“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find. Catch me a catch.”
Matchmaking immediately brings two things to mind: the iconic song from Fiddler on the Roof and this infinitely re-watchable scene from Disney’s Mulan. Who spit in her bean curd?
Some may unfairly imagine matchmaking as an antiquated, elitist service steeped in patriarchal values intended for people who lack the time, courage or “game” to date unassisted — but that jaded perspective couldn’t be further from the truth.
Charlotte-based matchmakers and their clients are here to collectively open our eyes to what modern matchmaking looks like and how it’s shifting people’s approach to dating today.
Myth #1 - Matchmakers are husband/wife hunters
Matchmaking is a partnership. What makes working with matchmakers different from a typical approach to dating is the insightful guidance they provide. Matchmakers keep their clients’ goals and life vision top of mind when evaluating potential partners and providing feedback.
“I’m essentially a recruiter, a consultant and a coach,” said Laurie Berzack, founder of Carolinas Matchmaker and veteran matchmaker across North and South Carolina for more than 15 years. “I ask, ‘What does this person want, and how can I help them get it?’”
“A matchmaker generally brings two people together based on similar value sets, lifestyle and life vision,” said Julie Wadley, owner of Eli Simone, a matchmaking and dating coaching service for women of color. “A matchmaker is there to get you out of your own way.”
If it sounds like matchmaking professionals are tackling a tall order, you are correct. Both Berzack and Wadley drew parallels between their work and therapeutic counseling to uncover a client’s core values and what type of relationship will best complement a client’s goals.
“I do a lot of work with people learning how to love themselves,” Berzack said. “The more we love ourselves, the more we will attract someone who is at that higher vibration of love.”
To determine how best to guide and match their clients, matchmakers ask hard-hitting questions that can be difficult to answer without a little soul searching. What kind of life do you want to lead? Why do you think past relationships didn’t work out? Answering these questions honestly is key to finding a relationship that works.
Myth #2 - Only attractive, wealthy people work with matchmakers
Just like matchmakers have evolved their approach over time, their client base has transformed and expanded. People across walks of life need help evaluating their past relationships and finding new relationships that support the future they want to lead.
It makes sense why many people presume only the most attractive and well-to-do people work with matchmakers. Reality shows like “The Millionaire Matchmaker” dramatize the dating woes and triumphs of wealthy singles, many of whose greatest barrier to finding love is their skepticism of greedy potential partners.
When we read between the lines, these shows reinforce a dangerous message: that money and physical attractiveness are critical criteria for a satisfying romantic connection.
“I think there’s a lot of misconception about having a ton of money or it has to be a last resort,” said 38-year-old Lizzie Shwarz, a former client of Berzack’s. “It’s not like that. It’s more of this is another step in my dating life that I’m taking seriously.”
Now, matchmaking and dating coaching are becoming more accessible and actively combat superficial ideas of attraction. They emphasize common morals, respect and realistic optimism.
“The people who hire me are very socially adept,” Berzack said. “They need to be at a certain level of readiness to be in a relationship. The people who come to me and say, ‘This is going to work,’ that energy is so positive, it brings success.”
In addition to matchmaking and private coaching, Berzack also hosts monthly socials and workshops at minimal cost to participants, providing a low-cost way for single people to learn more about Carolinas Matchmaker.
Like Berzack, Wadley also works with clients who fall in a wide range of ages and relationship experience; however, she focuses her services at Eli Simone on women of color.
“Women of color all over the world are looking for matchmakers who focus on them,” Wadley said. “Just like dating is niche, so goes my business and who I’m attracting to my business.”
Wadley began her matchmaking career serving a general client base similar to Carolinas Matchmaker — single people looking for love. After an older, more experienced matchmaker encouraged Wadley to focus her efforts where she can make the biggest difference, Wadley reimagined her business into Eli Simone.
“My journey on finding my place in my business is such a parallel to women who I help,” she said. “This is a very vulnerable, specific piece of people’s lives, and they’re going to go to someone they think can help them the most.”
Myth #3 - Online dating is taboo
With millions of single (and some not so single) people around the world using dating apps and websites, it’s helpful to have an expert at the wheel with you. As Wadley succinctly explained, “The Internet provides so many more perceived options. You think there are so many more options out there than there really are.”
“The world today is so challenging,” Berzack said. “I think because there’s so many shortcuts people can take, like with texting, it’s not always obvious if someone is interested or not. Nowadays, it’s the biggest deal in the world when somebody gets a phone call from someone.”
Truly experiencing another person is vital to determining attraction. That’s where matchmakers come in clutch. Instead of working against today’s online dating trends, modern matchmakers effectively harness tools like dating apps to help their clients connect with the strongest potential partners, communicate effectively and enjoy in-person dates.
“Relationships aren’t based on location anymore,” Wadley said. “It’s really based on value set, lifestyle, past experiences. People understand where they’ve been and build their community around that.”
When coaching clients through online dating, Berzack and the Carolinas Matchmaker team help their clients select profile photos, craft an engaging profile, respond to messages and set up offline dates.
“There’s no longer a stigma about online dating,” Berzack said. “We do a deep dive to try to prevent online dating fatigue. We go through prospects for our clients and help them with reaching out. We’re also teaching online dating safety.”
Aside from individual coaching, Carolinas Matchmaker also holds “Conquering Online Dating” workshops through Skillpop. The next workshop will take place March 25.
Myth #4 - Matchmaking takes a one-size-fits-all approach
Both Carolinas Matchmaker and Eli Simone focus on much more than making a good digital first impression. A matchmaker’s overarching goal is to help their clients find successful, fulfilling relationships. They use a variety of methods like coaching programs, one-on-one consultations, singles events and workshops offer fun and effective ways to help people transition to their next stage of dating.
“I thought there would be a standard questionnaire or interview, and then I would be paired with people who were looking for the same things,” said 48-year-old single mother Leslie Johnson, one of Wadley’s former clients. “I was surprised to find the process was much more involved before we ever got to the actual matching.”
Through her work, Wadley said she’s recognized many women try to make themselves appealing to everyone when it’s more important to focus on finding people who will support their quirks. Her hands-on approach to getting to know clients like Johnson helps Wadley fine-tune her understanding of what they’re looking for.
“We are not made for mass consumption,” Wadley said. “You are perfect for a very specific set of people. Go find your people.”
Eli Simone provides three distinct coaching programs that target various stages of relationship building: “preparing for the love of your life,” dating with purpose and navigating obstacles in an intimate relationship.
“[Wadley] understands the unique challenges that women of color face,” Johnson said. “I wanted a matchmaker who really ‘saw’ me and understood me. You learn a lot about yourself and others in the process”
In addition to matchmaking and coaching services, Carolinas Matchmaker’s recurring social events and workshops bring together people of diverse socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds with a shared goal — dating successfully.
“The events I’m hosting I think have made a huge dent in the loneliness epidemic,” Berzack said. “If somebody can get off the couch, stop watching Netflix and come to one of my events, they can find someone fabulous.”
Berzack’s 40s and 50s meetup welcomes divorcees, widows and widowers and empty nesters whose kids have finally flown the coop. Her “Philanthrodating” mixers bring together young professionals in their 20s and 30s who may not be ready to hire a matchmaker but want to socialize, meet people and find love.
“Singles mixers can be scary, and that one was fun,” Shwarz said about her first time attending a Philanthrodating event. “It’s more acceptable to be single and to be looking and to say, ‘OK, that’s where you are, and that’s where I am, too.’”
Myth #5 - Sounds interesting, but it’s too scary to try
Working with a matchmaker is an investment in the quality of your current dating life and future relationships. If you’re tired of moving through the same cycles of trivial message banter, dead-end dates or unhappy relationship deja vu, the investment may be worthwhile.
“People should think of matchmaking as an opportunity,” Berzack said. “I believe there is a lid for every pot. Sometimes people just need to sit down with me so I can convince them of that.”
“People think matchmakers set you up with people you would not normally be able to attract or have access to,” Wadley said. “That is not reality. The same men you bypass at Starbucks are the same men I’m going to set you up with.”
She explained, “People come to us because something’s not working. I’m not a salesman. I’m not here to sell you on this. I’m here as a mirror to show you exactly what’s going on so you can get down to the business of changing.”
If that process doesn’t send you running for the couch with Bumble and a box of chocolates, you’re in luck. Because after navigating these hurdles with a professional matchmaker by your side, dating becomes a whole lot more fun.
“Once you work with a matchmaker, it’s hard to go back to finding your own dates — you get really spoiled,” Lincoln joked. “Seriously, though, matchmakers are great for people who don’t want to filter through a lot of profiles on dating sites, don’t know where to start because they’re new to the dating scene, are ready for a more serious relationship or are new to a city.”
“We’re all on our own timelines,” Shwarz said, “and there’s nothing wrong with being single and looking for love and admitting that some of us sometimes struggle with that.”