A Dating Agency is a business function which provides services of ‘matchmaking’ through propagating the ideas of romance and marriage between potential couples. A Marriage Agency does similar functions, probably providing more services culminating in a marriage ceremony. Both services, though originally known about only discreetly, are increasingly become more on the lines of commercial businesses. Although dating agencies and marriage agencies have terms and conditions set out to prevent misuse or exploitation, there is the increasing fear that some agencies function as fronts for human trafficking or trade in humans.
There are many variations to dating and marriage agencies, along the lines of:
• Compensation based marriage agency – functions as an intermediary to introduce men from developed countries to potential partners but a large percentage of women are employees paid to interact with men
• Non-compensatory agency – is one that introduces men to potential brides but the women are not paid to be on the site
• Face-to-face – an agency where men and women come in person to request the services of a matchmaker to find them the right partner
• Internet dating agency – an online agency or portal where men and women register and leave profiles through which they can contact or be contacted by others who have registered as members
• Speed dating – this refers to rotation of partners by a group of people who try to find commonalities of desires and personalities in a set time-frame
However, as can be expected, the online and speed dating agencies are among the largest categories.
History of dating and marriage agencies
In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, England witnessed a spurt of marriage agencies primarily run by clergymen or church elders to propagate marriage and matrimony, through a Matrimonial Plan, established in every county and town. The plan required all ladies and men who wish to enter into a ‘treaty of marriage’ to subscribe a certain amount of money. Thus began the first truly commercial dating and marriage agency.
The rules required that men and women classify themselves into three classes, age being an important criterion and list among other things, how much income they earned or what amount of money would be set aside for a dowry.
The first recorded agency or establishment began functioning in Bishopsgate, London in 1825; it provided services three days a week for general public to describe themselves, based on which they would be given subscription to appropriate lists to get partners.
The post World War II years saw a great spurt in commercial agencies in the western world, mostly discreetly, for people in the 25-45 age group; however, advertisements in newspapers and magazines became more visible.