Making the most of the shidduch photograph
This post was prepared with extensive input from Mrs. Beth Guterman a highly-regarded shidduch photographer, (845) 558-8247, CelebratingYouToo.com
And, with help from Aleeza Ben Shalom: for a complimentary coaching call to help you further please visit MarriageMindedMentor.com
The single is likely to be asked for a photograph during the shidduchim process. While there are different schools of thought about whether women should include a photo with their resume, most shidduch databases and many shadchanim request a photo along with basic information about the single. The trend now is for men also to send photos with their resumes. One dating coach recommends sending two photos with the resume: one that is just the face or a close up and a second that is a half or whole body shot.
Why Photos are Important
Some singles are ambivalent about sending a picture, since this implies that their most important characteristic is their external appearance. According to one dating coach:
…most mothers will admit that seeing a picture of a young lady, who is being suggested for their son, is telling. She can see her taste in clothing, her choice of jewelry, her tznius level and her twinkle in her eye coupled by her smile. It is for this reason, that I suggest to my female clients to have professional pictures taken. Wedding pictures are beautiful but they are a fairy tale! How often is one that dressed up? They don't really say anything about the young lady. I recommend wearing an everyday better outfit; similar to one that they would wear on a date. Be cognizant; your choice of clothing, their color, length, and style are sending a message of whom you are. Make it authentic.
Photos are useful for shidduchim because:
- They "put a face to the name", making it easier for shadchanim to remember meeting the single.
- Many mothers of sons demand to see a photo before considering a shidduch.
- They help convey a sense of the single, supplementing the resume and the personal description.
- If the profile on the shidduch database lacks a photo, shadchanim and potential matches wonder if the single has something to hide.
- It has been observed that resumes and computer-based profiles accompanied by photos get more “yesses” and clicks.
In short, not having the photo is most likely more of a disadvantage than having one.
Giving it the Best Shot
Singles who wish to put more hishtadlus (personal effort) in their shidduch search are advised to invest in obtaining a great photo because:
- It gives the single a tremendous boost of self-confidence to see how attractive s/he is.
- The photograph can be a powerful asset in presenting the single, since “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Every individual has his/her own inner beauty which can be brought out by a talented photographer.
- Shadchanim and shidduch prospects are likely to obtain a photo through diligent searching through school websites, simcha photos and the like. Therefore, the single may take control by showing the best photo.
- Since many girls are hiring professional photographers for their shidduch photo, the standards have risen on the quality expected of the photo.
A story from a shadchan:
I happen to know all the people involved, and I heard it from the person who was the girl in this story. A woman read a shidduch to the mother of a young man. The boy's mother asked for a picture, and the neighbor who was suggesting the idea showed a picture of the girl wrapped in toilet paper, and if I remember correctly with mud on her face. Seems the picture was taken in camp where she was a head counselor and this look was appropriate for whatever event it was.
The girl was beyond horrified that this picture was shown. But the boy's mother, it seems, took one look at the picture and said yes, and told the neighbor that this was exactly the kind of girl her son would like, and if she looked polished and sophisticated, they would have said no. The boy was also a real camp type, and BH they are married for a number of years now.
Indeed, while every single should have a photo, younger singles at the beginning of their shidduch journey may not need a top-quality photo. As singles get older, they are expected to look more sophisticated.
That said, a single who is looking for someone who is seeking a more down-to-earth shidduch may manage with a photo that is less than perfect. There may be fewer shidduch proposals and dates but this approach may filter out prospects who are unlikely to be suitable. Moreover, some mothers and singles are intimidated by photos of perfect looking prospects.
Avoid Sub-standard Photos
Never send out a photo that is unattractive, since images may be forwarded without the approval of the subject. Once a picture is “out there,” it can never be taken out of circulation.
Tips on Taking the Photo
How to Dress
A woman should determine her look in advance: makeup (natural, finished, glamorous), hair, and clothing. Dress for the photo as you’d dress for a first date.
Men who date wearing a suit have the option to use pictures from a family simcha since they are already dressed for the occasion. During the family photo session, they may ask the photographer to take a separate portrait photo for shidduch purposes.
The Photo Session
- Make sure you look your best. For men, this means shaving in advance so that the face is no longer red but before the onset of “5:00 shadow.” Women are advised to put care into their makeup and hair. Many recommend investing in a professional for both.
- Make the photo shoot into a fun activity. Invite a friend or two (ask the photographer’s permission first) to keep you relaxed and smiling.
- Avoid the odd look, whether in clothing, setting, or pose. While the bashert might find it cute, an unconventional picture might put off shadchanim or parents of eligible singles.
- Determine in advance which kinds of shots are requested in your circle: shoulder, hip, or most of body.
- Make the shidduch photo low resolution so that it cannot be enlarged or examined closely. This helps protect the privacy of the single and also makes it easier to email.
- Experiment with different poses and different angles to the camera: left, right, and center.
- Hold the camera above eye level and take slightly from an up angle. This helps to avoid double chins and thin faces.
- Shoot from farther away if the face or teeth are blemished.
- Take some smiling posed shots and some candid shots where the subject is doing something. Some people look better posed and some candid.
- Try having the single look at camera and another looking into the distance.
- See which come out better: shots taken in bright outside lighting or in dimmer inside lighting.
While bland photography backgrounds are traditional, singles are moving towards more interesting looks, especially based on nature. A problem with a neutral backdrop is that it can lead viewers to hyper focus on the subject’s face and possible blemishes. In addition, such portraits seem overly formal and posed. Aside from outdoor shots against a leafy background, singles may want to find colors that complement the colors in the portrait or shapes that add visual interest.
The background is typically kept blurry while the subject is in focus, in order to avoid visual distraction from the portrait. This can be done using a narrow depth of field when taking the picture.
Working with a Professional Photographer
- Professional photographers usually get more attractive photos because they know which poses, hair style, makeup, lighting, etc., will show their subject best. If finances are an issue, try to find a talented amateur and discuss the tips mentioned above.
- It’s best to seek a photographer who specializes in portraits and, especially, in shidduch photos. An effective professional should also have the social skills to help the subject relax and feel comfortable in front of a camera lens.
- Most professional photographers charge at least $99 for a half hour session. Typically, they take 15 to 20 shots and the client selects the best ones.
- Before hiring a photographer, make sure to examine his/her portfolio; is this how you want to look in your shidduch photo?
- Find out if the photographer does a pre-session. This involves sending the photographer a photo in advance to help determine the best pose, makeup, etc. Most faces are not exactly symmetrical and the photographer’s job is to find the subject’s better side and best angle. During the pre-session over the phone, the photographer and the single should discuss the best approach, including the backdrop. Professional photographers often have a collection of backgrounds and props.
- It is a good idea to invest also in professional makeup artist. Some photographers include their own makeup specialist for an additional fee.
- Often, for an extra charge, photographers can smooth out imperfections when editing the photo. While editing out minor or temporary flaws makes sense, the photo should not be altered to the extent that the shidduch prospect feels misled when meeting the single.
From a dating coach:
It is a fact that whatever photo one will share shows something about that person. A bland passport photo sends a bland message. If a young lady is wearing a very conservative black and white outfit with minimum makeup and small pearl earrings, then, she is giving off one type of message. If she is wearing a very tight top that is very open in the front and bright red lipstick with long dangling earrings it is another message. Everyone should be authentic. Certainly, these are extremes.
The final product should be an image that reflects who you truly are.
An important task in preparing for shidduchim is writing a self-description or “blurb”. In this paragraph, the single describes him/herself and the kind of person s/he would like to marry. This description is sometimes called an “elevator pitch” since it is the sort of succinct message one might use when suggesting the single as a shidduch just as an employee might pitch a job to the boss when entering the elevator. Sometimes, it is this paragraph that the shadchan or other shidduch proposer sees or hears rather than the resume.
Much of the information in this post was contributed by Mrs. Ruchama Twersky, a dating coach. She can be reached at email@example.com or 973-449-5101.
Composing the Blurb
Learning About Yourself
It is best to work on the self-description before beginning the resume, since writing the blurb forces the single into the essential process of self-examination that should precede entry into shidduchim. “Date yourself before you date others”: the single needs to determine who s/he is and what makes him/her unique in order to have an idea of what kind of person to marry.
When the single starts spelling out what s/he wants in a spouse, ramifications or contradictions may emerge: a totally chilled out spouse, for example, is unlikely to also be completely reliable about paying bills. A “doer” kind of single needs a spouse who values an activist. A “real shteiger” may be on the reserved side.
This is the time to make sure that everyone who is helping the single with shidduchim understands and agrees with the single’s assessment of who s/he should marry. If this is not established correctly at the outset, the single may have trouble getting married, since s/he may be set up with unsuitable or unwanted prospects.
What to Include
The self-description usually begins by stating age and height and current occupation (school, employment), continuing with some detail about one’s personality, hashkafa, talents, hobbies, and interests. It follows with a description of the kind of person one is seeking, laying out the core values that matter to the single. This includes hashkafa and personality traits: charming, outgoing, decisive, etc. The desired age range should also be specified.
It is wise not to include anything self-incriminating, even if the single feels that his/her journey made him/her into a deeper, more mature person. This kind of information is best shared during the dating process.
Tips for Writing the Description
Try to use first person
Many singles seem uncomfortable with using first person (“I am…”) and prefer to either state “I am described as…” or write the whole thing in third person (“Aviva is ….”). They will need to internalize the contents of the pitch in first person.
This includes Hebrew phrases like “middos tovos”, “simchas hachayim”. Each word must have a specific meaning. For example, rather than stating that she is looking for a boy who is “kovea itim” (learns regularly), the girl should specify that the boy should be someone who learns daily, weekly, or attends a shiur.
Be Clear and Concise
Take the time to write and revise until the paragraphs are well-written and unambiguous.
Have it Proofread
Spelling or grammatical errors or poor writing discredit the single. The blurb should also be shown to the single’s shidduchim mentor.
Using the Blurb
Once it’s written, the elevator pitch is used in a variety of ways.
The single should memorize the pitch and practice saying it (in first person) to friends. This helps the single sound poised when people ask what s/he is looking for. Sounding self-confident allows the single to make a good impression on Shadchanim.
In the Resume
Depending on the social circle, the description may be inserted into the resume. In Yeshivish circles, the pitch is usually not on the resume, but sent to the shadchan separately.
Supplementing the Resume
One advantage of leaving the description out of the resume is that a week after meeting a shadchan, the single may email the blurb to the shadchan, as a way to follow through on the initial meeting.
The elevator pitch should be given to everyone involved in the single’s shidduchim: all references, the family Rav, and friends or relatives who might be looking for shidduch prospects.
In the Computer Profile
Shidduch-matching sites usually have the single fill out a standardized form instead of relying on the resume. The form also includes a place for describing oneself—the blurb should go there.
Sample Elevator Pitches
Dan (23 years old; 5’ 7”) is a responsible, spontaneous, fun loving, adventurous guy who is resourceful in challenging situations. His warm and easy-going personality make Dan a valuable friend to have. When Dan is not busy studying towards his MSW or working, he can be found planting vegetables, hiking mountains or hosting a BBQ. He also enjoys learning with his Chavrusa and relaxing while appreciating the beauty of nature.
Dan is looking for a young lady (19- 23 years old) with a balance of being serious and passionate about life and Judaism and also being feminine, fun loving and easy going. He wants someone who takes relationships seriously, is a loyal friend, authentic and emotionally mature. A willingness to try new experiences would also be a plus in Dan's life partner.
I am (28 years old, 5’ 5”) full of simcha, gifted with a positive attitude to whatever life throws my way. Reliable, giving, insightful, and tzanua are some attributes people use to describe me. My daytime job is teaching 5th grade English at Moriah Academy. My passion is helping the elderly in my community as director of a senior social club and organizing Shabbos home visits.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading historical fiction, attending a parsha shiur, walking in the park, researching entertainment for geriatrics or socializing over the phone with friends.
I am looking for a young man (aged between 27 – 34) with Yeshivish hashkafa who puts serious time into learning, whether he’s learning full time or combining learning and working. He should be emotionally and socially attuned, decisive, straight, warm, giving, accepting, and fun. It is important that he should have a strong relationship with a Rav to answer Halacha questions and to give him guidance.
Preparing for Shidduchim: discussion and orientation specific to boys.
Is He Ready for Marriage?
Unlike girls, boys are not automatically expected to start dating as soon as they reach a specific age. Parents may work out with their son the right time to begin, usually in their early twenties. A bochur, who is learning productively in Eretz Yisrael, may postpone shidduchim for a year or two as he develops his capabilities. It may not be wise for a boy to start shidduchim only because his friends are getting married. A sign that a boy is ready to date is when he is able to verbalize some of his future plans: where he wants to live or learn, what hashkafa he wants to have, or how he wants to earn a living.
Being married means being responsible for the welfare of another person. Parents may wish to discuss this with their son before he starts dating. Is he able to put someone else’s interests before his immediate wants? A wife may start feeling sick from the side effects of early pregnancy a few months into marriage. Is their son mature enough to help her?
It may be useful to sound out the son’s attitude towards women. Whatever he may have learned in the classroom or from his peers about the role of women, he needs to know that the husband’s duty is to respect his wife, accept her as she is, and to give priority to her needs. If the boy thinks otherwise, perhaps dating should be postponed while the boy spends time with an appropriate counselor or mentor.
Discussing What He Should Look For
The Appeal of “Looks”
Some boys may unabashedly put good looks on the top of their wish list for dates. This is one rationale for the Yeshivish system of having parents prescreen resumes before allowing their sons to go out with girls. Parents may try to explain to their sons that selecting a wife based on her attractiveness is like investing in a losing stock: good looks diminish with age. In truth, it is difficult to filter shidduch prospects based on looks since boys’ ideas of beauty vary so much.
One approach to creating the “wish list” for a wife is to look for the long term, realizing that the woman one marries will be the mother of one’s children. Traits such as patience, kindness, and tolerance may count for more in the long run than looks or money. Boys with longterm learning plans may need to look for girls with solid career prospects; other boys may prefer girls who see themselves more as a stay-at-home mothers.
Parents of boys need an accurate idea about the boy’s character and potential. Is he truly suited for long term learning? Does he really want a very serious girl who may have high expectations of him? When parents think too highly of their son, they may match him with girls who are beyond his league and unsuited for him. Either this delays the boy’s ability to get married or it sets him up for Sholom Bayis problems.
The Goal Oriented Boy
A boy who is ambitious and has the potential to rise to the top, whether it be in chinuch, the professions, or business, needs a wife who has the stamina to be the right partner for him. The wife of an important man needs to be able to run a beautiful home, host large numbers of guests graciously, while raising the children primarily on her own. Being a Rav, for example, is living in a political minefield; living out of town means you’re on your own. A daughter of someone with a similar career may be a good choice, since she knows what to expect.
Parents of an ambitious boy may find it useful to contact the teachers of a shidduch prospect to find out whether she “has what it takes” in terms of character, stability, and energy to play the role of wife of Rosh Yeshiva, prominent businessman, or top surgeon. The boy himself would need to ask the girl directly whether she visualizes herself in this role.
Many Yeshiva boys do not know how they will earn a living. Career plans may develop a few years into marriage. However, boys are expected to be able to tell shadchanim where they fit in the spectrum of “long term learner-no career plans” to “currently employed”. Some standard options are: “learn as long as possible, then pursue a degree/go into business”, “learn 1, 2, or 5 years and then pursue career plans”, “learning now and pursuing a degree”.
Whatever their learning/career plans, boys need to be able to live within a budget before they can get married. Fathers-in-law are not giving their married children access to an unlimited credit card account.
Finding a Mentor
A boy needs a mentor to guide him through the shidduchim process. The role of the mentor is to answer questions that tend to arise as one develops a relationship: when to exchange telephone numbers, to go out for dinner, etc. Some Shadchanim are willing and able to provide this guidance. Parents might not be useful in this role because they may be too emotionally involved to be objective.
In order to be effective, a mentor should be an experienced person, married at least five years. Typically, boys consult with a Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva in the Yeshiva that he currently attends. However, some boys attend Yeshivas that are so large that they are unable to bond with any of the mechanchim. A Rebbe from an institution he attended earlier might serve in this case, especially if he maintained a connection over the years.
An older sister sometimes plays a major role with a boy’s shidduchim, especially if the parents are not familiar with the system. She may serve somewhere between parent and mentor to guide her younger brother through dating.
Girls are Different from Boys
Boys who have spent years in a Yeshiva environment may be used to expressing their opinions forcefully and arguing points with their chavrusas and peers. Before they start dating, it should be made clear that girls are usually more comfortable with a gentler, more conciliatory style.
Boys customarily do the driving on dates. Therefore, it is best if the boy gets practice driving and navigating before he starts dating. He should also familiarize himself with the basic geography of the area that he would most likely be dating in, and he should accustom himself to using a GPS. The boy also needs access to a clean, presentable car. However, not all boys learn to drive during their Yeshiva years. Dating may be conducted using public transportation, possibly with the girl driving to the dating locations. It is probably best to specify this limitation to the shadchan so that the girl (and her parents) are not taken by surprise.
Smokers should be strongly encouraged to quit, since many girls will not date a smoker.
Boys in shidduchim should have one or two “good” suits for dating. A boy, who is not clothing-conscious, is best advised to consult someone more savvy about mainstream dressing styles.
Since the boy is expected to lead the conversation, boys need to have some idea of what they will talk about on dates. Typically, boys and girls share their more interesting recent experiences, such as learning in Israel, college, and work. Family and friends are also topics of discussion.
While shmoozing may be a good way to break the ice and begin the relationship, it is essential for the couple to discuss the things that are important to them: hashkafa, plans for the future, etc. Boys' questionnaire on this website lists areas and topics worth exploring.
More information about dating is provided in The Dating Process .
Preparing for Shidduchim: discussion and orientation specific to girls
How Does She Feel About Embarking on Shidduchim?
Girls in Yeshivish communities often start dating as soon as they return from seminary. It is a good idea, however, for parents to discuss dating and marriage with their daughter before launching into the Shidduchim parsha. The prospect of dating and getting married may cause intense anxiety in some girls as they worry about such issues as whether or not they will attract shidduch prospects, how they will interact with boys, and whether they will make a good marriage decision. In addition, some girls feel overwhelmed as they begin an often intensive academic program for their career (e.g. physical or occupational therapy) and feel unable to cope with shidduchim right away.
It is best for parents to take the time to listen to their daughter and patiently allay her concerns, rather than trying to rush her into Shidduchim. It may be helpful to have her speak with older friends or mentors about the subject. Parents should consider postponing dating until their daughter feels more comfortable with the idea; alternatively, beginning the dating process may help their daughter acclimate herself to shidduchim.
On the other hand, many girls are anxious to begin dating as soon as they return from seminary. Parents may feel uncomfortable about their daughter getting married so young. Moreover, the parents may wish to have their daughter work out her career plans before embarking on the dating process. They may find it helpful to discuss this with a Rav, Morah or principal who knows their daughter. Is she ready to get married? Is there any reason that she should start Shidduchim later than her peers?
In any case, it is helpful if parents present Shidduchim as a transition into adulthood. They may explain to their daughter that girls have different experiences with shidduchim: some are married by age twenty; others get married later. The Shidduchim parsha itself is a growth opportunity as the girl meets different boys, learns more about herself, and handles the nearly inevitable bumps on the way. Meanwhile, parents and daughter may enjoy being together and building a more mature relationship until she is sent the right person to marry. Bitachon is an essential component to help keep everyone on an even keel.
Financial problems are a major obstacle to shalom bayis. Young couples usually struggle financially, since they often are in school, in kollel, or at the bottom of the career ladder. A girl who is willing to find ways to economize and manage on less is better equipped to handle this stage of life. Parents may do their daughter a favor in the long run by putting her on a budget if she is not earning an income or recommending that she save some of her earnings if she is working. If their daughter is receptive, parents may discuss their own strategies for balancing their budget, or encourage her to talk to young couples about how they make ends meet.
If parents see that their daughter has trouble restricting her spending, they might try to steer her away from dating boys who have long-term learning plans followed by careers in chinuch.
Kollel and Finances
Girls who wish to marry boys who are learning now and likely to continue learning for a few years need to think about how the family will manage financially. Before proposing a shidduch with a boy in learning, Shadchanim often ask the girl’s parents how much they are willing to contribute to support the couple. There are different options when parents cannot support their children in kollel. A girl who is working may save her earnings; the more she saves, the longer her future husband may be able to stay in kollel. It may also be worthwhile for the girl to invest in getting educated for a higher paying job. Another option may be to look for a boy wiling to live in an out-of-town community which will offer a larger stipend.
In any case, unless the parents are exceptionally well-off financially, it may be healthy for the parents to be open with their daughter about the extent to which they are able to support her kollel plans.
Making Educated Decisions
As she begins shidduchim, a girl needs to think about where she would like her future family to fit in the learning/parnassa spectrum. Should she date boys who are working, studying for a degree, learning with plans for a career, or planning to stay “in learning” for the foreseeable future? These decisions often involve tradeoffs. The daughter is more likely to make choices that fit her needs if she speaks with recently married women who have taken different paths. Sharing a Shabbos meal once or twice with young couples may also be useful. This self-education helps the parents to fine tune their search for shidduch prospects and enables the daughter to ask her date focused questions about the life he plans to lead. Once she is married, a girl who has done her research is better prepared to handle the challenges of the life she chooses.
For example, a reality of married life is that the husband is often not available to the wife in the evening. A working man may go off to learn with a chavrusa, a student may need to go to class, and a kollel yungerman has night seder after the first year of marriage. While a husband in school or work does not have time to help before Yom Tov, he may be available on Sundays. For men in chinuch or kollel, the situation is reversed—their free time coincides with the Yom Tov schedule, but they are teaching or learning on Sundays.
However, girls also need to be aware that much of the experience of married life depends on expectations set by the family style of the couple’s parents and also on their husband and wife’s temperaments. For example, some husbands help more than others, some are home more than others, some like to relax, while others are more focused on learning. Some of this background information may be explored during the dating process but it is hard to “cover all the bases” in advance.
Orienting Girls about Yeshiva Boys
Since boys and girls are different, their chinuch in Yeshiva differs. Bais Yaakov girls usually are taught in a uniform system, with all the girls learning the same material at the same pace and they are more likely to conform to a single ideal model of the “good” girl. Girls who do not have older brothers may be surprised to learn that the bochrim’s world is different. Boys have a much wider choice of chinuch institutions, more options on what to learn and how intensely to learn it, and a more tolerant, lighter supervision. Therefore, there is a wider spectrum of “good” Yeshiva boys for girls to date and marry.
The Mainstream Bochur
Many boys find it difficult to adhere to a challenging Yeshiva schedule day in, day out; they need to take off time and “chill”. They may occasionally sleep through shacharis, don tan pants to play basketball, and spend extensive time schmoozing with friends. Most boys do not want to marry a girl who will be their “Mashgiach”, supervising them and trying to make them live up to their ideals. This sometimes leads to a phenomenon in which boys confess all their shortcomings to a girl on their first date. The message seems to be, “I want you to know the truth about me. I don’t want the pressure of living up to the good things you may have heard about me”. This may come as a shock to girls and their parents if they are not knowledgeable about bochrim and their ways.
It is a good idea for parents to research the Yeshivas that have been recommended to them as sources of shidduch prospects for their daughter to find out what is considered “normal” for boys from those institutions. It may also be helpful for girls who have no experience with Yeshiva bochrim to spend time with married friends to see what “real Yeshiva boys” are about and observe their more human side. This way, parents and daughter have a context for evaluating what they hear on a date.
The Serious Learner
Some bochrim are well adapted to the Yeshiva life of intensive learning. While girls may feel good about dating a serious learner, parents should be sure to check out other attributes essential in a husband: middos, yiras Shamayim and mitzvah observance.
Serious learners are often intellectually oriented, introverted, quiet, and refined. They may lag behind the “mainstream bochur” in their social skills and their presentation (e.g. how to dress). Moreover, having less experience of the world, they may not be as entertaining on dates. On the other hand, such bochrim are often conscientious, reliable, and dependable.
The Ambitious Boy
Some boys are goal driven already in their twenties, aspiring to become community leaders: Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshiva, successful professionals or prominent businessmen. Girls notice the difference when they date these boys: they get excited when they speak about their goals and they are proud of their accomplishments. A possible drawback to marrying such a boy may be that he will not be available to his family, neither during the years that he is working to attain the position he seeks, nor once he has reached his ambition.
Which Type is Right for Her?
It may take a few dates with different types of boys to help the daughter decide what kind of person would fit her best. For many girls, the mainstream bochur is more fun and easier to date than the real learner. On the other hand, the real learner, perhaps a Yeshivish version of the nerd, may turn out to be a very satisfactory husband. Idealistic girls may prefer the satisfaction of marrying a talmid chacham. Some girls may feel that they can only respect a man with high aspirations. Regardless of which kind of boy suits the girl, it is crucial that the girl feels that she can respect the boy she is dating, since a woman has a need to look up to the man she marries.
Cultivating Realistic Expectations
It is natural for girls to want to marry a choshuve boy, the best learner or someone likely to achieve in his career. However, a girl with high aspirations may profit by taking a hard look at what she has to offer. Does she have the stamina and the commitment to run a household and raise children practically singlehandedly? Is she seen by her mechanchim as a serious and committed girl?
A girl needs to have something substantial to offer in order to be seen as a plausible prospect for a choshuve boy. This may be a good job, financially supportive parents, or a family with a wonderful reputation in the community. That said, a talented and enterprising girl may create her own “name” in the community by involving herself in chessed organizations and the like.
Most shidduchim bring together boys and girls from families similar in hashkafa and status. A girl who wishes to marry a boy from a different background is likely to find it difficult, because shadchanim, amateur and professional, tend to match “like to like”. The most plausible scenario for a girl marrying into a different circle is where the girl has spent so much time with families in that circle that she has absorbed their values and blends in nicely. In such a case, the girl is likely to find mentors and advocates who will try to find her the boy who seems right for her.
A dilemma arises if the girl wants a goal-driven, high-achiever husband but feels that she isn’t willing to make the required commitment. In this situation, it may be helpful for parents to help their daughter see the good in “regular” people so that she can learn to look up to a more mainstream boy. In general, girls need to understand that they cannot “custom order” a husband to their specifications, and that they will probably have to let go of some feature(s) they had desired in their future husband.
If their daughter’s aspiration seems unrealistic, parents may need to “wait it out” rather than arguing with the girl and possibly stiffening opposition. If shadchanim are not presenting the girl with the kind of shidduch prospects that she aspires to marry, parents might try asking a third party to persuade their daughter to try dating someone more within her reach.
Preparations that parents may begin a year or two before they expect their child to date.
Looking for Guides, Mentors
Unless the parents are experienced with Shidduchim, they will probably benefit from having a support system ready when they start. In every community, there are people who have experience with Shidduchim: experienced parents, Bais Medrash Rebbeim/Seminary Moros or mechanchos, shadchanim, dating coaches, chassan/kallah teachers, and the like. Parents may network among their experienced friends to find out whom they have found effective to give advice, guidance, or moral support for themselves and for their children. The recommendations of parents whose children are similar to one’s own child in hashkafa and temperament are likely to be more useful
What Kind of Person is Your Child?
Before parents start looking for dates for their son/daughter, it is helpful to have an objective assessment of his/her personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Parents may overestimate their child’s seriousness, for example, and look only for the “best learner” for their daughter or a “Rebbetzin” for their son. Mistakes in this area may delay their child finding his/her match since the Shidduchim proposed for the child are likely to either not work out or to lead to marriage to the wrong person.. A former principal, teacher, or savvy parent of the child’s friend may be effective at providing this assessment.
Work on Issues Before Dating
Parents may be aware that their child has emotional challenges, or this may emerge from discussing their child with an objective outsider in the context of Shidduchim. Marriage does not cure problems—it amplifies them. If a child has psychological issues, parents should do their best to help him/her resolve them before s/he starts dating. In fact, the Shidduchim process may be a catalyst to encourage the single to tackle longstanding issues. After the year(s) in seminary or Bais Medrash, the child may be mature and motivated enough to respond well to whatever treatment or therapy is needed.
What Does Your Child Want?
An important part of preparing for Shidduchim is to discuss with the son or daughter his/her long term goals and aspirations. Parents need to know what kind of future s/he has in mind; it may take a few long talks until they fully understand their child’s mindset. Since many girls spend their year before Shidduchim in an overseas seminary and start dating as soon as they return, these discussions may need to begin over the phone towards the end of the seminary year. However, parents should not count on getting an accurate idea of what their daughter wants until they have had face to face conversations after she is home for at least a few weeks.
Parents should not assume that their children share the same aspirations that they have or that their children wish to have the same kind of home that they were brought up in. The son of a Rebbe, for example, may prefer to have a career in the secular world and the daughter of a lawyer may be interested in marrying someone who plans to learn forever. Parents are well advised to discuss the matter calmly and to make it clear that they respect their child’s viewpoint even if it’s not what they had planned or expected.
Some children have trouble informing their parents that they want a different kind of future than their parents envision. If parents sense that their child is not responding well to their discussion, it may be useful to suggest that another trusted adult, i.e. grandparent, aunt/uncle, discuss the topic with him/her instead.
The Shidduchim process runs smoother and is more likely to succeed when the parties concerned work out disagreements in advance until everyone is on the same page.
Parents and single may wish to revisit his/her aspirations after a few years since plans may change with time. For example, a boy who starting shidduchim at age 22 aspires to learn for five to seven years post marriage may be afraid to commit to that length of time if he is not yet married at 25 . Similarly, a girl at age 22 may be more idealistic than she'll be at 25. Parents and single need to be open to the possibility of change and ready to discuss how this impacts their shidduchim quest.
How Much Parental Involvement in a Child’s Shidduchim?
The underlying assumption in this website is that the parents direct the Shidduchim process of finding shidduch prospects for their child and guiding their child through dating and getting engaged. This scenario is not always realistic. Parents who are very “out-of-touch” with the contemporary Yeshivish dating scene may have trouble navigating Shidduchim in that community. In this case, the single may need to find someone—an older friend or mentor, perhaps, to take charge of their Shidduchim. The parents should still be involved, since they may understand their child and his/her best interests better than anyone else.
Another potential obstacle arises if parents and children do not have a strong relationship of mutual trust. The Shidduchim parsha is sometimes very stressful and may strain even heathy parent/child relationships. The single may feel that parents are not doing enough to find him/her dates or that parents are pressuring him/her in the wrong direction. If neither parent is able to interact constructively with their child on other matters, the family should seriously consider finding a friend or hiring a shadchan/dating coach to handle Shidduchim.
If the child remains single for a few years, s/he may eventually take a more active role in finding and investigating prospects. By then, s/he is more mature and experienced, and may feel more comfortable fending for him/herself. This may help reduce tension between the parents and their single.
Dor Yesharim (Dor Yeshorim, 718 384 6060) is the genetic testing organization that many couples in the Yeshiva world use to ascertain whether they are both carriers for Tay Sach’s Disease and other common genetic disorders. The organization administers a blood test to the single and gives him/her a numerical identification code. When couples wish to check their genetic compatibility, they each send their “Dor Yeshorim” number to the organization, which notifies them if there are any potential genetic problems with their match. The underlying idea is to refrain from giving individuals direct access to their genetic information to avoid making people feel stigmatized.
Dor Yeshorim’s testing costs a few hundred dollars as a one time fee; it is not covered by insurance. Testing is cheaper if one does not need to be in their system within the next few months. It may take half a year until one’s identification number enters the Dor Yeshorim database. It is best, therefore, to make sure to have one’s child tested at least six months before entering Shidduchim. Some high schools and other educational institutions give their students the option of being tested while at school.
Once the child is in the system, compatibility can be checked any time, even in the middle of the night, by keying in the two identification numbers. Checking is free. An answer is usually available by the following morning. Parents should not feel stigmatized if a match is rejected by Dor Yeshorim, since this is a regular occurrence. Approximately one child in an average-sized class is Tay Sachs carrier and Dor Yeshorim gives an answer of "genetically incompatible" one in every hundred calls.
Sometimes, a family or their child has a secret that could impede his/her acceptance for a shidduch. Typically, this may be a disease, a chronic condition, family history or an incident in his/her past which might not be discovered by the other party during their shidduch research process. It is ethical to disclose this information at some point during the dating process. Parents or the single may find it useful consult a Rav in advance to decide when the information must be revealed and how much to share. Where relevant, a professional, such as a doctor or psychologist, may be recruited to explain the situation to the dating partner and how much it may affect marriage.
The general thinking is that we want to give a single who has a "skeleton in the closet" a chance to build a relationship with someone who may be persuaded to overlook the "defect" once s/he's gotten a chance to get to know the single. Therefore, a standard approach is to delay the disclosure until the relationship begins to set, typically around the fourth date. However, delaying the disclosure this long may sabotage the shidduch if the dating partner feels betrayed by being told about an important issue that late in the dating process. This is especially relevant if the information that has been withheld may affect the marriage, such as mental or physical health conditions. Much depends on the background and expectations of the dating partner. Singles are advised to use their judgement to determine whether to share their secret earlier in the relationship than they had been initially advised.
Trying to conceal secrets until after marriage may backfire since the marriage partner would be understandably upset and distrustful of the spouse. Partial disclosure may also be counter-productive. On the other hand, the act of sharing a secret problem may help build the singles bond during the dating period.
Getting Your Child “Up to Speed”
Singles need to look well dressed and "put-together" before they enter Shidduchim. Most boys and girls know the correct look for their social circle. If parents suspect that their child is not savvy about clothing, hair style, and/or accessories, they should ask someone experienced to give advice. The object is not necessarily that the daughter should dress according to the latest trends and styles, rather that she should dress appropriately for the social circle that she aspires to marry into.
Singles also need to know how to converse with each other and how to make a good impression when speaking with shadchanim. While boys are expected to initiate conversation, girls need to be able to expand on a topic rather than replying tersely. If parents are concerned about their child’s social skills, they may enlist the services of a coach or a professional who specializes in improving people’s communication skills.
Preparing a Photo
A good photograph of the single is part of the set of materials needed for shidduchim, along with the shidduch resume and a personal description. Since the photograph is becoming more important in the shidduch process, we have a post devoted exclusively to The Shidduch Photo.
Assembling Information Sources
In order to determine whether a prospective shidduch is appropriate for their son/daughter, parents often need to question someone from the Yeshiva/Seminary that the prospect attended. Parents may find it convenient to organize a list of contact people for each of the relevant yeshivas/seminaries to expedite the process of checking out prospective dates for their child. This “go-to” list may be compiled by having the father networking with the men in shul and the mother, with her friends to get names of people who know the students who attend chinuch institutions. Parents who have no connection with the Yeshiva/seminary world may need to enlist the help of someone more connected in order to create this list.
Having this contact list prepared in advance is especially important for girls, because there is much more time pressure on the girl’s family to tell the shadchan whether they accept or reject the proposed match.
Click here for information about Helping Girls Prepare for Shidduchim; click here for Helping Boys Prepare for Shidduchim.