It’s like manual Tinder, and your parents have to swipe right, too. That’s how a young Indian guest on Netflix’s reality TV dating series, Indian Matchmaking, describes the process of seeing a matchmaker.
The show follows professional ‘Marriage Consultant’ Sima Taparia, as she matches South Asian couples in India and the United States, with varying degrees of success.
Have you ever used a matchmaking service, or been tempted to? We’d love to hear your story (even anonymously). Send us a DM or email Hack@abc.net.au.
You could be forgiven for thinking that matchmaking is a relic of another time and place. But as you’re about to find out, the practice is alive and well here in Australia.
‘Your place in heaven is assured’
While the Netflix series focuses on South Asian matchmaking, the practice of setting couples up for marriage is common in other cultures, too.
“It’s a great mitzva [religious duty] to put two people together,” Michelle Lewis from Jewish dating agency, JConnect, tells Hack.
Michelle explains that while Jewish culture has professional matchmakers like herself, anyone in the community can get on board.
JConnect is a not-for-profit service run by volunteers – they charge less than $11 US a month to be put on a huge international database of clients.
Michelle says many members of Australia’s Jewish community feel like they’re doing a good deed when they successfully set couples up.
There’s even a holiday in Jewish culture dedicated to love. It’s called Tu B’Av, and this year it fell on August 4.
“Traditionally on this day the unmarried girls would go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyard and dance in the village square so the matchmakers could see who was single and who they could match them with,” Michelle says.
Who uses professional matchmaking services?
Yvonne Allen set up Australia’s longest-running professional matchmaking services. Though she’s not keen on the word ‘matchmaker’.
“We call ourselves Human Relations Consultants,” she tells Hack.
She set up her consultancy in 1976, so she’s seen a lot of change in the way people use dating services.
“Back then it was assumed everyone would marry, and most did,” Yvonne says.
So people came to her agency with long-term commitment in mind. It wasn’t unusual in the 1970s to have clients who were in their late teens and early 20s.
Through the years her clientele has gotten older; she now matches people in their 40s and older.
Many of her clients are successful business people who use her agency as a sort of triaging system for potential dates. In other words, Yvonne’s staff members do the legwork for ensuring mutual compatibility.
Yvonne says most people use consultancies like hers in conjunction with other methods of finding a partner. But those other methods aren’t always satisfying.
Yvonne’s service doesn’t include photos at all. Rather, she matches people based on their aspirations, interests and values.
“Thousands of people have met their partners through us directly.”
What does matchmaking offer that other types of dating don’t?
Many of Michelle’s JConnect clientele use other forms of dating, and like Yvonne’s clients, many are time-poor and want someone to sift through potential dates on their behalf.
“The idea that people who come to a matchmaker are people who can’t find someone themselves is far from the truth. It’s not only the desperate or losers who come to us,” Michelle says.
She says many of her clients are the only single person in their friendship circle, and they feel like they’re doing something wrong when it comes to finding love.
“I truly believe there’s a lot of disappointment these days because of unrealistic expectations,” Michelle says.
“We have these reality TV dating shows where we have the most lavish wild dates, like people taking helicopter rides to an island where they swim under a waterfall.”
“I think there are many people today who are feeling very much alone, and yet they are able to be in contact with so many [potential dates],” she said.
Matchmakers can give people peace of mind.
“The negative side of online dating is that people can be whoever they want to be online. Our point of difference is that everyone who registers with JConnect nominates a referee – someone who’s known them for at least two years – and we call that referee,” Michelle says.
What should I do if I’m considering seeing a matchmaker?
Michelle says the most important thing to do is make sure you see someone reputable.
“I’d like to see matchmakers licensed and some regulation in the industry,” she says.
“I’ve heard of matchmaking services where they hire professional daters who pose as a potential partner for a fee. So they’re paid to go on dates,” Michelle said.
Yvonne says dating consultancies can help you narrow down what your values and beliefs truly are, but it’s helpful going into one with an idea of what it is you want.
But be warned: after going through the process, you might learn things about yourself.
“The magic still happens. But the magic can be somebody realising what they thought they were looking for is not that at all,” she says.