The Scoop: When you think of matchmaking, you probably think of an old-timey system where a wise woman arranged marriages between young people, but modern matchmaking isn’t like that at all. It’s more about empowering singles to meet people rather than telling them what to do or who to like. Selective singles tell their matchmaker what kind of relationship and partner they’re looking for, and the matchmaker does everything possible to find and arrange compatible dates. The matching process is similar to online dating except with more personalized feedback and date recommendations. We spoke with Match VIP CEO Shannon Davidoff to clarify the differences between modern matchmaking and online dating, so singles can get an idea of what to expect from both.

The dating scene is always in flux. New tools, services, and experts arise all the time to help singles find their way to lasting relationships, and it can be overwhelming for a single person who just wants a date but doesn’t know where to start looking.

That’s why we’ve put together an overview of two of the most popular dating services today: online dating and matchmaking. We asked Shannon Davidoff, a lauded matchmaker, to give us her take on the benefits and drawbacks of joining a dating site versus hiring a matchmaker.

Shannon owns two successful matchmaking agencies, Perfect Partners and Match VIP, and has spent years working closely alongside discerning singles in South Africa. As a professional matchmaker, she provides personalized assistance to singles who have achieved success in their careers and now want to focus on improving their love lives.

“We work happily for very long hours and often at personal expense because we do care!” — Shannon Davidoff, professional matchmaker

Match VIP introduces compatible professionals in a streamlined process that’s different from the do-it-yourself tools of online dating. Shannon’s long record of success has given her insight into what makes relationships flourish and the challenges facing modern singles. She gave us her two cents on the dating scene and matchmaking industry, noting that the average person doesn’t know very much about either one.

“Every day we answer questions about what a matchmaker actually does,” she said. “A day in the life of a matchmaker: Educate, promote, market, advertise, recruit, profile, coach, intervene, communicate, and, finally the best part, introduce!”

Dating Sites Have Tons of Options, But Nothing Is Guaranteed

Somewhere around 8,000 dating sites exist in the world, with 1,000 new platforms launching every year, so it’s safe to say singles have a lot of options when it comes to online dating. They can choose a site for practically any orientation, religion, hobby, fetish, or personal trait. There are dating apps for bisexual singles and dating sites for sugar mommies. There’s even a dating site for people who like My Little Pony (it’s called BronyMate, and it’s glorious).

Shannon pointed out that not all of these dating platforms are wholesome places for honest, good-natured pony lovers. Some dating sites or apps have shady data-sharing practices or high paywalls that keep singles in a dating purgatory. Some dating sites make the industry as a whole look bad by being more interested in maximizing signups rather than fostering real-life success stories.

Graphic of dating apps

One of online dating’s drawbacks is that, sometimes, you can’t be sure someone is who they say they are in their profiles.

Singles who are new to online dating can wind up having a bad experience simply because they don’t know which dating sites to trust with their hearts.

Shannon condemned those dating sites that are full of fake profiles, saying, “Truth and honesty are the least important matters it would appear. People are not who they say they are.” She told us online dating needs to maintain higher standards to keep people safe and provide more trustworthy matches.

Online dating burnout has become increasingly commonplace as today’s singles join one or more dating sites, fail to meet someone special, and tire of endlessly swiping through profiles. While some dating sites have come up with innovative ways to keep users interested (Happn released a new mapping feature and Tinder is developing a news feed) the difficulty of finding romance through text and photos remains an issue for singles hoping to meet people — instead of wasting hours typing messages to someone who’s in a relationship or otherwise unavailable.

“Agendas abound, and some really only want fun and games,” Shannon said. “Some singles are even happier with cyber love and fall in love with others they have never met. There’s something for everybody, but the best route is still the good old-fashioned matchmaker, who is also your friend, combining the human touch with digital expertise.”

Matchmaking Can Offer More Privacy & Peace of Mind

Shannon is a professional matchmaker, so it’s safe to assume she’s a fan of the matchmaking process. She explained that many singles don’t know what the expect when signing up for a matchmaking service and part of her job involves explaining how matchmaking can solve their dating woes.

“We gather up all the like-minded singles who are sincere and genuinely wish to settle down,” she said. “All with a common goal to find lasting and fulfilling love.”

Matchmakers, like dating sites, often rely on a database of singles who have signed up because they want to be introduced to someone. The main difference is matchmakers have more resources to vet these individuals and select high-quality matches for their clients. Matchmakers take the time and care to look at their client’s lifestyle, expectations, and dealbreakers, and then they use that information (plus their own intuition) to arrange compatible dates for them.

Singles who choose matchmaking over online dating often do so because they want a professional handling their date calendar and ensuring they have a great experience.

“You guys are always there for me when I need you… and I have learned to be choosy and value and care about me.” — A Match VIP client

Matchmaking also differs from online dating because of the feedback it can provide singles. A dating professional can sit down with the client and explain how dating works and what they can do to be more successful. Oftentimes, matchmaking services include dating coaching or image consultations as well as premier introductions.

Match VIP, for instance, offers a personal dating coach who can identify what the client is doing right or wrong in the dating scene.

“Feedback is necessary so your matchmaker can track your progress, or lack of it,” Shannon said. “Date coaching and guidance is part of the service, if needed.”

Both Take Time — But Matchmaking Saves You Effort

Both online dating and matchmaking require a significant investment from singles. Online dating’s main cost is time (since most dating sites are free to join), while matchmaking’s main expense is, well, money. You pay a monthly or yearly fee to your matchmaker of choice, and then you sit back and let the professionals do the searching, scouting, and vetting.

It’s a common misconception that matchmaking is only for the superrich. Shannon told us Match VIP makes an effort to provide premium services as well as affordable matchmaking packages to suit the needs of singles of all budgets.

Photo of the Match VIP logo

Match VIP caters to gainfully employed and emotionally stable singles.

When you’re online dating, the bulk of your time will be spent looking for dates rather than going on dates. But, with matchmaking, the reverse is true. Singles only have to worry about showing up on time for their arranged introductions. Some matchmakers will even make the reservation at the restaurant. This is a no-muss, no-fuss dating process that appeals primarily to working professionals who don’t have time to waste on superficial or inefficient dating sites and apps.

“Timing, patience and hard work is involved, and your matchmaker is your buffer against extreme time-wasting and futile searches,” Shannon said. “Once the introduction is done, it is up to the parties to work at their attraction factor to keep the love fires burning.”

At the end of the day, all online dating and matchmaking can do is put dateworthy people in front of you — it’s up to you to decide who you like and how to make that connection grow. Matchmakers can offer dating tips and relationship strategies, but they can’t accompany you on the date. Once you’re on the date, it’s up to you to make it a success.

If you’re frustrated with online dating, you may want to give matchmaking a try because these professionals will never stop working, caring, and cheering for you.

“We are all team players in your campaign with you as our star, and we just love what we do,” Shannon said. “Our karmic calling is to make happy singles into happy couples, a happy community, and even a happier world. Love makes the world go round.”

Singles Don’t Have to Struggle on Their Own

There are many reasons to hire a matchmaker, but most singles end up at the offices of Match VIP, Perfect Partners, or another matchmaking firm simply because they want to go on dates with interesting and attractive people. They’re tired of searching in bars, at parties, and on dating apps on their own and want someone to help them avoid bad dates and focus on date prospects with relationship potential.

Shannon told us that the first step to becoming a successful dater is knowing what dating services are available to help you and figuring out which one is right for your needs.

Online dating provides more than enough options for singles to sift through, but not everyone has that kind of time on their hands. Matchmaking is a more targeted and personalized system that saves time and effort, yet often comes with a high price tag. Whether you find yourself drawn to the virtual dating space or the elite matchmaking arena, you should do your homework to zero in on the best dating services available.

“We are still amazed so many singles in the world do not know the many dating platforms available out there,” Shannon said. “There’s dating, and there’s online dating, and then there are matchmakers!”