The matchmakers who help Minneapolitans find love

In an age of online dating local matchmakers still work their magic.

Matchmakers Denys Crea and Amy Rolando, the founders of relationship agency Pairings Group, help about eight clients each year find love. Submitted photo.

When singles in Minneapolis want to find love they could download an app or ask a friend, or they could turn to someone like Amy Rolando.

For the past two decades Rolando has attended several weddings where the bride or groom wasn’t a friend or a family member, but a client. She’s the founder of downtown Minneapolis-based relationship agency Pairings Group and a professional matchmaker, someone who works a database of singles, their own personal networks and even family to find connections for her clients.

“Our clients have full lives — friends, a great job, their kids — but nothing can replace an intimate relationship, and that’s what really drives it,” she said. “There is nothing more important in this world than relationships. There just isn’t.”

Rolando got her start in matchmaking in her 20s. A TV news meteorologist by trade, she didn’t get into the relationship-making industry until she launched a dating service in the ’90s after seeing a dearth of approachable options out there.

“It was unbelievable what was out there at the time. I didn’t realize how big a need there was until I launched it,” Rolando said.

About 20 years later Rolando has honed in her services to true-to-form matchmaking where she and her business partner Denys Crea act much like private detectives, searching for the right someone for only eight or so clients each year. Through the high-end service, clients retain the duo, usually for about a year, to attend events, find singles and vet promising people on their behalf. It’s only after they interview a potential match the client goes on a date.

“Anybody can get a date. It’s about vetting the right people and the last thing I want to do is put somebody in front of you and you’re sitting there like ‘Are you kidding me?’” she said.

The process is similar for April Davis, the owner of LUMA!, a St. Louis Park-based matchmaking company that employs about five matchmakers. Not only do they comb through contacts and their own free singles registry — Davis has an online pool of 20,000 people around the country — they vet clients as well.

Usually clients tend to be professionals in their 30s to 60s who don’t want to waste time on date after date, or they may not want to put themselves out there on dating websites. Many have been divorced — about half of her clients are, Davis said — and many see it as an investment.

“[They’re] people who are busy. A lot of times they’re successful. And picky. They don’t want to waste their time with just anyone,” she said.

The business involves a lot of coaching, and several matchmakers are also certified life coaches or have experience in giving relationship advice. Kailen Rosenberg, CEO and founder of Love Architects and a relationship expert who’s worked with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, coaches clients to find the right person. She recently launched the Lodge, a private social club at the Calhoun Beach Club where she hosts a boot camp for singles, custom mixers for clients and other events.

“Success for me is … when [a client has] that major tear-jerking ‘aha’ moment when they’ve finally met their true self and get who they are, and because of us they are empowered,” Rosenberg said.

Matchmaking services are a great deal more expensive than free apps or paid memberships for online dating sites. Packages range from a couple thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars to retain experienced local matchmakers, though many, like Rolando, offer cheaper “wingman” or dating re-entry services as well. But matchmaking companies say they save clients time and heartache while finding success in about four in five clients.

“Over the last 20 years people have really embraced that online dating option, but you’re spending a lot of time and effort and not getting a lot of results. People are starting to realize the value of a matchmaker,” said Courtney Smallbeck, the director of marketing in the Minneapolis office of It’s Just Lunch, a dating service with more than 150 locations worldwide.

Davis said the difference is in what you pay for. With matchmakers you get professionals to coach you through the vulnerable act of finding love.

“You don’t have to have millions of dollars, but you have to recognize the value of what we do and that it’s going to cost you money,” she said. “Our goal is to go to your wedding. We’re in the business of making love [and] making babies.”

What do matchmakers suggest when getting back into dating?

Tweak your clothes and hair. Davis said she connects clients with a hairstylist and does some of her own shopping for clients. It’s Just Lunch also employs an in-house stylist.

“You’re not going to ‘Cinderella’ anyone, but just a 10-percent change, those minor tweaks, can have a significant impact,” she said. “I’ve spent a lot of time at Macy’s.”

Don’t play the blame game. Rosenberg tells her clients to talk about their role in past relationships instead of what the other person did, and clients often give her a deer-in-the-headlights look.

“I don’t want to hear anything about your ex. What did you learn about you and what do we need to improve about you so that you don’t do it again?” she said.

Don’t always listen to your friends. While friends want to match up other friends, they rarely go beyond simple shared details such as age or career. As Rolando said, “friends only go so far.”

What’s the key to a successful relationship?

Mutual admiration. “You hear a ton about respect and integrity, but you don’t hear admiration. Admiration is very different from respect,” Rolando said. “You’re proud of who that person is. You’re proud of how they treat other people. You’re proud to be with that person. And they’re proud to be with you.”

Don’t immediately say no to someone. Davis said while many people are quick to write someone off, it’s better to give someone a chance.

“The most successful people in 20 years are those who don’t dismiss people immediately,” she said.

Find someone with a similar childhood. Growing up with a similar personal history provides a wealth of connections.