Just three years ago, Prince Harry was one of the most eligible bachelors in the world, so it's little surprise that Lara Asprey – described as the world's best matchmaker – was keen to find him a bride. In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! at her beautiful London home, Lara explained that she had "put the feelers out" for Harry as part of her role as head of Asprey Introductions, prior to him meeting Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex.
WATCH! Lara Asprey takes us on a video tour of her stunning home
"I did put the feelers out to see if we could help him. We have friends in common and had lots of people for him. Then he was introduced to Meghan, damn it," she laughed. "Someone else got there first."
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With her wealth of dating expertise, would Lara have predicted a successful match in Meghan? "I would not have necessarily picked her as perfect for Harry so it just goes to show that chemistry is unpredictable. Had I met her I'd have seen it because they're great together." Finding winning love matches is at the heart of Lara's business, set up five years ago and which has led to her being described as the world's best matchmaker. "It's a flattering title, I'm blown away by it," she said as we meet ahead of the return of her TV show The Ultimate Matchmaker, which sees Lara and her team send clients on magical dates to castles and private islands.
Lara Asprey spoke exclusively to HELLO! at her London home
By contrast, Lara, now 35, met the love of her life by chance seven years ago in a bar on London's Fulham Road. "I'd popped in with a friend but it was packed so we decided to leave. Standing by the door was my husband with a big smile. He said: 'Hi, I'm Juan,' and joked he was by the exit because he was a street cleaner. I ended up giving my number to a friend of his and a few weeks later he texted and we met up for brunch. When he turned up, I thought: 'Wow, my memory didn't deceive me. He's absolutely charming and gorgeous.'"
A year later he proposed and they were married in his native Seville in 2015. She described her work, which involves meeting lots of single men, as: "Not the easiest job for a wife to do. Juan gets ribbed but he's incredibly supportive and understanding." They always make time for their own date nights, even more so since Elise was born. "Suddenly you become Dad and Mum rather than husband and wife and it's important to go out together. Then the weekend is lockdown for us to spend time with Elise."
Aside from her own happy marriage to Juan, 38, and family life with Elise and Cami, their toy poodle, Windsor-born Lara has played a key role in "hundreds of marriages and there are babies, too: at least a couple every year". Does she get invited to many weddings and christenings? "We always follow up with couples to see how it's going or we find out on Instagram that someone has just proposed, which is always exciting. I've been to a couple of weddings but I liken it a bit to if you're an estate agent; you don't get invited to the house warming. Sometimes people haven't told their family and friends how they met."
Lara heads up dating agency Asprey Introductions
To be accepted onto her books – which includes six months' membership, unlimited dates and a dedicated matchmaker – costs £9,000, with more for relationship coaching and styling, but Lara is adamant that wealth isn't the essential factor. "It isn't about millionaires. It's about people with class. I don't care how much money someone has in the bank, if they can't behave properly on a date and charm someone, they're not going to be on our books."
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The first step for Lara is to meet a potential client, usually over a drink in a hotel. It's often at that point that people reveal their dream date. "Many women say the actor Henry Cavill. For men, Kate Beckinsale is mentioned quite a lot. And Jennifer Aniston. I wish I could get my hands on her, I could definitely find love for her. We've had quite a few high-profile people on our books: actors, models, billionaires. It's difficult for them to meet somebody on Tinder so they come to us," said Lara. The business grew from her own matchmaking skill with friends. "I was the nosy one and when I left uni I had a great network of friends. I'd arrange casual matches and people would say: 'Do you know anyone for my friend?' It seemed like a no brainer to turn it into a business," explained Lara, who saw a gap in the market for a dating agency targeted at the most eligible, charming and successful.
Originally called Sloane Arranger, the name change was needed when it went global: "People in America and the Middle East didn't get the pun and I was forever explaining it." Lara said she believes the dating world has changed in the last five years: "We've become conditioned to think of relationships as something that can be swipe-righted, which makes it very flippant. Physical attraction is only one part of it." She conceded that first encounters are tricky. "Try to be relaxed, keep it to 90 minutes and don't gush about yourself. TMI [too much information] is not a good thing. Mystery says a lot, people are attracted to an air of mystique."
Fast forward to when Elise is a teenager: how will this matchmaker mum hold back on giving an opinion on boyfriends? "Juan says Elise will be 30 before she goes on a date and all boyfriends will have to go through him," she laughed. "I'll be protective, too, but I'll be fine with it. I'll be there listening to her date stories, saying: 'Tell me about him, darling, what's he like?'"
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