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The Bride's Guide Blog

Etiquette: Should He Ask Your Dad for Your Hand?

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One of the oldest traditions of the proposal is for the groom to ask the bride's father for his daughter's hand in marriage. Historically, a suitor would often get his answer from his sweetheart first, and THEN go to ask for her hand while she hovered nervously in the hallway.

Part of this practice stemmed from the idea that women were dependents -- they could become trading chips in important alliances -- but there was also a protective function as well. Because women were unable to live independently or earn an income, a loving father wanted to make sure this prospective husband could provide for his daughter "in the manner to which she was accustomed."  This was crucial -- she got no second chances.

Then along came women's liberation -- long overdue -- and this fell by the wayside. And yet the loving part of this tradition lingers. It's quite common for the groom to ask his future in-laws for their blessing, if not their permission.

Did your fiance speak to your parents? Do you wish he had (or hadn't)? Did your parents expect it?

(I don't think my husband ever considered it. He probably knew my dad would look at him funny and say, "It doesn't matter what I think. She's 27 years old -- hers is the blessing you need.")

Oh, and speaking of parents: Our etiquette adviser has some wisdom if you're facing a sticky situation with one of your parents.

Comments (9)

  • I never expected my fiance to have asked my parents. He proposed and I tentatively asked him later if he had asked my parents and he said "oh yeah, months ago!" I didn't know it was even a big deal until I heard his answer, and then my heart swelled up I was so grateful and proud. I don't think my parents expected it, but they told me later that they both just laughed and said "it's about time!" but then he shook my dad's hand and hugged my mom.

    You're absolutely right about it not be "necessary" anymore, but it felt so great to know that he cared for their blessing, especially because my fiance has such an 'I'll do what I want to do whenever I want to do it.' attitude; it was clear to me that he asked them just for me, which was absolutely awesome!

  • Absolutely!

    My father definitely made it hard on my fiance, he asked him a million questions, but he also wanted to make sure he was ready for this commitment. We were together for a year and a half, and even though we knew our feeling for each other were true, it definitely showed a lot of respect for my dad and my family that he asked them first. When my fiance got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, I was in absolute shock. But as soon as he told me he had already talked to my dad, I knew it was real! It meant just as much to me as it did to my dad.

  • [...] Etiquette: Should He Ask Your Dad for Your Hand? The Martha Stewart Weddings experts have advice on this old tradition updated for modern day. Blog this! Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Buzz it up Share on Linkedin Share on Posterous share via Reddit Share with Stumblers Share on technorati Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post This entry was posted in Best of the Blogs and tagged Best of the Blogs. Bookmark the permalink. ← What You Were Dancing To: 1994 [...]

  • I wouldn't say that I'm traditional, but somewhere down there, really deep, I am... I think my fiance really knew how much it would mean to me if he asked my father. He felt a little weird about asking permission, though, since I am also 27 years old and mine is really the only blessing he needs... so he came up with this.

    If you met my father you would know that this is 100 percent him -- it couldn't have gone over better, and it still makes me cry every time.

  • Both my fiance and I are only somewhat traditional, so it was important to him to ask my parents. We took them out to dinner and asked them there. They were not expecting it, but they were really happy we did that and it turned out to be a lovely evening :)

  • I would have thought I would be offended by my guy asking my dad. I'm 31, a strong independent woman, keeping my name, etc. But he did ask before he proposed, and I could tell it made my Dad really happy and pleased that he did, just as a gesture. And that made me happy. It's a nice thing to do, certainly not necessary, but a good family orientated gesture if the bride is close with her father, as I am.

  • [...] etiquette query we’re puzzling [...]

  • What about the bride's mother? Is her "permission" or "blessing" less important than the father? What is implied by considering it polite or "nice" to ask the father but not the mother? Do fathers (today) have more "say" in the matter than mothers? Would a father feel "slighted" if a groom asked the bride's mother for permission? What if the bride asked the groom's father (or mother) for permission? Who would feel slighted then? The feel-good aspect of this asking for permission/blessing depends on a historically paternalistic aspect of relationships that most people (in the western world, the U.S. at least) consciously or subconsciously reject completely.

  • First of all my fiance is in to the traditional side of life .... religious and his proposal was classic, on bended knee, ring in hand maybe holding my hand with the other.... my fiance asked me to marry him first... and I said yes... and now he is seemingly getting around to asking my dad for my hand in marriage. i can tell you... that this is no picnic for a bride-to-be to be enduring... its lonely (i wont talk to him) its scary (where is he?) its aggravating (what is taking him so long?) its paranoia (is the phone ringing... is there someone at the door.. what was that outside my window?) blessings to those BTB's that have already got past this point... blessings to all.

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