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Money for marriage: Inside the world of online matchmakers

By Passant Hisham

KUWAIT: Perhaps it’s easy to assume that arranged marriage is an outdated tradition, almost forgotten in today’s world where there’s a lot of hype about romantic love stories and their “happily ever after” endings. However, in Kuwait, arranged marriages are not only surviving but evolving, especially with the rise of social media. The “matchmaker” or in Arabic, “Khataba” job title has found a new home on Instagram, where hundreds of matchmakers’ business accounts have emerged. Once a couple going through the matchmaking process decides to get married, the online “Khataba” charges up to KD 500 from both partners. Prices vary among matchmakers and can be negotiated, some of them also request a non-refundable deposit at the beginning of the process, which can reach up to KD 20.

Om Hassan, a matchmaker in Kuwait who has matched over 1,000 couples in the past eight years, explained the nature of her job, which looked very similar to that of an HR employee searching for the best candidate for an open vacancy. She meets with the parents of single men and women, gathers all personal data about them, and receives their specific requirements for desired partners. She then begins her search for the perfect match discreetly and confidentially, only revealing people’s data with their permission. Om Hassan either reaches out to her network or posts an anonymous advertisement listing her clients’ features and their requirements on her social media page.

Her role comes down to moderating the matching process, recommending suitable candidates, and introducing eligible bachelors to each other. She follows up with the couple until their families meet. If either party decides to step back for any reason, she is always ready to file a new request and connect with another individual.

Some might be lucky enough to find their perfect matches and schedule engagement dates within a week, a trend popular among the younger generation. However, older individuals, she noted, might wait up to two years to find a suitable spouse. According to her, one of the main reasons for delayed marriage among some women is their high standards, as they often seek men from well-known families, with high educational qualifications or reputable job positions. On the other hand, men’s delays often stem from their search for conservative women who dress modestly.

Om Manea, another matchmaker with 16 years of experience, mentioned that most of her clients are between 20 and 40 years old, with few reaching 50 or 60. She stressed that she doesn’t accept clients under 21 years old because she requires them to be mature and educated. While she prioritizes her Kuwaiti candidates, she also serves clients from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Algeria. Requirements vary widely, from specific physical characteristics like weight, skin tone, and height, to tribal affiliations and educational backgrounds. In many cases, she noted that appearance and reputation are essential factors that can either facilitate or hinder a potential marriage.

She believes that what gives this marriage approach edge is the ability for each person to find exactly the qualities they are seeking in a partner. Also, for those unable to find a suitable match within their families, they turn to this method to connect with someone outside their immediate circle.

However, what disappoints Om Hassan, and many other matchmakers, is when couples proceed with the matchmaking process but later report that it didn’t work out, sometimes attempting to avoid paying fees as a result. To protect their rights, each matchmaker typically retains a lawyer to handle such legal matters.

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