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Utah Business

Local matchmakers are sprucing up their services to cater to the city’s singles.

LDS Millionaire Seeks Wife (A Peek Inside Utah’s Matchmaking Industry)

So… dating. 

Who doesn’t want a first date that unfolds like a rom-com meet-cute, with fireworks, falling stars, and theme music underscoring the magical happy-ever-after that is sure to ensue?

But that happens… almost never? Dating as a full-fledged adult can be exciting and rewarding, but it can also be complicated and frustrating. Perhaps one of the hardest parts is—let’s just break it down into sales terminology—finding quality leads. 

Where do you find people you’re actually compatible with, that you want to introduce to family, that won’t drive you abso-freaking-lutely crazy? Work? The bar scene? Online dating?

Worldwide, a lot of people are turning to tech in hopes of finding the one. And by a lot, we mean 94 million users, with online dating generating over $3 billion in revenue, according to Statista. In the US, revenue is over $670 million, and there are over 6 million users on the service. And according to eHarmony, 40 percent of Americans use online dating and 20 percent of current committed relationships began online. 

Encouraging stats… but a little caution may be in order. eHarmony also shares that 53 percent of people lie in their online dating profile. And “online dating” applies to algorithm-based matchmaking, which includes everything from the swipe left/swipe right hook-up apps to digital services designed to connect long-term partners. So it’s important to be intentional about which service suits your current dating objectives. 

Personally, I met my (amazing) husband back in college, so I can’t weigh in here. But I have friends who have had success finding long-term partners online. I have others who have kept us laughing (and crying) until late at night as they recounted the horrors of online dating. So… are there any other options for those looking for help in finding partners? 

How about good ol’ fashioned matchmakers—reinvented with the confluence of technology and trained relationship coaches? Welcome to the world of modern matchmaking. 

Matchmaking today

I’ll admit—I hear the word “matchmaker” and I can’t help but picture a hunched Yente from Fiddler on the Roof assigning questionable pairings. Or the Bravo network’s The Millionaire Matchmaker, where high-net-worth dating played out in full HD drama. But beyond the stereotypes, there’s a thriving professional matchmaking industry that is helping couples find each other, with significant success. 

Consumer Affairs’ ranking of top professional matchmaking services includes Master Matchmakers, Elite Matchmaking, and It’s Just Lunch. The cost for these high-end services is not typically listed, but a little Googling (which may or may not be accurate) reveals that annual pricing can range from upwards of $50,000 for Millionaire Matchmaker, Patti Stanger’s services, to $2,000 for It’s Just Lunch. 

There are several professional matchmaking services in Utah, including Salt Lake City Matchmakers and a branch of It’s Just Lunch. Though perhaps, the highest-profile local service is Latter-Day Matchmaker—which caught the public eye earlier this year with a buzzy billboard campaign that read: “LDS Millionaire looking for his wife. Exclusive VIP Event June 7.” 

The billboards sparked viral media attention, and by the time the still-undisclosed bachelor concluded his date-night soiree, publications from The New York Times to Elle and everything in between were weighing in on the event—some a little saltier than others (like Barstool Sports’ “Mad Respect to the Mormon Millionaire” piece that offered props to a guy who could “make a killing in business and then use that money to assemble an army of sexbots who’ll willingly discuss their body types with a stranger online for a 1-in-2,500 chance of signing his prenup.” Ouch.)

Talking to Latter-Day Matchmaker founder and CEO, Amy Stevens Seal, the widespread media coverage (and snarky criticism) caught them by surprise. The intent of the event and billboard campaign was altruistic for the Latter-Day Matchmaker team. They wanted to attract a wider pool of possible partners for their client and hoped the riff on ABC network’s The Bachelor would help generate interest. 

It did. More than 2,500 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from across the country applied. The Latter-Day Matchmaker team culled through the submissions to find compatible singles, interviewed many of them, and ultimately invited 20 to attend the matchmaking event, some from out-of-state. While Latter-Day Matchmaker posted footage from the event and sound bites from some of the women who were open to being interviewed, the firm is keeping the bachelor’s identity confidential (they have a strict confidentiality policy for their clients).

Stevens Seal explains: “Our intent was never to reveal him, but to help find him a match. He didn’t live in Utah. When you don’t live in the Salt Lake area, there are not as many LDS singles to date. He’s certainly willing to date long-distance, so we felt like it was an efficient way to do this, rather than setting up 20 individual dates. It was really fun.”

Was it a success? “He is dating at least one woman that he met there, but I can’t confirm any other details,” says Stevens Seal. Would they do it again? “We’re open to doing events like this in the future, and we do have a woman we’re in discussions with.”

The matchmaking breakdown

As for the day-to-day services Latter-Day Matchmaker offers, it’s much more quotidian than the millionaire gig. For the interested, there are three steps to getting started: 1) complete an online profile, 2) select a package level, and 3) meet your match. 

The profile questionnaire is much like other online dating sites, including all the basic demographics: age, occupation, education level, relationship history, children, hobbies, photos, etc. As a faith-centric service, it also asks about church lifestyles, such as mission service, level of activity in the church, and more.

With a profile complete, you can choose from three packages. The Online Concierge Level is free, which essentially puts you in a pool of potential candidates. Unlike more traditional online dating sites, this pool is not open to the public—it’s a private database for the professional matchmakers to utilize in searching for first-date candidates with paying clients. 

The Online Matchmaking Level runs just under $7,000 for two months, which includes online matchmaking, personalized coaching, dating strategy sessions, and access to online relationship coaching by therapist and author, Alisa Snell. Finally, VIP Matchmaking will cost you just under $10,000 for two months, which includes everything in the Concierge package, along with “quality dates with top tier singles” the firm “proactively targets and recruits nationwide.”

Perhaps what’s most compelling about Latter-Day Matchmaker is that beyond finding compatible candidates, they are focused on helping clients identify and improve their approach to dating and relationships. Initially, they ask clients to list 10 to 15 characteristics they are looking for in a partner. They use those characteristics to run a confidential search (the online part) and then vet a shortlist of candidates (the personal matchmaking part). Often, they nudge clients toward broadening their criteria. 

“Here’s an example of a guy who told us he only wanted to date blondes. He wanted them to be 10 years younger than him because he was older, in his 40s, and still wanted to have a large family,” says Stevens Seal. “After dating these women, he realized there was a maturity gap in the age gap, he also said ‘I also want to open it up to women who have kids—I’m missing out on a lot of great women.’ He’s having a lot more success with dating now.”

The firm’s ongoing coaching helps root out “dating thinking errors,” and even provides “feedback dating,” where an employee goes on a date with a client to observe strengths and challenges. Stevens Seal describes one client who worked in the medical field and talked about “medical stuff that’s a little bit gory. Our feedback dater said ‘That’s not gonna’ fly.’” The feedback apparently helped him realize not everyone wants to chat about spleens over steak. 

As for why professional matchmaking is worth the investment and effort, Latter-Day Matchmaker’s clients offer insight. Now-married couple, Chad and Tamara say they were looking for new ways to meet people and found online dating “challenging and time-consuming.” Chad says, “Hands down the best place I had experienced meeting good quality people with the same beliefs and standards that want to find a good person to build a relationship with.” 

As for those who may not be in the Latter-Day Matchmaker’s demographic, services like It’s Just Lunch can provide valuable connections. “A lot of people who come to us don’t have a strong LDS background. Our clients tend to be a lot more open, and definitely have a lot more flexibility in their parameters,” says Marlo Slovacek, an It’s Just Lunch senior matchmaker. “Utah has just 3.8 million people, and everyone’s spread apart. I feel like we’re successful because sometimes I can get somebody from Logan meeting somebody who wouldn’t normally be out in Park City.”

If you decide to take the professional matchmaking plunge, whomever you work with, a satisfied former customer has advice: “Just be open-minded as far as trying different services,” says Natalie, who worked with Latter-Day Matchmaker. “You never know what in particular is going to work for you.  Also, you need to be open to giving people a chance. You may think you know your type and what you are looking for, but may actually be limiting yourself too much.”