but thus far that hasn’t translated into a potential husband. And to be completely honest, when I’m at these kind of events I don’t want to go around asking people if they’re single and if they’re looking, I want to talk to them about art and tech and go all “Nazma Knows” on them with my Manchester tips.
So, back to the marriage event. I decided to sign up so I could be in a space where everyone was:
3) Looking for a spouse
The event organisation and structure
Tickets to attend were £25 (which is slightly on the “cheaper” side of these kinda things, although a lot of the more expensive ones usually include a meal, whereas this one was just snacks and tea).
I read some reviews on Google, most of which were positive. The main negative points people mentioned were about parking costs and the age range being too old. Neither of which was a problem for me.
So I registered and was a bit surprised that all they asked for was my name, gender, phone number and email address. I know other events ask for your age so they can group appropriately, some ask you to fill in a questionnaire about background, profession, location, nationality. On the one hand I was glad it was quick and easy to book, but on the other hand I was a bit concerned about their lack of vetting processes.
So I arrived at The Midland Hotel, and headed up to the function room, with that slightly awkward thing of sharing the lift with two guys who were quite clearly also there for the event, but it was deadly silence no eye contact vibes.
In the lobby area, I bumped into two guys who I did know socially, which at first I thought cringe! but upon reflection, it was good to get my first bit of conversation and chitchat started with some friendlies.
At the registration desk we confirmed our names, got given a sticker and shown through to our table in the main function room – the “Derby Suite” on the first floor in The Midland Hotel. It was set up similar to the main photo of this post (which is a different function room at the same hotel) and overall was a nice space, the lighting had a nice warm glow to it with windows overlooking St Peters Square.
I think my sticker number was “S5 Table 2”. On the table there was a little card with info on etiquette which explained the format of the event. It was a bit like group speed-dating, four women per table, four men and then after a set time the men move to a new table. After all the rotations, if there was someone you wanted to speak to you could request a 1:1 chat with them.
Slowly people filtered through and with 4 ladies and and 4 men seated at my table, we began! The first item on the itinerary was an ice-breaker. I was expecting the event organisers to have planned an actual ice-breaker activity, or to at least have put some question prompts on the table. But no, we were pretty much just left to chat…for 45 minutes.
The organisers didn’t even do a proper introduction, I could totally have done with a reminder that we should be taking note of people’s sticker numbers.
After the “ice-breaker” the men all shuffled round to another table and we got a new batch to talk to, but just for 15 minutes this time and so on. It was a little exhausting having to repeat re-introduce myself each time, but hey I played ball. I did improvise at one point though and wrote my name on my sticker, because I didn’t want to just be “S5 Table 2”.
I’ve heard anecdotally that women always outnumber men at these kind of events, and that was true for this event, although it seemed only slight. By my calculations I’d guess there was around 30 women and 25 men There was one rotation where we had nobody, which ended up being a positive because me and the other ladies on my table really needed the break!
Speaking of breaks, there was no break planned in. I know people want to maximise their time and meet as many people as possible, but come on, it’s a 3+ hour event and Asr prayer time would have been a perfect time in between rotations for a break and for those wishing to, to go and pray (considering is was an event for Muslims and many of us had spoken about the importance of prayer in our daily lives!)
When the rotations were finished, you had 3 cards available to write a request for anyone you wanted a 1:1 chat with. The card also had space to write down your name, age, occupation and contact details. The organisers then went round the room to individual people, you give them your card requests and they go off and find that person and ask if they want to meet you. Seeing as all the men in the room had moved tables, it felt like such a big task for the organisers to find people, and some people had already left the event altogether.
I don’t know if there is a more efficient way to do this, but it felt pretty chaotic!
At this point the rest of the event was 1:1 meetings (if the organisers could manage to find the person and they wanted to speak to you). A lot of people left after a little while, it’s a bit rubbish that there wasn’t even a good-bye from the organisers or someone to check in with as you left.
Observations on the match potential at this event
I did not get a match that evening or even a request for a 1:1 and despite the paragraphs I’ve written above about how better organised the event could have been, I think there were a few other factors at play. Here are some of my observations, all of which I will add a disclaimer and say this was a small sample size of people and this is purely my view on things.
1) Age Range
Interestingly, on my table we had 3 ladies in their mid-to-late 30’s (myself included) and 1 lady in her mid-to-late 20’s. From what I remember, most of the guys were 27 – 37 with a few outliers in their early 20’s and a few 40+.
When it came to putting those 1:1 requests in, our lovely youngest lady received many many requests, including from men who were 10+ years older than her. Whereas us older ladies didn’t get a single request, even from the men who were older than us!
I pass no judgement about people having an age preference, and I have an age preference too, but it was interesting to see the preference for a younger woman play out right in front of my own eyes in this context.
2) Location Location Location
I know for a fact I’m limiting my choices when it comes to my location preferences, given that I’m looking for someone Manchester-based. There were a few people from Manchester, some from Yorkshire areas, some from the Midlands and of the people I spoke to the person who’d travelled the furthest was from Scotland. Out of all the people we met during the rotations, I think there were only 2-3 that were age and location appropriate for me. Again this is just an observation and even though none of these people were matches for me, the fact I was in a space where there were 2-3 potentials at least was a positive.
3) Good conversation topics
With no questions prompts or guidance, it really was up to us to make conversation. For most of the time, we ended up asking a particular question and then everyone taking it in turns going round the table answering, so we could all hear the responses. It’s a good job I’m ok with speaking to a group!
This might sound like a really obvious question, but quite early on, one of the guys straight up asked: “What are you looking for?” which I really liked as being open and upfront and throughout the rotations I perfected my answer to this!
We also discussed what people’s dealbreakers were, and again another really obvious question “what do you like to do in your spare time?”
4) Bad conversation topics
Somehow within the first 5 minutes of the ice-breaker, a particular celebrity domestic abuse court case came up in conversation. It had been on the news loads and people had been watching it like a soap opera, although I personally had tried to avoid as I hold very strong views that this case has done so much damage to the plight of non-celebrity victims of abuse. As much as I absolutely did not want to talk about this, the reactions and responses from the men to this celebrity story ended up being a real litmus test with many of the guys getting a red flag in my mind.
5) What not to do
There was one guy who all of the ladies on my table took an immediate dislike to. Why? He had a very patronising demeanour, using his older age and the fact he’d been married before to make out like we knew nothing. At one point he asked a question and then began to talk over the lady who was responding.
The other thing, which isn’t as bad, was the guys having a conversations among themselves during the rotation or one person’s story taking up the whole time slot. We had one guy, who was telling us about his experiences volunteering with a charity in Lebanon, and then all the other guys on the table started asking him questions about it. It was interesting to hear and no doubt a very noble and important thing he did, but come on guys you’re here to find a wife, not a new bestie!
6) Attraction and 1:1 requests
I don’t care what anyone says, physical attraction and chemistry is important. I don’t feel like I found this with anyone at the event and I could have quite happily gone home, but seeing as I’d paid to be in the room, there were two people who were age and location appropriate, and neither had been red flags, I put it out there and requested 1:1’s with them because I came here to meet people.
The first guy had left the event already so no 1:1 meeting and the fact he left already indicated he wasn’t interested in anyone he’d met! The organisers said they would pass my card request with my contact details onto him. I very much doubt this will happen.
The second request I put in, rather awkwardly was someone who was already sat on my table because he had been in the final rotation. I followed protocol and filled in the card and gave it to the organiser, thinking it would be a discreet thing rather than what actually happened which was the organiser running around the room trying to find person with “sticker number x” not realising he was sat a few seats away from me on my table. It ended up being a really awkward situation of me asking the guy direct across the table if he wanted a 1:1 and also saying “I don’t mind if you say no” (I really didn’t mind). He said no, but I’m glad I asked anyway, because like I said, I came here to meet people.
I’m debating whether to try another one of these events. I know some of the other organisations have them filtered by age which would be useful. Although I don’t want to waste my money by signing up to loads of these things and there’s the consideration of preserving my time, energy and good vibes.
I’m glad I went and I felt happy with how I represented myself and I’m feeling even more confident in what I’m looking for and what I’m not looking for.
Well readers, I’m still looking. If you happen to know any age 36+ single Muslim men, Manchester-based who are cool and awesome and looking to get married, I’m open to introductions!
[Feb 2023 update – someone actually read this article and contacted me! Wouldn’t it be awesome if this update was my marriage announcement, alas it is not, because reader, I did not marry him. One phone call and I knew he wasn’t the one, but now I can say in a very long-winded way that going to that event, did end up getting me an introduction.]