- 1: one that arranges a match; especially : one who tries to bring two unmarried individuals together in an attempt to promote a marriage
In some cultures, the role of the matchmaker was and is quite professionalized. The Ashkenazi Jewish shadchan, or the Hindu astrologer, were often thought to be essential advisors and also helped in finding right spouses as they had links and a relation of good faith with the families. In cultures where arranged marriages were the rule, the astrologer often claimed that the stars sanctified matches that both parents approved of, making it quite difficult for the possibly-hesitant children to easily object – and also making it easy for the astrologer to collect his fee. Tarot divination has also been employed by some matchmakers.
Social dance, especially in frontier North America, the contra dance and square dance, has also been employed in matchmaking, usually informally. However, when farming families were widely separated and kept all children on the farm working, marriage-age children could often only meet in church or in such mandated social events. Matchmakers, acting as formal chaperones or as self-employed 'busybodies' serving less clear social purposes, would attend such events and advise families of any burgeoning romances before they went too far.[
The influence of such people in a culture that did not arrange marriages, and in which economic relationships (e.g. "being able to support a family", "good prospects") played a larger role in determining if a (male) suitor was acceptable, is difficult to determine. It may be fair to say only that they were able to speed up, or slow down, relationships that were already forming. In this sense they were probably not distinguishable from relatives, rivals, or others with an interest. Clergy probably played a key role in most Western cultures, as they continue to do in modern ones, especially where they are the most trusted mediators in the society. Matchmaking was certainly one of the peripheral functions of the village priest in Medieval Catholic society, as well as a Talmudic duty of rabbis in traditional Jewish communities. Today, the shidduch is a system of matchmaking in which Jewish singles are introduced to one another in Orthodox Jewish communities.
Matchmakers trade on the belief that romantic love is something akin to a human right, and the modern online dating service is just one of many examples of a dating system where technology is invoked almost as a magic charm with the capacity to bring happiness. These services often rely on personality tests (but genetics has even been proposed), aiming to maximize the identification of the best match.
The acceptance of dating systems, however, has created something of a resurgence in the role of the traditional professional matchmaker. Those who find dating systems or services useful but prefer human intelligence and personal touches can choose from a wide range of such services now available. According to Mark Brooks (an online personals and social networking expert), "you can actually find people who are compatible, and this is a major advance that is going to keep the industry alive for the upcoming 50 years". He also stated that matchmakers offer “a chance to connect” and “a chance to authenticate” prospects in ways the Web sites can’t.