In many 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 hesitant children to object (and also making it easy for the astrologer to collect his fee). Tarot divination has also been employed by some matchmakers.
Social dancing, 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 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 believe that romantic relationships are something a human right, and modern online dating software and sites are using technology that simply does not work. These services often rely on personality tests claiming to maximize the identification of the best match. However, more and more singles find themselves in a never ending search due to phony profiles, old outdated photographs, men who simply want sexual relationships and are not interested in committed relationships, and escorts and prostitutes posing as singles who attempt to profiteer on these sites. Once their profiles are removed they simply start new ones.
The disappointment in the never ending cycle of failed attempts with dating sites has created a resurgence in the role of the traditional professional matchmaker. Those who prefer human intelligence and personal relationships choose from the emergence of the modern day socially enabled matchmaker. Millions of people around the world are actually finding people who are compatible through these highly talented and motivated matchmakers. They see the major advances and advantages to human matchmakers as matchmakers offer “a chance to communicate and connect” and “a chance to authenticate” singles in ways technology and glorified databases can not.