Call us old fashioned…but the tradition of the guy coming to his girlfriend’s dad and asking for her hand in marriage, well, as outdated as you may think that sounds…we still like the idea! After all, this is a big step. It’s more than just dating. It’s a commitment. A lifetime commitment. And no matter how close your future husband is to your parents, and/or your dad in particular, we can guarantee, that almost always, the guy is going to be nervous!
Sure, dad always tries to put forth that “no guy is ever going to be good enough for MY daughter” attitude. He jokes around that he’s always got the shotgun ready. He talks about buying a t-shirt that has some saying on it about “50 reasons for not dating my daughter”. He probably even has one of the humorous “application to date my daughter” papers that someone gave him when his little girl was old enough to start dating…you know, the one that asks the guy if he has life insurance, if he’s ever been arrested, if he plans on getting her home every night at 8:00, and ends with “I’ll let you know if your application has been approved in ten years or so!”
Yeah. That’s her dad. And since you love her more than anything and want to marry her, well, you have to go to him and ask HIS permission. Asking her might be easier. Because you’re fairly sure she’ll say YES! Dad may be a different story.
Before we go any further, yes we know that times are different now. There are lots of cases where she lives with her mom, rather than her mom and dad. Dad may or may not be in her life. Or if he is, he may live out of town and you may never have even met him. (In which case, a trip out of town may definitely be in order! With your soon-to-be fiancée of course!) Or dad may have passed away, and her mom is the one you have to talk to. Or maybe an uncle or a stepdad.
Gets a bit complicated here, doesn’t it?
Bottom line is, unless there’s a really, REALLY good reason…there’s almost always someone that she looks up to whose permission you should get before you propose! Not only are you making the first of many public statements of how you feel about her by asking permission to marry her, you’re also showing your respect. And believe me, even though you may think it’s not that important, trust us…it is. And it also establishes the tone for your new relationship. You’re no longer going to be regarded as that boy who’s dating his daughter. You’re going to be a family member. A son-in-law as well as a husband! You’re taking on a whole new responsibility.
So what’s the best way and time to do this? Definitely BEFORE you propose to her. There’s that asking permission thing. Just be sure that she has the same feelings that you do! Because you don’t want to get her dad’s permission, and then find out SHE has no desire to marry you! But that situation is few and far between, as the saying goes.
Having recently gone through this, we do have some good advice for any young man who’s made up his mind that he’s going to propose. (And let me add one part here…our future son-in-law Chris did everything the right way – we were out of town on vacation, and he drove over an hour to get to where we were staying to ask Ben’s permission, even though we were coming back the next day! He’d made up his mind, and already had the ring, so he wanted to make sure all the pieces were in place, even though the actual proposal was some two weeks away!)
So you’re scared? Nervous? Don’t be. Well, if you haven’t been around her dad a lot, we can sort of understand your being a bit apprehensive, but still… And by all means, don’t do it over the phone or by text message or email! Don’t tweet it or post a message on Facebook to him! Unless you’re on two different continents, and there are no plans to be together any time soon, well, in that case you can hook up your Skype and do it that way!
You need to do this face to face. Eyeball to eyeball. In private. You don’t want an audience. This is one of the most important conversations you’re going to have. And guess what. You have to start the dialogue, because chances are, her dad is going to know immediately why you’re there! And he’s going to wait until YOU start talking, because he wants to maintain that last bit of control that he’s getting ready to lose.
You may have rehearsed what you’re going to say a hundred times in your own mind. But guess what…when it’s time to actually say those words to your future father-in-law, you may forget everything you’d planned to say. Which is fine. Because you really need to speak from your heart. This is the time to tell him how much you love his daughter, and how sure you are that you want to spend the rest of your life with her. And if you stumble over the words, well, that’s ok, too.
Your heart is what’s important. And trust me, he’s going to know where your heart is as soon as you start talking. And he’s going to keep picturing that little girl playing dress up, while you’re picturing your future wife walking down the aisle in her wedding dress! Two totally separate pictures!
Chances are by the time you’ve said all that, you’re finally going to be able to breathe again, because you probably won’t be breathing too well when you start the conversation.
Then you have to wait for his answer. And please be sure you actually ASK for his permission to marry his daughter. Because if you don’t ask the question, how can he give you his answer???!
Now you also have to remember there are a lot of things going through HIS mind as well! (And possibly one day you’ll be on the opposite end of this conversation!) He’s realizing that his baby isn’t a baby or a child any more. He automatically thinks about all the days with her when HE was her main guy! That’s sort of hard to take as a dad…or a mom. And there are a lot of thoughts in his head that he doesn’t know how to deal with either. And I don’t mean thinking about paying for a wedding, because that’s the last thing on his mind at that point!
Bottom line…this is the time you and your future father-in-law really start to connect. Forget all the stereotypes you see in the movies, like where the dad yells and throws the guy out of the house, or threatens to have him disappear, or says something sarcastic like “I hope this time she actually goes through with it, instead of dumping you at the last minute like she did the other guys, because I think I actually like you!”
As much as you imagine in your mind all the bad ways this could go…it won’t. You’ll be fine. Her dad will be fine. Just be sure you make him promise not to say anything to his daughter until you actually get up your nerve to ask her!
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Both my sons who are recently engaged asked the fathers permission first.
I was very proud of them and touched that in the midst of this age of modernism and techno everything; they still had “old fashioned” values. It was very much appreciated by both the girls fathers.
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