In the past six months alone, I have been pitched two separate stories about matchmakers who are not Patti Stanger and been served an ad for a matchmaking service on my Instagram feed. I’ve also heard about two friends who were recruited by a matchmaker, one who became a matchmaker and listened as a fourth told me that at age 28, she was seriously considering a professional romantic assist.
My friend is sick of Tinder, sick of bars, sick of wasted nights on bad dates. She has disposable income and a clear picture of her future. “I outsource everything else,” she said. “Laundry, errands, air-conditioner installation. Why not this?” She told me she wanted to hire a modern matchmaker; I wanted to know what modern matchmaking looks like.
I started with The Bevy, an “intensely personal matchmaking service” that appeals to “young, educated professionals.” Co-founders Greta Tufvesson and Nikki Lewis explained that their clients are largely heterosexual people who, like my friend, consider themselves to be hardworking and successful, too busy to look for dates but eager to connect with “quality” individuals.
“We don’t want to go out and meet people anymore,” Tufvesson said. “Free time is precious; we’d rather hang out with our friends. It’s also hard to get out of our social circles. We’re creatures of habits and go to the same places, the same restaurants.”
She — along with every other matchmaker I spoke to — brought up our most millennial complaint as a major contributing factor: the internet offers too many choices. It’s overwhelming. Matchmakers filter. You explain what you’re looking for and they take care of the searching. Each company or independent cupid has a database of vetted candidates. Within this pool, the matchmakers know who’s currently single, who’s serious about meeting someone, what these singles are looking for (as one matchmaker pointed out, just because you meet the person of your dreams doesn’t mean you’re the person of theirs) and other various charming idiosyncrasies.
While you relax, your matchmaker is on the hunt (for a price-upon-initial-consultation fee).
I asked The Bevy cofounders to walk me through a hypothetical set-up. First, I’d have to be referred by a friend. The next step would be to meet in-person with Tufvesson and Lewis. After the interview, I’d fill out a questionnaire about myself and what I’m looking for that is “lengthy, but not going to kill [me].” Clearly, they have never witnessed me try to take a BuzzFeed quiz. If approved, my membership would be complimentary. If I were a man, I’d have to pay. For a modern matchmaking company, this part felt antiquated.
“Some women are wary of joining and don’t want to feel like they’re paying to meet someone,” Tufvesson said when I asked about the discrepancy. “Here, there’s no downside. We wouldn’t take men on as our clients if we wouldn’t date them ourselves.” Meanwhile, men are asked to cough it up. “Supply and demand. We have a large network of women, men hire us to find them.”
The next step is an hour of face time to develop client/matchmaker trust and deepen The Bevy’s understanding of my wants and needs. After, they’d search their database and find my first date. I’d be provided information about him, like why he’s single, what he’s looking for and why he’s right for me. The Bevy would coordinate our schedules, then send an email that confirms the time, place, location and our phone numbers. They would not show me his picture.
“That’s what makes us unique,” said Tufvesson. I guess I audibly balked. “Unlike apps and online sites, we protect your privacy. We don’t show pictures. Instead, we know their foundation, what inspires them. You don’t get that from an app. Of course it’s somewhat superficial, but this is about who the person is beyond height and weight. It brings you back to being more grounded.”
Following the date, I’d give and be given feedback. This was a common theme among matchmakers: They don’t just set you up, they get intel from your dates to relay what you could do better to improve your chance on the next date. The Bevy, a primarily bi-coastal operation, claims to have a 95% success rate. “It’s hard to quantify serious relationships,” Lewis said. “We quantify success by meaningful relationships.”
When I asked about age (I wanted to know if young millennials were starting to jump on board) they said their clients have skewed younger over the years. “People are starting to think about serious relationships sooner than they used to,” Lewis said, which shocked me. “People value time and want to spend it with people who are significant.” Their youngest client is 22.
Amy Van Doran, founder of Modern Love Club, who describes herself as feminist artist first, matchmaker second, takes a boutique approach. She works with 16 singles at a time who she has to be “obsessed with.”
They rotate every three months, which means the age, gender identities and sexuality of her client demo changes. Van Doran keeps the group small to “bring the community back into dating.” She gets to know her clients on a deeper level so that, rather than feeling transactional, the setup is more along the lines of, “my friend with amazing taste wants you two to meet one another.” Fun fact: Van Doran was getting her hair dyed orange and her dog’s coat dyed blue while we chatted over the phone.
Encouraging this mindset is her way of putting optimism back into dating. “It can be depressing to look at the numbers,” she said of New York City’s singles scene. However, “at the end of day, most people are looking to meet ONE person.” She believes there’s no such thing as being too picky. “You just haven’t met right person.”
Eileen is a 31-year-old woman who lives in New York City and believes she hasn’t met the right person either. After spending her twenties living abroad, she returned to New York unsure of the dating rhythm, finding it hard to connect with people. “It feels very cold, very rushed,” she said of the singles scene here.
She was shopping for matchmakers at the time of our call. “It’s like looking for the right therapist,” she joked. When we spoke, she had just wrapped her first matchmaker meeting, a bit unsure of the women with whom she’d had a consultation, but not of the concept.
“I’m ready to meet The One,” she said. The problem is, she has no patience for online dating and doesn’t have time to meet anyone new otherwise. “I work full-time at a startup. I’m in a relationship with my company.” Eileen, who I was connected to through a mutual friend who also uses a matchmaker (I had no clue until I put up a Facebook status about this), said she’s looking at this as an investment in her personal life so that she can stay focused in the workplace.
“I’ve asked myself if I really want to pay for this. It goes against the grain, but it’s also empowering. I like the idea that I’m putting money toward what I think is an important decision.”
When I reached out for an interview with someone at Three Day Rule, a popular modern matchmaking service, their press office put me in touch with Allison Gerrits, an SF-based “expert on millennials and matchmaking.”
“We’ve seen way more young people interested in the past six months,” Gerrits said when I asked if this was a millennial trend or just something app-fatigued romantics are trying. “We’ve had males in their twenties interested. Our youngest client is 25.” She was about to meet with a 27 year old after our call.
Three Day Rule’s spiel is similar to that of The Bevy, Modern Love Club and matchmaking agency Tawkify: all of the processes in place aren’t there to get you married right out of the gates — they’re there to introduce you to “quality people.”
Quality people. It was a recurring phrase in these interviews, one I assumed was a euphemism for “rich.” I asked Gerrits point-blank: “What does ‘quality’ mean?”
“People are looking for their equal,” she said before listing off resume items like education, career, ambition and friends. “That means they have to be in the same mental space when it comes to relationships, too. Quality means you’re both looking for the same thing.” You never know where you’ll find it, either. Gerrits has been known to recruit clients and database members while riding in Lyft Lines and Uber Pools.
“If you’re single, you’re online,” she said. When I asked her which apps she uses for her clients, Golden listed “all the names you’ve heard of,” from Bumble to Match.com to Coffee Meets Bagel. The apps provide her with “real-time singles” at her fingertips. “This is my database.”
Though she was careful to not divulge too much of her process, she explained that with her method, the other person never finds out she assisted. I asked her if this was technically cat-fishing. She told me it was not. She divulges approved facts about her clients but doesn’t delve too deep and moves the conversation offline as quickly as she can. “My job is to facilitate the meet,” Golden says. “The person who shows up on the date is the same person in the pictures.”
I likened it to the conversations we pen for our friends who suck at online banter. Not everyone’s skilled in the art of the dating app back-and-forth.
When it comes to age, people in their early thirties are outliers for Golden. She has two main groups: singles in their mid-thirties who’ve never been married, and divorced types with kids and “the big career” who skew a bit older. Otherwise, Golden’s clients are made up of those who can afford her. (Her words.) Like most everyone I spoke with, the bulk are heterosexual, though she has had clients who identified as homosexual before. “Love is love,” she said.
I asked Golden what she thought the biggest problem was when it comes to modern dating in a city like New York. “You’re going to meet someone,” she said. “But you have got to give people a chance. If my clients are asked out again [on a second date], I encourage them to go. It’s hard to really know someone at first. Your date may not be great for the first 15 minutes. Maybe after you get a drink, you play a game of ping pong and start to have fun. You start to realize he has a sense of humor, that you’re having a good time and that there’s chemistry. You wouldn’t know unless you created more opportunity.”
That is the thing about these matchmakers, modern or not. At the end of the day, they are nothing if not tenacious romantics.
Photos by Edith Young.