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BBC Capital

Finding love comes at a cost

About the author

Andrea Murad is a freelance investing and careers writer based in New York City.

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Ahh, new love. You’ve seen it in the movies, on television and amongst your friends — yet it seems so elusive.

Meeting the right person is part luck, but often an investment of time and money as well. There's no doubt sparks still fly at cafes and parties, yet many are turning to a variety of services for a little help. Dating websites and matchmaking services have become go-to resources for people looking for that perfect combination of attraction, intellectual chemistry and just-right caring and giving partner.

In the United States, Australia, Thailand, India and parts of Europe, dating websites have grown exponentially since launching in the 1990s and the use of professional matchmakers is also gaining popularity.

But getting help with finding a perfect match does not come cheaply. In honour of the US Valentines Day celebration of love and relationships observed every 14 February, BBC Capital spoke with a variety of experts on the cost of locating a mate.

Matchmakers and Dating Services 

“Matchmakers are assistants for your love life,” said Lisa Clampitt, president of the Matchmaking Institute and founder and president of New York-based social club VIP Life.

Those seeking love usually have a so-called ‘wish list’. The challenge for matchmakers is to break down a client’s shopping list into values. “That’s the core of compatibility,” said Rachel MacLynn, managing director at the Vida Consultancy in London.  For instance, a client who wants a partner who climbed Mount Everest may be happy with someone with a sense of adventure.

Matchmakers must also combine wishes and values with other socioeconomic characteristics such as location, family, upbringing, education, career, lifestyle and relationship history. All this matching comes at a cost.

London-based Vida Consultancy makes about 10 introductions a year and charges between £9,000 ($14,700) and £50,000 ($81,690) depending on the required resources. Membership for men to VIP Life costs $15,000 for an unlimited number of dates in a year, while eligible women hoping to be matched can join for free. In Singapore, singles joining It’s Just Lunch, a client-to-client agency, pay SGD$2,400 ($1,893) for at least 10 dates in a year.

“Life is moving very fast,” said Maite Plimmer, international senior matchmaker at the Vida Consultancy in Zurich. “That’s one of the problems in finding the right relationship — people have less patience today and we need to step back.”

Before hiring a matchmaker, ask to see three potential matches, said Clampitt. Before signing, discuss the process, the number of introductions, the contract term and the matchmaker’s history and success rate. Meet the person who will be matching you and ask whether they’ll provide feedback.

Online Dating

Online dating offers a myriad of choices. This can be a blessing and a curse. While perusing hundreds of profiles might seem daunting, “online [dating] is an amazing resource to at least build up your confidence that there are people out there,” said Clampitt.

Those who once placed newspaper ads to find a mate now have a variety of ‘new economy’ choices. Indian parents, for instance, are now turning to websites like Shaadi.com that cater to the global South Asian community. Shaadi.com prides itself on providing profiles that touch on values deemed vital for an arranged marriage. These include a person’s background, education, community, family size, horoscopes, income, ancestral homes and photos.

For singles in the west, there are two types of websites. Some, such as eHarmony and Chemistry.com, require completing time-consuming questionnaires. Others, such as Match.com and OKCupid, allow users to search right away.

Meeting a partner online may require going on 100 dates, according to Siggy Flicker, a New York-based relationship expert and matchmaker. Success rates for matching websites are hard to determine, though many offer ‘success statistics’ to interested users.

No matter where they’re based, most websites charge the equivalent of $15 per month — this is the cost of about five cups of coffee or one or two lunches in many urban areas. There are free websites, but they charge for specialised services such as custom search options or receipts that your messages were read. India-based Shaadi.com has assisted matchmaking to help screen profiles and make introductions at a cost of 19,000 rupee ($305) for three months.

Sometimes paying extra for a personal touch pays off in other ways. “They approach the other side and if they’re not interested, they’ll let you down gently and soften the blows of rejection,” said Gourav Rakshit, chief operating officer of Shaadi.com in Mumbai. He said 10% to 15% of members use this upgraded service — mostly parents posting profiles for their children.

The Traditional Way

Even meeting your life partner the ‘traditional way’ can come at a cost. Dates are expensive and time consuming, so people the world over look for help. Indians can turn to Floh, a singles network where people can socialise at events like dinners, wine tastings, sailing excursions, shows and treasure hunts.

“People are investing time to figure out compatibility,” said Rakshit.

The three-year-old professional singles network has about 1,000 members between 25 and 35 years old, most of whom have master’s degrees. Joining Floh costs between INR7,500 ($120) for three months and INR15,000 ($240) for a 12-month membership.

 “It’s a very organic way of making friends and because they’re single, they end up in relationships with each other,” said Siddharth Mangharam, chief executive officer of Floh in Bangalore. To date, more than a dozen couples who met through Floh have married.

Still, many singles in the west prefer to find mates by pursuing hobbies and interests, rather than using a third party to arrange such activities.

 “Put yourself out there until you find the right person — nothing is more important than finding love,” said Flicker.

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