About a year ago I had printed an article regarding all the planning and arranging that goes into putting together a singles event. A friend of mine and a few others planned a singles Chanukah event in someone’s house. She told me of all the issues that arose among the organizers – who all wanted the event to be perfect but had different ideas as to what “perfect” meant. She also told me of special requests and some complaints that she and the others dealt with from the singles themselves. I thought it was an eye-opening article, as many don’t know what goes into the planning of an event and they only judge things on what they actually see and experience at events.
Below is a letter from a shadchan who has put together a few events – not a novice like my friend. I printed the letter because she, too, gives an eye-opening account of all the planning and amount of care that goes into the event, and how many times the organizers aren’t thanked but rather left dealing with arguments, complaints, or issues from some who attend the event.
The purpose of this article is to remind others that many shadchanim try to help singles, out of the goodness of their hearts. They try to do all they can for singles, but sometimes their hard work is overlooked. Personally, I always thanked an event organizer; but I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears how a single may argue with an event organizer about who was invited or the venue or the food, etc.
I have read several of your columns and I was hoping that you can help get my message across to singles. You seem to be very blunt about dating issues, and I need to be bluntly honest here. So I thought this may good a platform for me to speak with singles.
I live in Queens and I have a family as well as a full-time job. I am also a shadchan. I have set up dozens of singles and have had six couples actually find each other and marry. I have also organized (with others and on my own) singles events. Mostly the events were in late afternoons and evenings, but one was a small Shabbaton. Any type of event, no matter how big or small, is a huge undertaking. I want to let singles out there know exactly what goes into planning an event and how we shadchanim feel when we put all we have into planning and trying to arrange every minute detail for an event, only to have singles badmouth an event or start an “issue” at the event.
I’m just speaking to those who come and are already resenting the fact that they have to come to an event, and they think that the event is beneath them or something like that. Many singles come and are appreciative of all our efforts. But it really aggravates and hurts our feelings when we hear all the negativity. Sometimes I want to scream, “We’re doing this for you! To help you! Why are you being so nasty? Next time, don’t come!” But I never say that. I just thank them for their feedback and promise to try to do better next time.
The plans for an event around a Yom Tov or other special day, such as Chanukah or Purim or Shabbos Nachamu, begin months in advance. I don’t know if people think we start planning during the week that phone calls or emails go out, but that is not the case at all. The same thing happens when we plan an event for a Sunday in the winter or spring. Months ahead of time, phone calls between me and three or four other shadchanim begin. We plan a time to meet, which isn’t easy because everyone has busy lives and we don’t want to ignore our families; but because we feel this is an important cause, we carve out time.
During this initial meeting, many things are discussed, including when the event should be held; we don’t want it to inconvenience too many people, so we try not to plan it for a busy holiday weekend or right before a Yom Tov. We discuss the type of single who should be invited – hashkafah, age, etc. – because we want the group and singles to jell and mesh nicely. We realize that singles see others at the same events over and over, and we always try to figure out a way to get new faces to be included; so all of us shadchanim bring along our file books or boxes. The venue is also discussed. An event should be held some place that is centrally located for many singles attending; but yes, we understand that some will have to travel farther than others, some may need to carpool. The place should also be able to accommodate the amount of people invited without them feeling squeezed in or tight. It should have areas for standing, tables and chairs, and where food can be set up. Truthfully, an event in the spring and summer may be easier to plan, because many people have backyards that are large enough to accommodate such an event and that cuts down on costs, which everyone appreciates. This is what usually happens at the initial meetings at which I have been present.
In the next few weeks and months, a slew of phone calls, texts, and emails are sent among the organizers regarding exactly what vendors will be used for the event, the choices of food (we try to have something for everyone), and the entertainment, activity, or speaker that may be appropriate for the event. This topic is always a minefield to navigate, because some feel that entertainment halts the meeting and conversation between singles, and others feel that just meeting and talking for three or four hours could be boring; so a balance has to be met and then it has to be an appealing choice for all. Everyone is assigned a task and updates the others on the task’s progress or if assistance is needed. Many times, I would work on my event tasks until the wee hours of the morning, because I would only be able to start on them after the kids were tucked in and the house responsibilities are taken care of.
Truthfully, I sometimes dread the weeks following when the event announcement email is sent out or is posted to social media. Why would I dread it? Because then the phone calls begin. I can’t tell you how many calls I have received asking me to arrange a carpool for the single or to tell him or her which other singles were invited, so they can decide if it’s worth it for them to come. I just love the calls when people tell me that they think they will be able to come for the last hour or two of the event and because they aren’t coming for the whole event, they only want to pay half or a quarter of what we are charging. Let me add that I have never hosted or have been part of an event that charged singles more than $35. We try to keep costs low because we understand that some may not have disposable income, yet they need to come to an event in order to meet their possible bashert.
When we make arrangements with food vendors and the “entertainment,” we explain what we are doing and many times we can arrange for a discounted rate (if we advertise the vendors). Many rabbanim have waived their speaking fee because they realize what a need it is to have singles be able to meet and connect with each other. Yes, there are out-of-pocket fees that organizers cover, and we are happy to do so; but when I was once accused of organizing an event “for the money,” that was untrue and hurtful. Some singles are even confrontational on the phone. I have been asked questions such as, “Why is your event different from others?” and “I want to bring three of my friends. They weren’t invited, but we will ‘make your event.’ If they can’t come, neither can I.” I almost want to tell them how rude they sound or tell them not to come, but I am always reminded that we are trying to help singles, so I never turn anyone away. But I always tell the people who ask why they should attend the event that they need to decide that on their own, and if they don’t want to, that is fine, as well.”
Fast forward to the day or night of the event. Hours before the event, organizers are running around like “busy little bees” trying to take care of last-minute issues, which always arise. I remember once, another hostess called me up mid-panic-attack because the illusionist had just canceled due to illness. Luckily, a local rav was available to speak that night and gave a lighthearted 15-minute speech, which was spot on and well received by the singles. At the events that I have been a part of, the other shadchanim and I try to have lists ready (for our own use) of all the singles that had RSVP’d and their contact information and are ready to write down names of anyone they may want us to contact for them on their behalf after the event. We also have basic information of all those attending (age, hashkafah, schooling, career, etc.), in case we are asked by any single during the event about someone he or she is interested in, but is too shy to approach.
Many times, we are at a loss when singles show up at the event who weren’t directly invited or don’t exactly fit into the criteria that we planned for, but we never turn anyone away. It just makes it harder for us, because we may not know who they are or the type of person each one is, and is looking for. At one event, over 30 unexpected people came. They claimed they either just found out about the event or weren’t sure they would even be able to attend, so they never RSVP’d. We hostesses had to ensure that there was enough food, beverages, places to sit, etc. Because we want everything to be near perfect, this did cause us some worry. Some of these unexpected people even had the chutzpah to complain at the end of the evening to another hostess that the event wasn’t what they expected, and they were disappointed in the “quality of the singles” who were present. The hostess was shocked, as were the rest of us, when she relayed the encounter to us afterwards. No one forced these people to come; they came of their own free will and then insult others who came? These were singles with chips on their shoulders and were trying to lecture my friend about who should be invited to her next event.
I remember sitting at one of our “wrap sessions” – this is held usually within a week of the event to discuss feedback and possible matches of couples that were made or can be made from the event – that one of the other shadchanim told us that she had a long discussion with a single party planner who had attended the event and was actually critiquing our event. The shadchan said that it was more than just constructive criticism and tips that can be followed for the next event. She said it was almost to the point of being harsh. Then the single had the nerve to give the shadchan her business card and encouraged her to call for the next event, so it can be “punched up and fabulous!” – those were the words we were told. Of course, we laughed it off. We saw it as someone trying to drum up business for herself, but it was hurtful to hear how our planned event was picked apart by someone we were trying to help!
I can go on for another few pages, but I think and hope your readers understand what I am trying to say. When attending an event or Shabbaton, understand that the organizers really do try their best to please everyone and to create an environment that encourages all to mix, mingle, and meet. It’s hard work and it’s time that we don’t have to waste, but we do it anyway. We want to help singles connect; we don’t understand why there is even a small percentage that appears ungrateful. Most singles do thank us and are a pleasure to deal with. But it’s those few that frustrate us!
Keep up the good work!
Mrs. B., thank you for your email.
I’m reminded of the saying, “You can’t please everybody all of the time…” I can only hope that all efforts of event coordinators and shadchanim are appreciated by all, and everyone finds his or her bashert. I’m reminded of another saying: “Every pot has its lid.” I hope the “difficult” singles find their basherts as well, and they don’t give each other a hard time!”
Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let the few and far between put a damper on your efforts.
Hatzlachah to you all.
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.