Matchmaking services attempt to connect you with people through compatibility tests and profile information.
The concept of a matchmaking service has been around in one form or another for centuries. It was initially used to bring together suitable mates based on family lineage, social or financial status, and religious or cultural background. Some of today's popular matchmaking services still use many of these same factors to help determine two people's relationship potential; others base compatibility on scientific and psychological factors as well as a person's core beliefs and values.
The method a matchmaking service uses to bring two people together has elements of the past as well. More personalized matchmaking companies meet all potential partners face-to-face in order to conduct a thorough screening process. Other companies take a more hands-off approach, letting compatibility and personality tests do the work instead. No matter the technique, all matchmaking services require signing up and paying the necessary fees.
The types of matchmaking services vary, from relaxed approaches that focus on dating in groups to high-end companies that involve intense screening and everything in between. The type of service people choose usually depends on their ultimate goal (friendships, marriage, etc.) and how much they are willing to spend.
Casual matchmaking services take a more laid-back approach to the dating world by setting up casual lunch or dinner dates with couples or groups of couples based on general personality traits and other criteria like age and background. Most of these matchmaking services, which include It's Just Lunch, Eight at Eight, Lunch Date and Table For Six, welcome anyone who is willing to pay the fee.
Matchmaking services that use compatibility systems rely on research that has made a science out of what types of people will be most compatible with each other. Clients answer a variety of questions (usually online) to determine their compatibility profile. Perfectmatch.com and eHarmony are two popular examples of this type of matchmaking service.
For singles wanting a more targeted or high-end relationship search, there are exclusive matchmaking services that heavily screen potential partners or have specific niche requirements, such as religious affiliation, in order to join the service. Example of exclusive matchmaking services are Selective Search and JDate.
It's Just Lunch started in 1991 as an option for busy professionals to have a quick, low-key first date over lunch or after work for drinks. Staff members conduct an initial interview with each potential partner and then match up people based on physical requirements and personality traits. The first date is arranged, including time and place, but any dates after that with the same person would be made between the couple. The service guarantees at least 14 arranged dates for the cost of a year's subscription, which is about $1,500, but there is no guarantee that a successful match will be found.
According to Online Legal Marketing, a consumer attorney in Los Angeles is investigating a potential class action suit against It's Just Lunch for misrepresenting the type and number of members it has in its database and not providing the personalized matchmaking service it advertises, among other consumer complaints.
Eight at Eight offers a similarly casual concept, but instead of matching up just two people for a lunch or drinks, this matchmaking service pairs up four men and four women for dinner. The group is chosen based on age, background and interests. Eight at Eight chooses the location of the dinner (at 8:00 p.m., of course), and a hostess from the company will attend to help break the ice among the party and purchase the first round of drinks. Each person is then responsible for his or her dinner bill. As with It's Just Lunch, people who want to arrange a second date need to do so on their own, although a person can contact Eight at Eight staff to get contact information for someone in the group that he or she was interested in. With that person's permission, the company will give the interested party a way to contact him or her. The cost for a year's membership depends on the location but typically runs between $150 and $250.
Perfectmatch.com uses the Duet Total Compatibility System to help match people together based on such criteria as personality, lifestyle and values. The company will use the results of the Duet system to match up individuals, or members can choose to search on their own using various search criteria on the company's website.
Users can make a Duet profile for free and even see potential matches, but they have to sign up for a membership to actually contact a potential match. The company offers communications tools on its site, such as IceBreaker questions, as one way to say hello to potential partners. It costs about $60 per month to join Perfectmatch.com, although the rate goes down incrementally with a three-month, six-month or longer plan.
Consumer complaints about Perfectmatch.com range from refusal by the company to refund money to dissatisfied customers to suggesting matches for people 50 to 100 miles away.
Matchingmaking service eHarmony offers a similar type of service with what it calls its Compatibility Matching System. By filling out a relationship questionnaire, a person will be matched with a potential partner based on the system's 29 Dimensions of Compatibility. Its Core Traits include a person's emotional temperament, intellect, physicality and sociability; Vital Attributes include life experiences and relationship skills. It's free to fill out a profile and review any potential matches, but like Perfectmatch.com, those interested in contacting matches will need to subscribe to the matchmaking service. The method of contact is up to the subscriber, but eHarmony does offer a Guided Communication option to make the process easier.
One-month, three-month, six-month and annual membership options are available at eHarmony that range from approximately $20 to $60 per month, depending on the subscription. According to Online Dating Magazine, eHarmony faces a class action suit for discriminating against gays and lesbians wishing to use the matchmaking service.
Selective Search takes a personal recruiter, or headhunter, approach to help its clients find the perfect mate. Potential candidates, called Affiliates, undergo a screening process to even be added to the company's pool of matches. Then, they are carefully evaluated again to determine if there is any relationship potential with the client. This is a more personal, one-on-one process with a matchmaker assigned to each client who identifies compatible matches. This personalized service has a hefty price tag -- retaining Selective Search's matchmaking service for a year can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $25,000.
JDate is an example of a niche matchmaking service that targets a specific group of singles. Its database of thousands attempts to connect Jewish singles together with help from such communication tools as video instant messaging, message boards and the sites Click! Alert. This happens when two members have independently noted that they think they would click with the other. A free membership on JDate gives access to profiles, the ability to receive and reply to instant messages, and send up to 30 Flirts (a quick way of expressing interest in someone) per day. Premium membership, which costs between $30 and $35 per month depending on the subscription length, allows members to send e-mails, initiate instant messages, access chat rooms and more.