Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Matchmakers Work

Modern Matchmaking and the Business of Love
Unlucky in love? It might be time to call in an expert.
Unlucky in love? It might be time to call in an expert.
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

By 2010, online dating had ballooned into a $1-billion global industry with 40 million Americans crafting clever profiles, filling out surveys and scrolling through pages of singles in hopes of stumbling on a special somebody [source: Van Grove]. Dating sites have become a routine facet of modern love, no longer the stigmatized virtual outlet for only the most desperate or undesirable. Real-world matchmakers attribute much of their face-to-face businesses' success with the popularity and attendant drawbacks of online dating [source: Hicken]. Many anecdotes from men and women who have turned to professional matchmakers include online dating horror stories that compelled them to hand over their love lives into more responsible hands than the Internet.

The Matchmaking Institute, which trains people in the fine art of fixing up, estimates that there are 1,500 such professionals in the United States as of 2006, and that number has likely risen since then [source: The Matchmaking Institute]. The $250-million industry is dominated by women who may have been formally trained through the Matchmaking Institute, parlayed expansive social networks into a profitable service, or inherited the itch to teach adults how to date from a familial interest in matchmaking.

One of the most famous matchmakers in the United States and star of the hit reality television series "Millionaire Matchmaker," Patti Stanger began getting couples together in the seventh grade [source: Garone]. Her early start isn't terribly surprising, either, considering both her Jewish mother and grandmother established themselves as local matchmakers in her New Jersey hometown. Meanwhile, Janis Spindel, founder of Manhattan-based Serious Matchmaking, Inc., ditched a career in the fashion industry after reportedly pairing up 14 serious couples in a single year [source: Rowland]. Both claim impressive results: Stanger reports a 99 percent success rate, and Spindel says she has sealed the deal on more than 900 couples since 1993 [source: Garone and Rowland].

Name-brand professional matchmakers like Stanger and Spindel also do well for themselves financially. Unlike online dating sites that are free to join or charge nominal fees, professional matchmakers don't cater to a frugal crowd. Stanger's Millionaire's Club, for instance, costs $40,000 for a yearlong membership, and clients can fork over up to $200,000 for more personalized services and individualized attention Garone]. For a more representative price point, about a third of matchmaker clients spend between $3,000 and $5,000 per year on the dating services [source: The Matchmaking Institute]. In New York, the top market for matchmaking, the average professional earns $78,000 per year, which is probably well below the income level of the typical person willing to pay to a little extra for love -- or at least a lot of dates [source:].