How dating evolved through the years


Amy Loudon
Thursday 28 July 2011 15:11 BST

Whether matchmaking soul mates, facilitating marriages or simply starting two strangers off on the right path, online dating is jaw-droppingly brilliant in that it taps into something people do every day – meet other people speculatively with a view to romance.

But where did it all begin? Independent Dating take a stroll back through dating heritage, to see how we’ve arrived at the advance and sophisticated services that we use today.

Dating Agencies have been around longer than most people would probably imagine. So long in fact, that we’d need to go all the way back to the 16century when courting was rooted in the era of arranged marriages. Believe it or not the first agency was run by Parish Vicars, who would put together lists of candidates who they believed were compatible for marriage. The lists were based on social class with the idea being that people were matched with others in the same class as themselves. At this time, being single past the age of 21 carried with it a deep stigma so although rarely talked about, this was something that many people turned to. Real identities were not used so it was a service that relied very much on pure chance as to who you would end up with.

A little later, in 1825, a London based Agency opened its doors to business. Although it was the first agency of its kind to not be run by the Church, it was still very much class orientated and largely used as a last resort for men, who were looking for a good wife. If a match was found under these circumstances it was very unlikely that you boasted about it.

These early attempts at matchmaking were somewhat lacking in their basic approach, and the majority of the population found greater success through meeting their partners in a more traditional way, through their jobs, their families or their social circles.

The start of what could be deemed as the ‘first wave’ of what we recognise as a modern Dating Agency came post World War II. It was in this period of economic prosperity and the emergence of new kinds of leisure and amusements, that ‘Dating Clubs’ were able to set up and run as commercial businesses. People would join, have their photograph taken, and give information about themselves and the type of partner they were looking to meet. The club would then be pro-active in matching them to a suitable partner, based on the information.

In the 20 century, personal ads went mainstream and were initially popular with ‘bohemian’ people, looking to make friends or pen-pals. It wasn’t until the late 1960’s, when ads became part of the growing culture in the UK, that the personal ad became relatively acceptable.

Fast forward to the 21 century and it’s no secret that we turn to the internet for everything nowadays. We have well and truly left behind traditional values of courting and matchmaking and embraced our technological world, with self-promotion on the Internet becoming a way of life. In fact, the role of social networking sites has been paramount in the normalisation of online dating, making it an accepted and credible way to meet a new partner. Dating sites have come a long way since the days of the Parish Priests, with online dating being one of the largest growing industries of our time. Thus proving that while there will always be people looking for love, online dating will prove to be an integral part of our society. The question is; where will it take us next?

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