Where do you stand on the tradition of asking her father’s permission? Is it obligatory or offensive? Lame… or Legendary? Read on for our top secret tip guaranteed to satisfy the father, satisfy the bride, and satisfy your own spirit of independence…
Back in the “good old days,” you would absolutely ask for her father’s “permission” before you went out and bought the ring.
Seeking her father’s blessing before you propose is a nice gesture, assuming your relationship with him is cordial. There are some traditions you should just do without thinking: holding the door open for someone, saying “please” and “thank you,” or washing your hands.
But there are others that you should take a moment to consider. But times have changed and we have progressed as a society. Asking the father, however, is one of those baffling traditions that just won’t quit- it’s tricky! Some find it chauvinistic and condemn it, some prefer it; arguing it makes her parents feel more comfortable to be included in the process. Others demand it- Your partner might find it touching that you went to her Dad first, as if you’re acknowledging that you want to take over from the most special man in her life up to that point.
To ask... or not to ask?
Below we spell out the pros and cons of this traditional step. If you decide you’re going to go for it, make sure you follow these rules carefully. If you want the proposal to be a surprise, obviously, you can’t seek her input. So you’ll need to take your cues from your partner’s background and family structure.
If Tradition Matters
If you don’t ask then he’ll think you’re disrespectful. Your relationship with the in-laws will be poisoned from the very start. So ask, and even if they don’t like you, even if her dad scares you, you’ll earn some points by showing backbone.
If The Family Is More Progressive
Your choice. Don’t ask if you don’t feel comfortable, or you can involve both parents if you feel like this is more equitable. This family may feel that the bride, not the parents, should have the final say. They may also understand if you feel that the very first person that should know of your intentions is the bride. That said, family bonds transcend politics, and fathers and mothers like to be respected - they will understand if you decide to ask.
Our No-Fail, Guaranteed-To-Win Tip!
If your intended doesn’t fit neatly into a stereotype, this next bit of advice is guaranteed to satisfy the father, satisfy the bride, and satisfy your own spirit of independence. Ready?
Approach her father AND mother. Be respectful. But at the key moment, instead of saying “I’d like to ask permission for your daughter’s hand in marriage,” you throw out this showstopper - with earnestness, and sincerity–that you’re asking for their “blessing.”
Blessing. It’s the perfect word. It’s respectful and inclusive and shows that you recognize their clout…but that your wedding is not contingent on the answer. You hope to have their blessing—but it’s not a deal-breaker.
This sneaky approach has another thing going for it: it happens to be the truth. You don’t really need anyone’s permission, you want their support. Invoking this word is courteous, respectful and preserves your autonomy.
If you want to make a grand gesture towards tradition, and you know you can pull it off, then it’s worth it. Go ahead and ask her family’s permission to pop the question with these tips and scripts for getting the blessing without the blow back.
Step One: Be sure that she’ll actually say “Yes.”
I can’t think of anything more awful than having your proposal rejected… even worse after her father has accepted it! Not only is it humiliating, and the end of your relationship, it will also make things weird between her and her family. If you’re not 150% certain that your partner will give you a resounding “YES!” then check out our other blog - Signs That You Are Ready To Get Engaged.
Don’t Ignore the possibility that Dad will say “No.”
If you haven’t had the best relationship with her family, or you don’t know one another very well yet, he may not think you’re good enough for his daughter, and might shut you down as soon as you ask. The good thing here is that his “no” can’t veto her “yes.”
If he expresses his disapproval, tell him to go get bent…Just kidding! Do NOT do this. If your partner says yes, you risk upsetting the relationship between your partner and her family. In a healthy relationship, everyone should learn to coexist in a respectful manner. One partner should not come between the other and their family. If she knows they disapprove, it could cause a rift within the family that is very difficult to repair.
We suggest you look him in the eye and–respectfully tell him all the reasons you love her and why you want to be married. Do everything you can to convince him that you are the right person to be her partner in life. This is not the end though…
Every day you’re going to have to prove to him (and to your future bride) that you MEAN it! He will eventually come to see that you are worthy of his daughter.
Step Two: Make sure that she won’t be offended when she finds out you asked.
As we mentioned above, understand how traditional her family is. If her parents are very progressive, they might find it patronizing that you’re coming to them for “permission” before asking her. She might feel the same way. Suddenly, your nice gesture is an embarrassing faux-pas.
Don’t assume that she will be offended if you ask.
On the other hand, she may love the fact that you talked to her Dad before you proposed. It shows that you’re solid and that you see marrying her as starting a new relationship with a whole family, not just her. Remember our foolproof tip above? You don’t need to ask for “permission,” instead ask for their “blessing” and you’ll be on the right track.
Step Three: Get in the father’s “Friend Zone”
Ideally, you have adequate time to get to know the old man during the time you are dating your current partner and develop some kind of genuine relationship and comfort level, so asking for his girl’s hand in marriage won’t feel like a purely transactional exchange between two total strangers.
However, if you’re like me and your parents live overseas, your partner may not have the opportunity to build that face to face relationship you may hope for, or have the luxury of getting to know them over a long period of time.
First of all, let’s just face facts - its 2022. Technology is such that there is NO excuse. Pick up the phone and facetime! If you’re fortunate enough that family is a drive away, get in the car, show up on the front porch with a six pack, and just shoot the s**t. At the first pause in the conversation, say something along these lines:
“I’ve always loved the close relationship you have with (your partner), which is why I’m hoping you will be happy that I’m planning to propose to your daughter, and why I’d like to ask for your blessing.”
You want to be friends with her Dad, but you don’t want to talk to him like you might talk to your other friends. For instance, in the above example, it would be a mistake to lean in and whisper, “...because I’d totally ok with hitting that for life!”
Step Four: Make It All About Her
You should spend the bulk of time talking about his daughter: Why you love her; how much she has changed you; how hard you will work to make her happy and most importantly WHY you want to be married to her.
Think of it like a job interview. You want to show that you are a good candidate for the job, without making it seem like you’re pitching him a business opportunity. Don’t bring prepared notes or deliver a slide deck. And definitely DON’T mention the tax incentives!
The Worst He Can Say Is “No”
What now? Well, the worst has happened so you can only get better from here. Have a response crafted, just in case:
“Sir, I respect that you’re looking out for your daughter. Someday when I’m a father, I’m sure I’ll feel the same way. [Pause for dramatic effect. Meaningful eye contact worthy of an Academy Award. Earnest as hell.] I want you to know that I love your daughter. I will devote the rest of my life to providing for her, loving her, making sure that she’s happy. [Final pause] I respect your opinion, sir, and I will work hard to earn your respect.”
Heck, I’d change my mind On. The. Spot. for this kind of commitment! And even the toughest Dad will be grudgingly impressed by your maturity. Hopefully this helps him see you in a new light, and it lets you end the conversation gracefully.
Ready to pop the question but not sure where to start? Here’s some tips for taking the plunge!
As San Diego’s premiere engagement consultants, Proposals of San Diego creates moments that reflect the unique love story of each couple. We offer all-inclusive proposal packages, and plan one-of-a-kind experiences for marriage proposals, vow renewals and anniversaries.