In our Love App-tually series, Mashable shines a light into the foggy world of online dating. It is cuffing season after all.
The Tinder catchphrase “It’s a Match!” has always contained a semi-ironic nod to the decidedly old-school roots of matchmaking. But the phrase that launched a thousand hookups takes on an even schmaltzier meaning when an initial swipe right turns into marriage.
Far from ashamed, couples who meet each other on dating apps are now paying a grateful — if tongue-in-cheek — homage to how it all began.
The #TinderWedding-tagged photos don’t just reference the way people met, however. The hashtag refers to actual pieces of wedding decor and accessories — including photo signs, napkins, coasters, cake toppers, clothing, and oh so much more — that celebrate the mutual swipe right that began the couple’s relationship.
In the past, the fact that the couple met on Tinder might be a circumstance they laughed off or brushed aside. But dating app dominance has turned those origin stories into a point of joyful pride, at least for some. And, through decor and other accessories, Tinder is playing a part in actual weddings and engagements, too.
Screw your dating app stigma, the decorations seem to say. It’s 2019. And we’re getting married!
A near-constant among the Tinder-themed decor is a sense of cheek. The celebration often seems playfully subversive: “We swiped right” pokes fun at the earnest “she said yes!” engagement announcement refrain. “It’s a match!” signs serve as a tears-of-joy “thank you” to the couple’s digital yenta.
“When people are confronted with things that are foreign to them, they choose humor,” Skyler Wang, a UC Berkeley PhD student in sociology who studies dating apps, said. “That’s a very human response.”
Perhaps it’s the novelty of these accessories that make them, well, funny. But they’re also helping couples normalize marriages brought about by dating apps — which is about 30 percent of marriages these days. Couples are kicking the anti-dating app taboo to the curb, often assisted with a life-size profile pic, and a pun.
Ingrid Garland had not given her colleague, Ross, much thought beyond the scope of the workplace. Nor did her thinking change significantly when she matched with Ross on Tinder. But Ross’s did.
At the end of a morning meeting one day, Ross came up to Ingrid and said, “Oh, and I like your profile.”
Ingrid was confused. She remembers asking, “What profile?”
Ross clarified that he meant her Tinder profile. Ingrid remembers cringily responding, “Oh no, really?! I hope you swiped left!” (Even though she says she did like him at the time.)
“No, right,” Ross said, downcast.
But that awkward conversation was enough to open the door. Shortly after, at Ingrid’s office goodbye party, she and Ross shared their first kiss; Tinder had let them signal that they liked each other. In August 2017, they got married. Now they’re expecting a child — a sibling for Ingrid’s 8-year-old daughter Katie, from a previous relationship.
Tinder’s role in their getting together was something the couple wanted to celebrate at their wedding, so they commissioned a photo board re-creating their Tinder match that guests would see as they entered the ceremony.
“The sign at our wedding was to pay homage to the instigation of our romance via Tinder!'” Ingrid said. “People loved the sign at our wedding and wanted to know all about the story if they hadn’t heard it before. We still have the sign, and plan on keeping it to remind us of our story!”
That impulse is becoming increasingly common. Bakeries make Tinder-themed wedding sweets; Tinder-themed save-the-dates and engagement announcements go out ahead of the events; “swiping” features prominently in wedding hashtags; and napkins, coasters, banners, and photo boards all might contain the couple’s dating app stories.
“Sometimes they’ll do a sign that has a timeline of events of when they met, when they proposed, and the very first item is usually the day they swiped right,” Gabrielle Pinkerton, a wedding planner at Cause We Can Events, said. Pinkerton has the most-liked post under the hashtag #TinderWeddings on Instagram. In it, captioning a couple leaning against a retro air-stream bus, she talks about the prevalence of dating apps in leading couples to engagement.
Brooke Corbett and her fiancé Doug Wenz are getting married this April in Mexico. They are limited in terms of what they can bring in terms of decor, since it’s a destination wedding. But they still wanted to pay homage to Tinder somehow — just in a way that would fit in their suitcases. So the couple purchased custom-made “It’s a Match” matchbooks to give to guests in Cancun.
“We had to do something,” Corbett said. “To me it’s funny that that was how I met the person that I was going to marry.”
Tinder is in on it, too.
“About a year or two after Tinder launched, we started noticing a trend of more and more couples incorporating Tinder into their proposals, engagement photos, and weddings,” a Tinder spokesperson said. “We even began to receive invites to people’s weddings across the globe.”
Tinder says it’s “impossible to know” how many Tinder dates end in marriage, but it gets “thousands of success stories” from people who have found a new relationship, a life partner, or are even having a baby, thanks to the platform. Because the company gets a high volume of messages and requests, they respond to happy couples with notes and presents, and even make their offices available for engagements, when they can.
A market for Tinder-themed wedding accessories has sprung up online. The owner of the Etsy shop SnapProps began selling various dating-app themed wedding accessories in 2017. “Demand has definitely increased recently,” the SnapProps owner said. “We know that it is a result of more and more people using dating apps to meet and fall in love.”
“It’s our story, and I just wanted to have something that showed that piece of it,” Corbett said of her matchbooks. “That’s where it started.”
Embracing the role that dating apps play in a couple’s love story can still be complicated, though. According to Bumble’s in-house sociologist, Dr. Jess Carbino, the stigma of meeting and marrying via dating apps hasn’t gone away completely, but it has “eroded.” A 2015 Pew study about how people view dating apps backs that up: In 2015, 59 percent of US adults considered online dating a good way to meet people, as opposed to 44 percent who held that belief in 2005.
Some say that uncomfortable feelings still lurk around dating apps, especially when it comes to matrimony.
“While people are probably happy to say that that’s how they met, there is still that perceived stigma there,” Monty King, the wedding “celebrant” (Australian for officiant), who married Ingrid and Ross, said. “It’s always going to vary from couple to couple.”
Pinkerton said that she had witnessed some reluctance to mentioning dating apps, especially in front of parents or older, more conservative family members. Some parents of couples have made snide comments, which Pinkerton said she diffuses by cheerfully mentioning her own story.
“My husband and I met on Tinder, and I think at first it was a little taboo, and we were a little nervous to tell people how we met,” Pinkerton said. “Now, that’s really opened up some interesting conversation with clients because it automatically gets this trust factor.”
Stigma around dating apps might seem like it’s in the rear view mirror. But, “Historically, the traditional institutions that connected people were religious, familial, or educational,” Dr. Carbino said. “As people have started to delay marriage and childbearing, they become less close to those traditional institutions.”
Stigma around dating apps might seem like it’s in the rear view mirror.
The mere fact that dating apps are different from the past stigmatized them. It didn’t help that they were (incorrectly) cast as tools for people who couldn’t make those institutions work for them.
“There was a lot of stigma and taboo because it had this association with desperation,” Wang said. “It was perceived as this less ideal way of meeting people. And there were people who saw it as too transactional. Some people prefer this more mythical, spontaneous way of meeting people.”
The myth of the meet-cute also casts its shadow over couples who began their relationship online.
“In traditional settings, when people met each other there was supposedly this crystalizing moment, this mythical, spontaneous, love-at-first sight mentality,” Wang said. “Now, with online dating, it’s more of a numbers game. It’s more quantitative, more structured. The magical quality is reduced.”
The persistent stigma is what makes the wedding decor — and the embrace of the dating app origin story — so, dare I say, romantic.
“These apps are a huge part of why we ended up together,” Annie McAndrews, who is engaged to fiancé Jason — and who announced her engagement on Instagram by wearing a Tinder T-shirt — said. “I thought it was kismet, and this is the best way to tell people.”
McAndrews jokingly calls her fiancé a “Tinder loser” because she thought he blew her off after their first date. After a chance encounter at a bar a year later, some painfully awkward texts, and a separate match on OkCupid, Jason persuaded McAndrews to give him another shot. Their wedding will be this summer at the Boat House in Central Park. To her April bachelorette party in Florida, McAndrews and her bachelorette celebrants will be wearing T-shirts that say “Sponsored by Tinder.” (They are not officially sponsored by Tinder.) She’ll also be giving shirts to her parents.
Many Tinder stories involve a first meeting and some time apart before a re-connection; there’s that idea of digital fate bringing two people who might not have otherwise met together. So it’s not even that different from a meet-cute! Tinder is reclaiming the “magic” of “how did you meet?” — previously typically answered with something like “through friends” — with a bigger sense of both fate and realism.
For example, my partner and I did not meet through a dating app. We met at a party, and when people ask us how we got together, that’s what we tell them — full stop.
Now, that’s true, but that log line doesn’t contain the exciting-yet-rocky first few months of our relationship, which included various ghostings and serendipitous moments that ended up ultimately bringing us back together — just like a Tinder relationship.
Because Tinder origin stories have less of a veneer of fantasy, the actual origin story communicates a greater truth about the messiness, chance, and luck that characterizes the beginning of a lot of modern romances — whether they started off or online. And that’s something couples are putting out there for the world to see. It’s refreshing.
Love may abound at Tinder weddings, but so do laughs.
“Now is the time when all of the people who started out with the hookup app are starting to get married,” McAndrews said. “It’s embraced and a joke.”
“There’s a reason why people find it funny,” Wang said. “They find it cheeky. They find it almost ironic, interesting, or subversive. I think that speaks to a certain level of discomfort still. Using this sort of confrontation, this subversion, this comedic quality almost, that’s how people get over that discomfort.”
“While people are probably happy to say that that’s how they met, there is still that perceived stigma there,” King agreed. “It’s kind of that self-deprecating kind of humor. You’re happy to laugh at yourself, and hit it head on. So there isn’t that people whispering behind their hands ‘you know they met on Tinder.’ They’re owning their shit.”
These humorous embraces of Tinder weddings will help them become even more accepted, according to Wang.
“Right now it’s kind of tongue in cheek,” Wang said.
They do it ironically to get laughs. But very soon, it will be rather blasé.”
I asked Dr. Carbino whether the question of stigma around dating apps was passé. Her answer was an unequivocal yes; even if there are some groups who remain uncomfortable, all statistics point to the view that dating apps are just how you meet people now. Wang, King, and others I spoke to for this piece agreed.
“There’s still a lot of stigma, but that stigma has definitely decreased pretty significantly,” Wang said.
The phenomenon of dating app-themed wedding decor actually cuts both ways on this question of whether embarrassment still lingers over meeting your partner online.
The decorations show that people are embracing their dating app origin stories. They’re sharing how they met in more detail, and celebrating their beginnings at the actual nuptial event.
But the actual form that the accessories take, and many of our reactions to them, indicates that our feelings about dating apps are not totally resolved. We’re comfortable enough to throw a novelty nod to Bumble or Twitter on a coaster, or in a hashtag. The action is a stance of good-humored pride. But it’s almost done as a pre-emptive strike; a chin held high, so as not to be cuffed down.
Still, the tide against the taboo has definitely shifted. People use dating apps just as they do Amazon or Facebook: All the time, for fun, for business, or for everything in between. And maybe the transactional nature of dating apps is a bit funny, still. But the role Tinder and other apps are playing in marriage, and family, is undeniable. And that’s something worth celebrating — whether it’s on a cake, embossed on a sign, etched in a matchbook, or just in people’s memories.
“I call this a modern day Romeo and Juliet,” McAndrews said. “You guys wish your story was as romantic as ours.”