Ireland has many claims to romantic fame. We have a legacy of poets, although most of their love poetry features tragedy. The same is true of our romantic ballads. St. Valentine is buried in Dublin. Well, not all of him. But a relic of his is at Whitefriar Church on Dublin’s south side, not far from St. Stephen’s Green, which is a nice place for a romantic stroll, or alternatively a spot a place to watch the girls and boys go by. But Ireland is still home to an enduring profession for incurable romantics, for those who love to see people fall in love. Despite massive social changes, traditional Irish matchmaking still lives on.
Yes, in the age of Tinder, professional matchmakers offer an option. More objective than meddling parents or friends, and more thoughtful and insightful than scrolling through profiles, Irish matchmakers actually do connect some people who then sincerely fall in love and live happily ever after. And it has one key advantage over a blind date arranged by friends or family – no pressure. If nothing clicks, well, on to the next option with no one taking it personally. It can be a case of the old ways being the best ways for some.
Irish Matchmaking Festivals Today
The most famous matchmaking event in Ireland is the annual festival in Lisdoonvarna, County Clare. For more than 160 years, hopeful singles have gathered in this charming village to look for that special someone. Today, the event packs live music and dancing, mostly country, into the month of September. As the biggest event of its kind in Europe, it draws a diverse crowd including local farmers and tourists. And yes, a professional matchmaker is on duty.
Another village on Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast also boasts a matchmaking festival. Promising music, games and traditional matchmakers, Ardara in County Donegal offers hope to anyone who didn’t find love in Lisdoonvarna. Their festival is scheduled for November. Those who went to Lisdoonvarna have just enough to time to decide if anyone they met there has potential or if they are still looking!
Does Traditional Irish Matchmaking Really Work?
The essence of traditional matchmaking is getting beneath the surface of individuals to learn what they really want and what makes them tick. Matchmakers will assemble books with notes about their clients and review them for possible matches. They can ask questions to fill in any gaps in what people say about themselves. And matchmakers can also make their own observations about their clients.
Some matchmakers will either go along on a couple’s first date or observe from a distance, partially for safety reasons and partially to see if the clients get a certain sparkle in their eyes. Others will do some basic background checks, such as making inquiries with the police or the parish priest, before matching a client.
How successful is traditional Irish matchmaking today? Not all happy couples want to announce that they met through a matchmaker, but matchmakers are very confident of their success. Gus Martyn, a matchmaker and farmer in County Meath, told the Irish Examiner that he’s made more than 100 successful matches. Willie Day is the matchmaking force of nature behind the current Lisdoonvarna festival. He claims credit for approximately 3,000 marriages over the last 50 years. But of course, the real credit goes to the individual clients. The people who go to a matchmaker tend to be serious about finding a match, which is more than can be said for many Tinder users.