Matchmaking is the process of matching two or more people together, usually for the purpose of marriage, but the word is also used in the context of sporting events such as boxing, in business, in online video games and in pairing organ donors.
In some cultures, the role of the matchmaker was and is quite professionalised. The Ashkenazi Jewish shadchan, or the Hindu astrologer, were often thought to be essential advisors and also helped in finding right spouses as they had links and a relation of good faith with the families. In cultures where arranged marriages were the rule, the astrologer often claimed that the stars sanctified matches that both parents approved of, making it quite difficult for the possibly-hesitant children to easily object – and also making it easy for the astrologer to collect his fee. Tarot divination has also been employed by some matchmakers.
Social dance, especially in frontier North America, the contra dance and square dance, has also been employed in matchmaking, usually informally. However, when farming families were widely separated and kept all children on the farm working, marriage-age children could often only meet in church or in such mandated social events. Matchmakers, acting as formal chaperones or as self-employed 'busybodies' serving less clear social purposes, would attend such events and advise families of any burgeoning romances before they went too far.
The influence of such people in a culture that did not arrange marriages, and in which economic relationships (e.g. "being able to support a family", "good prospects") played a larger role in determining if a (male) suitor was acceptable, is difficult to determine. It may be fair to say only that they were able to speed up, or slow down, relationships that were already forming. In this sense they were probably not distinguishable from relatives, rivals, or others with an interest. Clergy probably played a key role in most Western cultures, as they continue to do in modern ones, especially where they are the most trusted mediators in the society. Matchmaking was certainly one of the peripheral functions of the village priest in Medieval Catholic society, as well as a Talmudic duty of rabbis in traditional Jewish communities. Today, the shidduch is a system of matchmaking in which Jewish singles are introduced to one another in Orthodox Jewish communities.
Matchmakers trade on the belief that romantic love is something akin to a human right, and the modern online dating service is just one of many examples of a dating system where technology is invoked almost as a magic charm with the capacity to bring happiness. These services often rely on personality tests (but genetics has even been proposed), aiming to maximize the identification of the best match.
The acceptance of dating systems, however, has created something of a resurgence in the role of the traditional professional matchmaker. Those who find dating systems or services useful but prefer human intelligence and personal touches can choose from a wide range of such services now available. According to Mark Brooks (an online personals and social networking expert), "you can actually find people who are compatible, and this is a major advance that is going to keep the industry alive for the upcoming 50 years". He also stated that matchmakers offer "a chance to connect" and "a chance to authenticate" prospects in ways the websites can’t.
In Singapore, the Social Development Unit (SDU), run by the city-state's government, offers a combination of professional counsel and dating system technology, like many commercial dating services. Thus the role of the matchmaker has become institutionalized, as a bureaucrat, and every citizen in Singapore has access to some subset of the matchmaking services that were once reserved for royalty or upper classes.
The Matchmaking Institute, established in 2003, is the only school for matchmaking in the US. It is accredited by the state of New York, providing certifications to matchmakers from all over the world. The various academics and practitioners in sexology and marriage counseling have developed matchmaking methods with the goal of maximising its success. For example, profiles produced by personality tests can be evaluated for compatibility. Academics who have written books on this topic include Pepper Schwartz, Helen Fisher, Neil Clark Warren, Hugo Schmale, and Claus Wedekind (matchmaking based on genetics).
The concept of matchmaking is also used in the business world and known as B2B Matchmaking, Investor Matchmaking, Business Speed Dating or Brokerage Events. In contradiction to social networking solutions, real meetings between business people are in focus. Trade fair organisations e.g. find this concept an added value for their exhibitors because it gives them the opportunity of advanced planned meetings. Following the inspiration of dating sites, some online B2B networking platforms developed advanced business matching solutions enabling relevant business partners' identification.
- Ok, We Have Our First DNA-Based Dating Service: GenePartner, by Michael Arrington, TechCrunh, on July 22, 2008
- Ustinova, Anastasia (February 14, 2008). "Gay matchmaking sites find a growing market". SFGate. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
- Fischler, Marcelle S. (2007-09-30). "Online Dating Putting You Off? Try a Matchmaker". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
- Schwartz, Pepper (2006). Finding your perfect match. Perigee Trade. ISBN 978-0-399-53244-3.
- Fisher, Helen (2009). Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type. Oneworld Publications UK-Commonwealth. ISBN 978-1-85168-698-8.
- Warren, Neil Clark (2002). Date or Soul Mate: How to Know If Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less. ISBN 0-7852-8303-X.
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