Matchmaker Mixes Business With Pleasure

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ann Wood spends her days helping people find love, yet she never gets invited to their weddings. "How would they introduce me?" she jokes.

She has been a professional matchmaker since 1986. The job gives her a window into changing lives and societal trends. Women nowadays are more assertive and express their opinions, she said, and she thinks they have an advantage in finding a partner.

"Women talk among themselves about looking for someone. Men don't do that. . . . A judge in the Maryland courts was one of the few men who said everyone in the courthouse knows he's looking."

Matchmaking is a growing field, attracting former real estate brokers, headhunters and human resources professionals, said Lisa Clampitt, executive director of the Matchmaking Institute training program in New York. About 1,500 people work at private matchmaking firms, and their business has grown as people decide they don't have the time to weed through thousands of online dating profiles.

Wood, a former writer for the Washington Star and the New York Daily News, finds her journalistic training useful. "I listen to [clients] and try to help them find out what they're looking for," she said.

Clients come to her Georgetown office for a chat, and if they hit it off with her, they sign a simple contract, paying $1,000 for a year's consulting services.

Matchmakers must have patience, kindness and a fascination with people, Wood said. Intuition helps, too.

She matches politicians, lawyers and professionals, most aged 30 to 50. She prefers people "who are doing something with their lives."

She dislikes clients who lack good manners or who forget how picky they are. She gives advice freely -- and learned early on not to argue with a client. A bit old-fashioned, she believes courtesy could go a long way in making dating more agreeable.

Despite the many matches she has made, Wood is single. She said, "I don't want to pick up anyone else's socks."

-- Vickie Elmer

© 2008 The Washington Post Company