When it comes to paying shadchanus, how should what is owed be determined when no price was specified? What determines the “going rate”?
Before proceeding to address this question, and due to the potential halachic ramifications of doing so, I would like to make mention that the following was reviewed by a rov before submission. Nonetheless, this response should not be relied upon for practical halachic decisions. If one is in need of guidance with respect to paying shadchanus, a shaila should be asked of a rov who is familiar with such inquiries.
Returning, then, to the question at hand, it is clear from the poskim (see Rama, CM 185:10; Pischei Teshuva, EH 50:16; Aruch Hashulchan, CM 185:13), that the foremost determining factor in establishing the amount owed for shadchanus is minhag hamakom. Furthermore, it is quite evident that the prevalent custom for many generations was to compensate shadchanim using a fixed percentage of the dowry – i.e. between 4.9-6% (Aruch Hashulchan, ibid.). As such, variances in shadchanus were primarily a result of the differing percentages used in each locale, along with any meaningful details relevant to the degree of difficulty in completing the shidduch. All told, pre-specifying shadchanus historically has been, and continues to be, more aberrancy than ordinary.
What has changed, however, is the transformation of dowries from up-front disbursements into assurances of support for a given period of time. And with that conversion, the tradition of using a percentage of the dowry to govern shadchanus seems to have become entirely obsolete, leaving us with a quasi-standardized fee as the new minhag hamakom. Consequently, and perhaps due to the relative novelty of this framework, there is little in the way of a recognizable or quantifiable conventional sum that is known by all in any specific community, and identifying an unambiguous lodestar-rate has become somewhat challenging. Not to mention, and as is with virtually all services rendered, rates tend to rise over time.
That said, to the best of my knowledge, and very much dependent on a particular community’s standard of living, I believe the present, normative base pay to be within the range of $1,000-$2,500, per side. It should also be noted that these amounts are what I would consider to be the minimum acceptable rates, and would only exclude situations wherein a family is simply unable to afford such a stipend and should then do their utmost to come as close as they are able to that which is regarded as commonplace for their milieu.
Moreover, and as is implied by many of the poskim above, I believe these amounts should be reserved for cases where the shidduch was not exceptionally difficult to finalize or did not require an inordinate amount of time, energy, and expertise on the part of the shadchan. Conversely, and as in times past, when a shadchan goes far beyond the usual measure of exertion, or when they are able to bring a shidduch to fruition for someone who has had extreme difficulty in dating, these supplementary efforts should be reflected commensurately in the shadchanus they receive.
Finally, and especially being that shadchanus and a shaveh perutah for kiddushin are the only truly halachically mandated wedding expenses that I am aware of, if one is sybaritically spending money left and right on all kinds of deluxe expenditures for their simcha, I feel it would be well worth keeping in mind the words of the Aruch Shulchan (ibid.). “There are those who offer remuneration in excess of the set and standard fee for shadchanus. Such would be declared a praiseworthy deed, and one who acts with generosity will surely be blessed.”
May the Ne’eman L’Shaleim Schar Peulos see that we are all rightly compensated for any and all of our endeavors.