Ten years ago, former New York fashion model and girl about town Christie Nightingale was looking for a career change. She'd always done well at parties, was an ace at networking and had successfully set up several friends on dates. She clearly had the skills to be a matchmaker, but it wasn't until a bona fide cupid family member encouraged her to investigate the field that she began to see it as a professional option for herself.
Nightingale paid a visit to said family member to master the ins and outs of the matchmaking business. Then she brought her newfound knowledge back to New York—where there were many services to assist daters (franchised dating services, internet sites, etc.), but very few matchmakers, aside from those who served very specific ethnic and religious groups.
Thus was born her matchmaking company, Premier Match. Attracting clients almost from day one, Premier Match has since successfully matched thousands of eligible singles from a wide variety of backgrounds, opened additional offices (two in the U.S. and a partnering service abroad), and won Nightingale the reputation of a respected relationship expert; she regularly dispenses advice on television and in print.
What has Nightingale learned from her decade of matchmaking? What do singles get from a matchmaker that they don't get elsewhere? And what do her clients have to teach the rest of us about love? YourTango spoke with Nightingale.
Who are your typical clients?
My clients are professionals. They all seem to have an undergraduate degree. And three-fourths of them have graduate degrees. Doctors, attorneys, lawyers, business owners, CEO types—those who want the attention, have the money to invest in the attention and just want it done right. We're focused on people who are really ready, and want a long-term relationship and marriage.
Why do people use a matchmaker rather than other dating services or methods?
My professional clients don't have the time to go online and conduct a search on their own. They work really long hours. They might be on a computer quite a bit at work, and the last thing they want to do when they get home is go back on the computer for two or three more hours and try to find a relationship.
Also, we do background checks and women appreciate that there isn't any misrepresentation. Other methods, like frequenting bars, are time-consuming and you never know who you're going to meet. Each of our members have their own search tailored around the needs of what they're looking for. We work on their behalf almost like a headhunting firm.
Your website says that not all applicants are accepted for membership. What would make someone unsuitable for your services?
If they have outrageous criteria that they're asking us to satisfy, we won't take them on as a client. For example, a man who wants a woman 40 years younger than him. If someone's not emotionally ready to get into a relationship, we won't take them on as a client. We receive calls from people that have just gotten out of a marriage—they're newly separated, they're bitter, they're not ready.
Also, some people are just serial daters and our program isn't about offering a ton of dates. When a client joins the membership is normally for a year and we guarantee a minimum of 8-10 introductions. There might be more than that, but we focus on matching people who are satisfy each other's criteria.
Have you found that it's harder to match certain clients?
Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations and and nitpick or criticize, and that tells me there's something going on there—there are issues. They might be afraid to get into a relationship. They might be harboring some emotional issues.
We have a program called the Premier Match 360. It's a tool I've taken from the corporate handbook where we sit down with the client and review the feedback we've gotten from their dates, as well as our comments, feelings and thoughts. We try to handle the feedback in a very positive and nurturing way. But if there are certain behaviors that are repeating and causing the other party to not want to see them again, it's important for us to shed some light on what the person is doing.
So immediately after each date both parties will call you so you can put their feedback into the 360 file?
Yes. Without feedback we're matching our clients blindly. Clients are good about saying "You hit the nail on the head with the looks, but I'd probably like someone who's a little more outgoing." We also get feedback on how that other person behaved. It might be something as simple as "She was brilliant, she was lovely, but she never made eye contact with me and it was kind of peculiar." If I get the same feedback from another person, then I want to ask, "What's going on on your dates? You're not offering eye contact." And she might not even realize it.
Patti Stanger, star of Bravo's reality TV show The Millionaire Matchmaker goes through people's wardrobes, eavesdrops on their dates, and really gives it to her clients as far as their social skills are concerned. Do you get that detailed? Do you feel that's a reasonable depiction of a matchmaker?
Bear in mind that that's a television show. The more outrageous it gets, the better the entertainment. The clients who come to us pretty much have their act together. They dress well, they've got great careers. They don't need coaching to make them a dateable person. That's really the big difference between real life and that show.
How many of your matches actually lead to marriage?
We've had hundreds of relationships that have ended in marriage. I've tried to keep track of who gets married, but it got hard to even calculate. A lot of people don't let us know. They've dated, their memberships were up at the closing of the year, life goes on. Then a few years later we hear that they've gotten married, moved to Ohio and have two children. I have a whole brag wall in my office with wedding pictures and baby announcements and engagements. I've gone to many weddings, which is wonderful because it's great to think about how you were a part of these two people uniting in marriage.
But long-term relationships without marriage are also an important outcome of the service. We have clients who are older, in their fifties, and they've been married a couple times. They're looking for a life companion but they don't want to get married again. I've received cards from couples who have spent years together and they're vacationing in Tibet and they're really happy. They're just as important as the ones getting married and having children.
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