In 2013, Kenton Spading's spouse of 25 years lost her battle with cancer. Years went by before he felt comfortable dating. He tried online dating, joined social clubs and even let his friends set him up for dates.

Nothing worked.

"I discovered it was too much of a crapshoot," Spading said. "You don't know if the person's profile is accurate. You don't know if maybe they're already dating somebody. A few of the women I thought I might be interested in, turns out they were getting hundreds of other inquiries."

Finally, Spading contacted Luma Luxury Matchmaking. Within a year, he'd met a woman who had also lost her partner. They've been together going on five years.

While Spading declined to disclose how much he paid, he said it was a worthwhile investment.

"What is your time worth?" he said. "It's not just your pocketbook. What is the time that's clicking past in your life when you could be with somebody?"

Of course, not everyone has the net worth to afford a white-glove service. But local dating experts say you don't have to break the bank to find a match. There are options that range from $100,000 to the cost of a cup of coffee.

Upscale services

Luma is one of a few premium matchmaking services in the Twin Cities. Company president April Davis compares it to an executive search firm for people looking for love. Clients, typically busy executives and entrepreneurs, pay from $10,000 to as much as $100,000 for wardrobe consulting, date coaching, photo sessions and personal matchmaking.

Erica McKay offers a similar executive-search model through her firm, Erica Suzanne Matching in Stillwater. Her firm's packages range between $15,000 and $25,000 for a year.

McKay takes on 20 clients in a year. One of them was Tim Mardell. He had never used an online dating app and wasn't interested in trying to meet women in bars. Given his work schedule, he wanted a professional who could pair him with a person that shared his interests.

Within three months of signing up, he was matched with a woman living in Florida. They've been in a relationship for a year.

McKay's efficient screening and analysis process went beyond Mardell's expectations.

"Whatever she does, it works and it's very effective," he said.

The coach approach

While some services cater to high-income professionals who are often too busy to play the dating game, others focus on solving the mental roadblocks of dating — and at a much lower cost.

"It depends on how much you make and how much you have sitting in your bank account, but you shouldn't go into debt getting help," said Twin Cities dating coach Michelle O'Connell.

The founder of Unstuck by Michelle, she's a licensed social worker and mental health professional who also helps adults and couples with their relationships through another private practice.

As a dating coach, which shouldn't cost more than traditional therapy, O'Connell said, she's focused on helping people understand more about themselves and their relationships with others, which can alleviate dating woes.

An initial session with O'Connell is free. The next session is $85 for an hour. She also offers three- and five-session packages.

Authentic and in person

Aaron Strand didn't have an expert guiding him through the dating world after he and his wife of 17 years divorced in 2014. Instead, it was a learning journey that he plans to turn into a book to help others who struggle with online dating.

"When I got into the dating scene, you mostly find out 50% of scammers are on there," Strand said. "While you chat with someone, and you kind of think, 'Oh, this is too good to be true,' it probably is."

The experience gave Strand, owner of Minnesota Automotive in Coon Rapids, the idea to start Minnesota Singles Facebook group in 2015. He created it as a safe place for people looking to make real connections. The group, which now has almost 3,000 members, is solely for Minnesota residents or those living in cities along the state's borders.

According to Strand, authentic connections are made in person, such as the bowling league where he met his current wife.

"Get out there," he said. "Be social."

The app experience

Lots of the lovelorn turn to dating sites and apps. In fact, three out of every 10 adults in the country have done so, according to a 2023 Pew Research Center survey.

People older than 30 and with higher incomes are more likely to spend cash on online dating. Forty-one percent of men who have dated online said they paid for various sites and apps, while only 29% of women surveyed said they had.

Interestingly, as the Pew survey points out, those who paid to use dating sites or apps reported more positive experiences than those who didn't.

The top sites that those surveyed used were Tinder, Match and Bumble. (O'Connell recommends Bumble for women, because it gives them the ability to control who has access to their profile.)

Tinder packages range from $4.50 to roughly $27 per month. Match offers a free subscription, but other packages can cost upwards of $35 per month. Bumble is also free to sign up, and additional packages can cost up to $40 per month.

Most online dating options offer premium features, including allowing users to see who likes their profile.

"That can feel like a good starting place because you're not guessing, and you're not swiping with no matches," O'Connell said.