July 12, 2018 / Luxury Lifestyle

The Go-Betweens: Meet the Modern Matchmakers

Forget swiping right—for those seeking a more exclusive path to love, one London company offers romantic introductions and dating opportunities to elite members of society


In the age of apps and algorithms, finding love has seemingly never been easier. Right? But what if you’re royalty, a real-life version of Audrey Hepburn’s character in Roman Holiday? Head of an international bank, with work commitments that demand time spent zigzagging the globe? Or the offspring of a titled family with cultural mores to consider? Then finding someone to share your life with can be more complex.

Claire Sweetingham (left) and Kalina Boyadjiew at Gray & Farrar’s Mayfair HQ. The company has more than 2,000 single clients on its books. All photographs and banner image by Greg Funnell.Enter Gray & Farrar, the luxury matchmaking company that advocates face-to-face introductions. “We are not a dating agency,” says managing partner Claire Sweetingham. “We are a matchmaking service that relies on human interaction rather than apps.”

We are not a dating agency—we are a matchmaking service that relies on human interaction rather than apps

Based in London’s Mayfair, the company currently has 2,000-plus members spread across 23 countries, with the majority of members aged between 30 and 55, and an equal mix of men and women. “We are the only business of our kind,” says Sweetingham, whose mother, Virginia Sweetingham, is the founder. “Our clients are a global roaming crowd, many with dual nationalities and cross-cultural upbringings. The common ground is they are all achievers in their own right, with little time to meet someone.”

Gray & Farrar’s elegant townhouse base features this intricate hanging sculpture, titled <i>Ascension</i> and created by the English artists Dominic Bromley and Frances Bromley, who work under the collective name Scabetti. The piece was specially commissioned to complement the unique architectural space of the matchmakers' Mayfair address.While business is booming, the nature of the industry means that the better Gray & Farrar performs, the fewer clients it retains. To help expand globally, the company recently took on managing director Kalina Boyadjiew, its first non-family board member. It is, pardon the pun, a match made in heaven. “My background is in luxury real estate, but there are lots of similarities in matching people and property,” she says.

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“I thought this industry was a last resort for people who couldn’t meet anyone, until a three-hour meeting with the family completely changed my view,” she recalls. “Our clients are people at the top of their field, who aren’t prepared to compromise, but lack the most important thing—someone to share their life with. It’s wonderful to make people happy, and I don’t know why I didn’t join something like this 15 years ago!”

My background is in luxury real estate, but there are lots of similarities in matching people and property.

Gray & Farrar offers three levels of service: Club, where members are introduced to those already part of the company’s private network; Custom, which is tailored around specific requirements; and Private Commission, where clients, often in the public eye, liaise one-to-one with Sweetingham.

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Sweetingham and Boyadjiew’s clients have highly successful but incredibly busy lives, which can make it difficult to meet potential partners without their help.“We meet each of our clients individually to find out their history and ‘read between the lines’,” she says. “We take into account their personal lives, family, and education before setting up meetings. During the early stages of a romance, we become a confidante to our members, an integral part of their lives.”

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So what makes a good relationship according to Gray & Farrar? It’s all about chemistry, aligned values, mutual respect, and the ability to be yourself. But is there a need for an old-fashioned concept like matchmaking in a world now accustomed to digital dating? “Absolutely,” Sweetingham says. “Some of our clients are heirs and heiresses or heads of global companies, so they can’t just sign up to any normal dating site! We offer complete discretion. Of course, the one thing we can’t guarantee is spark.”

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Stephanie Jones
is a regular contributor to Christie's International Real Estate magazine