I recently got back from California, where my eldest daughter had her wedding ceremony. In this case, it was her (already) long-term boyfriend. So, for all practical practical purposes, they were already married. They did it very cheaply, in their own backyard. I’m all for that; people spend WAY too much on weddings these days. What’s important is the decades that come afterward, not so much the ceremony.
I’m an odd fellow. To put it politely, I’m “eccentric.” So a guy like me, unless he’s wealthy, has few opportunities when it comes to dating or marriage. And yet I did get married (for a while). How did I do it? The answer is two-fold. I moved to a third-world country (Israel, where being American carries some status) and I took advantage of an age-old Jewish institution: The shadkhan (also spelled shadchan).
A shadkhan is a person (of either gender) who facilitates marriage by arranging meetings between eligible people at the shadkhan’s home. When a son or daughter reaches marriageable age, their parents might avail themselves of this service. Many shadkhanim (plural) do this work for free, as it’s considered a “mitzvah” (a good deed), but donations are accepted. The shadkhan is usually an older person who is well-established in the community. Though the parents are involved (or a rabbi, if the person is an orphan), these are not “arranged marriages.” The man and woman have final say. It’s their call whether to move forward or not.
In the old days, parents would arrange dowries through the shadkhan. The shadkhan would be familiar with the families of each side, and along with the parents, help assure that the families were also a good match. After all, it’s not just the individuals who were to be married, but the families as well. Marriage is a community affair.
Modern America badly needs this institution. It would make life a lot easier, and safer, for those looking to get married. Instead of wasting time and money on dating sites, or approaching complete strangers in the mall, people could simply visit their neighborhood shadkhan. They’d pay a fee and the shadkhan would do background checks and get to know the client. Using his best judgment, the shadkhan would then call the client when he found a likely match. As the shadkhan’s successes accumulate, so would his reputation – and more people would seek him out