We now know that a matchmaker is someone who brings two people together in the hopes of arranging a compatible long-term relationship or a marriage, but where did all of the idea of a matchmaker come from in the first place?!
Long before the internet or online dating, matchmaking was used across the world as a means to create marriages and partnerships. For all you history buffs out there, here is the inside scoop.
For centuries, a matchmaker served as the facilitator of what in essence was a business transaction of the highest magnitude. The marriage that resulted was a pragmatic one meant to concentrate power and wealth, secure lineages, and consolidate properties. Marriages were especially important in dowry-based inheritance systems where women only inherited male wealth at the time of marriage, making parents particularly attentive to their daughters’ matches.
We all remember the colorful, meddling “Yenta” in Joseph Stein’s Broadway play, Fiddler on the Roof. First came marriage then—hopefully—came love. Communities relied on experts to pair up their young: the wise, well respected Nokado in Japan, the Portador in Mexico, the Kalyn in Russia. In Medieval Catholic society, matchmaking was considered a function of the village priest, and in Orthodox Jewish communities, the Shadchan was and continues to be responsible for setting people up in marriage.
In America during the mid eighteen hundreds, mail order brides became popular among pioneers heading west to settle on the open, untamed land. These men needed hardy women prepared to work hard. So, they advertised in newspapers to find wives willing to brave the harsh conditions. And today with the advent of the internet, mail-order bride sites are proliferating offering women from Russia, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Thailand and many other less privileged countries.
Likewise, in almost 40 African and middle-eastern countries, a go-between such as a family member or town elder arranges marriages for underage females. In India, China and Japan a significant number of marriages continue to be arranged by family members. It’s fascinating to note that while India has perhaps the most arranged marriages, it also has one of the lowest divorce rates of any country in the world. This certainly suggests that the individual touch of matching personalities, interests and integrating families makes for a strong and lasting relationship.
Today in America, love is viewed as an inalienable right. Finding a life partner is added to people’s “to do” list along with paying the credit card bill and booking that much needed Caribbean vacation. Rather than wait patiently for Mr. or Mrs. Right to arrive, people are searching for love where they search for everything else—online.