With the most romantic day of the year looming over us, Elle Blakeman meets two of Mayfair’s most exclusive matchmakers to see how they can help London’s most eligible singles?
So why are arguably most eligible members of society, turning to introduction agencies? ‘There is a definite shift in matchmaking become desirable amongst the world’s elite’ says Rachel MacLynn, founder of the ultra-exclusive Vida Consultancy. ‘I am working with more and more high status clients, some of whom practically boast to their friends that I am their matchmaker. I get invited to dinner parties, or to places like the Arts Club so my clients can introduce me to their single friends. One of my clients owns a polo team and he invited me to watch him play and meet his teammates – five years ago this would never have happened! ‘I also get a lot of referrals of woman who are seriously stunning – model looks and very intelligent. It really does seem that the world’s most exceptional people find it the most difficult to find their equally exceptional match. This is the area I have chosen to specialise in.’ A trained psychologist, MacLynn believes in a sort of relationship relativity theory – that people will unconsciously size themselves up and give themselves a rough ‘grade’ in life (for example, a score out of 10). The issue with those at the higher end of the scale, the smart, the rich, the beautiful, is that there are, naturally, fewer people in these higher categories. So for example, it may be relatively easy to find a 5/10 but near impossible to find a kindred 9/10.
While the wealthy and good-looking are rarely the subject of empathy, I can see her point. Where do you go once you’ve met everyone in your circle? ‘The whole dating scene has changed now’ agrees Molloy. ‘Twenty years ago you would meet people at work or at the pub, but now this seems to be happening less and less. Another thing that has changed in the modern dating world is our need for proximity. Like our business lives, which have now become increasingly global, our romantic one no longer needs to be tied to one area, especially when we’re not. ‘Many of our clients travel a lot so we arrange dates all over the world,’ says MacLynn.
‘It’s less socially acceptable to date people at work these days, particularly for high flyers’ – Mairead Molloy
‘They don’t want to feel like they are narrowing their search – most of our clients would take a job in San Franciso or New York, so why not consider finding a partner there?’ ‘I fly all over the world meeting people.’ I picture a cross between a Jewish mother and a sort of fairy Godmother, scouring the planet till she finds someone’s perfect soulmate. It seems that the economy has also played its part: ‘It’s less socially acceptable to date people at work these days, particularly for high flyers,’ says Molloy. And while tough times at work have made it harder to date, annoyingly, it also makes us want to settle down more: ‘When the recession started, the business started to grow again,’ says Molloy. ‘It’s terrible to be alone in times of difficulty.’ I also can’t help but think the British element comes in a lot here – we are, as a rule, reserved, especially when it comes to love. Most Englishmen I know would rather stick hot pins in their eyes than ask a beautiful women on a date. Do we need to be more like, well anyone else really – the pushy, can-do Americans, the demonstrative Italians, the love-of-amour French? ‘I agree the culture here hasn’t helped,’ says MacLynn. ‘But I think it’s more than people are unwilling to settle, and why should they?’ While agencies target the same high-net-worth demographic, their approaches are different. MacLynn, who I can already tell would size most people up within minutes, will sit down with you, assign you a matchmaker (you can request her personally for a higher fee), and discuss what you are looking for. ‘I’m always very honest and I don’t take people on if I don’t think we can help them.’ Once she’s happy to take you on, MacLynn will then tap into her huge global resource, consisting of several ambassadors in places from Zurich to San Francisco. She will then put forward potential dates, with full biographies and photographs, for you to choose from. At Berkeley International, one of Molloy’s team will sit down with you, find out what you’re about, and what you’re looking for (attempting to manage the ‘shopping lists’) before drawing up a short paragraph about the person, which get sent to potential suitors (and visa versa), with no photos. They will also do a round of background checks, and take passport scans, so that they know exactly who they are dealing with – no surprise divorcees or people about to get deported. They will work on an average of around two introductions a month. ‘We don’t use photos because people are quick to be put off. On Match.com you look at someone for all of two seconds before deciding if you are interested or not.’
While I agree in theory, surely it makes the whole process more of a numbers game – after all, without that ‘spark’ you really are just friends? ‘Yes but the spark is about more than just looks – it’s humour and how you interact and so on. One man was adamant that he only wanted to date English women, but I set him up with a Greek woman, and now they’re married.’ Indeed there are several big success stories from both agencies, Molloy tells me that they often scour the internet looking to see if their matches have ended in a big white wedding. ‘Sometimes it feels like being an estate agent – you work really closely with someone, until you find the perfect house, then you go through the buying process and as soon as you move in, you never want to hear from that person again!’MacLynn also tells me of several happy endings proudly as if they are friends she’s matched up, which I guess is what her approach is (only rather than one overweight divorcee and a ‘nice guy who used to be homeless’, this friend just happens to have a huge database of very eligible singles in her phonebook).
‘One woman fell completely off-radar for a week after a date and I thought “Oh God, they hated each other!”, but apparently it had gone so well they both decided to stay in France (where the date was arranged) and spend the week together. ‘She called me and said “I don’t know where you came from but I truly believe you were sent to help me,” says MacLynn’. ‘It is so satisfying to know that you are making a difference in someone’s life,’ says Molloy. ‘As one of my clients recently said: “I’ve got my health, I’ve got my wealth, where’s my happiness?” And that’s where we come in.’