Asking Her Dad For Permission To Marry Her Is So 1917

Here's a modern girl's take on the tradition: how to ask her dad for his blessing — in a way that's right for HER.

black and white happy couple at wedding
Photo: Tom Mumford

First comes love, then comes marriage… but in between, there’s a whole lot of traditions and decisions. Today, I’m focusing on one tradition that has slowly faded: asking her father’s permission before you propose. As love has become more important to marriage than money and joining families, the traditions have changed too.

These days, a man asking his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage is more out of respect than permission. Some people argue that asking her father for permission is sexist, chauvinist, and recalls a time when women were treated like property. That’s fine, I get that. We’re working on #equality, after all. Some people say a father should have nothing to do with adult relationships.

That said, most women, including myself, think it’s a sweet, respectful gesture to ask your future bride’s father for his blessing—not permission. As you start down the path towards matrimony, talking to him lets your GF, and your GF’s father know that you’re a gentleman who respects family values—which is something that pretty much everyone can agree on, no matter where you come from or what your beliefs are. Having a conversation about marriage with her dad, or other important family member, is an important tradition, a rite of passage, and a bonding experience between you and your future father-in-law. Bonus points if you also include her mom in this conversation.

Here’s how to talk to your girlfriend’s father about getting married:

Make sure you and your GF are on the same page about marriage.
You wouldn’t want to ask him and then have her say no—because that would suck. Having a conversation about marriage and if you’re both ready to take your relationship to the next level is the #adulting thing to do. Note, there’s no “right time” to talk about marriage—some people get married after six months, six years, or even six decades. There are no rules, and it’s definitely not a contest for who can walk down the aisle faster amongst your friends.

Meet the parents first if you can.
If it’s possible, try to meet your girlfriend’s parents before you propose. This could help you learn more about the girl you love, and it will make it easier once you do get married if you’re already friendly with your in-laws.

Have a man-to-man conversation with her dad.
This might be difficult now that more people have moved away from their families, but that’s also what phones and FaceTime are for. If you’re in the same city, arrange to meet him (and/or her mom) for an incognito lunch, a drink, or a coffee. You might be able to find a moment of alone time while visiting with parentals—it can be a quick conversation while your girl is running errands or simply ask her dad to step outside with you for a few minutes.

Explain your wish to marry his daughter.
You may be nervous, but that’s okay. Many men, especially when talking to other dudes, have a hard time talking about their feelings. Take a deep breath and lead with your emotions. Tell him how much you respect and love your girlfriend. Even if all you’re able to say is “I love her,” that’s a great place to start…

Then ask for his blessing to propose marriage.
Instead of asking permission, simply explain your wish to spend the rest of your life with his daughter. Tell him that you’ll always honor, respect, and cherish his daughter. This is a good opportunity to ask for advice on proposing and marriage, too.

Now it’s time to PROPOSE!!!!!
Assuming everything went smoothly with daddio–now it’s the actual hard part. If you still need an engagement ring, we’ve got you covered. Proposing is hard, but it’s something you and your future wife will remember forever, so it’s important that it’s special for the two of you.

There’s a caveat here, of course: if your girlfriend isn’t close with her family or her father. If her father isn’t around and she has other relatives that she’s close with, then by all means have this discussion with them. If she’s not close with her family, is there anyone else who she respects like parents?

One personal anecdote: I’m very close with my family. My husband is shy, but he got my father’s number and called him one afternoon. We’d been together for six years and he told my father he had bought a ring and was planning on proposing on an upcoming trip to California. My father was so appreciative that my husband had called to tell him. When I asked him about it later, he said he had a newfound respect for my now husband–that’s the goal of talking to her father first.

Remember, respect is something that is earned, not given. The small gesture of talking to her father before you propose can change the course of your relationship with her parents and your bride-to-be.