Margot Hodges thought she was too busy for romance before she started meeting guys online.
A 30-something single mom and clinical social worker on Capitol Hill, she decided to try online dating in 2013 because she had no time to go out to meet people.
After a hundred failed “app dates” on Hinge, Tinder and Match.com, she met Dennis Kubin in January 2019, and they got married in September 2020.
“I had a coworker ask me if I wanted to be single forever,” said Ms. Hodges, 43, laughing. “Apps give you the option of spending anywhere from five minutes to an hour with someone. There were characteristics about Dennis I immediately liked and valued upfront, and I would have never otherwise been around him in my social circles.”
Ms. Hodges, 43, and Mr. Kubin, 49, are among a growing number of couples who have met on dating apps or websites rather than through pre-digital methods and then married.
The number of newly married couples who report having met online has soared over the past five years, according to annual surveys by the wedding planning website The Knot. New spouses are now likelier to say they met online rather than through friends or in school, previously the most common ways to meet a long-term partner.
“Couples used to feel a stigma about meeting online because it was largely seen as desperate or contrived,” Amber Brooks, editor of Florida-based DatingNews.com, told The Washington Times. “It’s more mainstream now, with a larger dating pool and better chances of success.”
Much of the surge has occurred among millennial and Generation Z singles “coming of age,” said the 32-year-old Ms. Brooks, who in December married a man who matched with her on OKCupid and Hinge in 2019.
“They’re not as shy or nervous about putting their social lives online as older generations have been,” she said in an email. “Younger singles are more accustomed to using technology to improve their lives and connect with new people, so joining a dating app isn’t a last resort for them.”
Jack Frix, 29, said he started using dating apps after graduating from James Madison University in 2016. Now he’s preparing to marry Lindsy Crutchfield, 27, an American University graduate whom he says he would have never encountered without them.
“The intent to meet someone is there on both sides with an app, unlike in a supermarket where you might throw out a line and find the other person isn’t interested in dating,” said Mr. Frix, who lives in Arlington, Virginia. “It’s not a cold call, but a quicker way to vulnerability and hitting the royal flush.”
Mr. Frix and Ms. Crutchfield said they “matched” on Bumble in November 2019 and got engaged on Thanksgiving Day in 2021. They have scheduled an outdoor wedding on the coast of Maine in August 2024.
As the couple saves up for the big day, Ms. Crutchfield tweeted jokingly after the engagement that she will wear a bumblebee costume at their wedding if Bumble pays for it.
“Always hustling,” Mr. Frix said, laughing. “We’re similar but also different and independent in a lot ways, enough to keep it spicy. I think I’ve found my soulmate, my best friend, my partner for life.”
According to studies, the number of people meeting long-term partners online has risen sharply in the digital age and accelerated during early pandemic lockdowns.
A 2017 national study found that 39% of heterosexual couples reported meeting online, up from 22% in 2009.
Building on that research, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld found in a 2019 study that most straight couples had met online rather than through the methods of church, family and neighborhood connections.
As marriage rates decline and more young people go on dating apps looking for hookups or alternative LGBTQ relationships, experts say the websites help separate those looking for traditional monogamous relationships from those seeking alternative relationships.
A recent study from Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family & Marriage Research found the percentage of married couples has fallen from 76.5% of the population in 1970 to just over 31% today.
According to a February YouGov poll, 55% of adults prefer “complete monogamy” in relationships, but 34% said they want some form of non-monogamous coupling. And the percentage of people wanting more than one sexual partner in a relationship was highest among those younger than 45.
“The rising number of ethically non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships may contribute to the decline in weddings and how most people prefer to meet on dating apps rather than traditional means,” said relationship therapist Orit Krug, an expert on non-traditional couplings. “It is much easier to find like-minded people on apps like Feeld and OKCupid.”
Looking online for a spouse can be fraught with danger, however.
As marriage-minded adults have flocked to dating apps during the pandemic, more have fallen victim to harassment and romance scammers looking to exploit their longing for a partner.
A Pew Research survey released in February 2020 found that 30% of adults reported using a dating site or app, and 12% reported being in a committed relationship or marriage with someone they met online. Among those aged 18-29, 48% reported dating online.
On the negative side, the Pew survey found 60% of women under 35 said people online kept trying to contact them against their wishes. And 57% of young women reported getting unwanted explicit messages or images.
In addition, romance scams cost roughly 70,000 Americans an estimated $1.3 billion last year, according to data the Federal Trade Commission released on Feb. 9. That’s equal to 2021 and more than double the total amount in pre-pandemic Cupid scams.
That means daters should use the same common sense about meeting people online that they use in other situations, said Ms. Brooks of DatingNews.com.
“Online dating works and it’s plenty safe as long as you’re taking precautions to vet online matches and avoid putting yourself in a physically or financially vulnerable position even as you become emotionally vulnerable with a romantic partner,” she said.
Adults looking for a spouse online should sift profiles carefully before communicating with a potential partner, added Melinda Eitzen, a Dallas, Texas-based family and marriage attorney.
“The online dating sites allow people to filter for commonalities that are important to them such as religion, habits such as drinking or not drinking, enjoyment of travel or certain hobbies,” Ms. Eitzen said in an email. “Old fashioned matchmakers did this, but now we have giant databases that give a larger pool to sort through and pick from.”