The other “Big Ask”...
A proposal can be an exciting moment in a couple’s relationship. There are so many questions to answer before actually asking: When should I do it? How should I do it? Should I get down on one knee? Should I ask her parents for their permission before proposing?🧐
Although it’s an antiquated part of marriage proposal etiquette, there’s significant cultural and emotional meaning to asking for your future bride’s hand in marriage. Let’s look at reasons to ask her parents for their blessing, who to ask and how to do it, and ways to prepare what to say beforehand for a successful conversation.
Should I ask for her parents’ permission?
Asking her parents seems so outdated, yet Wedding Wire reports that about 63% of millennial grooms asked for permission before proposing!
When deciding whether to ask her parents, it’s helpful to consider the pros and cons.⚖️ By asking, you are showing her parents that you value their input and respect how important they are in their daughter’s life. If she is close to her parents, this is something your partner may appreciate as it shows you are in this relationship for the long haul.
Another pro to asking is having familial support for your proposal. This can be helpful in deciding how, when, and where you will pop the question. Parents can even act as double agents on the day of the proposal to get your fianceé exactly where you need her to be!
However, one con to consider is potentially undermining your partner’s independence. Nowadays, marriage is no longer an exchange, and your partner has the agency to choose whether she marries you or not. As such, she may not want you to ask her parents as she sees it as taking away her free will. Additionally, if she is not close with her parents, asking them may be inappropriate.
Another con is a possible negative response: some parents just don’t approve of their child’s partner! Considering your partner can marry you anyway, it shouldn’t affect your decision to propose, but it may sour any relationship with your unwilling in-laws.
Whom should I ask?
Marriage proposal etiquette dictates that men ask the woman’s father for his permission, but nowadays that dynamic is seen as archaic. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and asking the right people can be an important step toward getting engaged!
While you can still ask your beloved’s father, but you may also want to include her mother if they’re on good terms. Doing so shows her mother you value her input and lets your bride know you see her as a mother figure too. If her parents are divorced, start with the parent your partner is closest to and then ask the other parent to avoid any awkward situations.
Step-parents count too! Make sure you include step-parents in the conversation, especially if your bride is closer to her step-parent than her actual parent.
Additionally, you may want to include other family members, such as siblings, if the situation calls for it. Or, maybe she has different parental figures you should ask, such as grandparents or an aunt and uncle.
Always keep in mind whether your partner and her parents are estranged or if one or both parents have passed away, as she may not want you to ask at all. Family dynamics can be tricky, so keep these details in mind as you prepare your proposal.💡
How to prepare for the conversation
There are a few things you should do to prepare for the conversation with her parents. Keep these marriage proposal etiquette “musts” in mind:
Ensure you’re both on the same page
Before you ask her parents, make sure you and your partner share the same thoughts on marriage and your proposal. Discuss your ideal timelines for marriage and whether or not she wants her family involved in a proposal.
It’s also helpful to sniff out whether she’d want you to ask her parents for their blessing so you don’t make her feel her wants and needs were ignored. Asking these questions ahead of any proposal can help you feel confident about her answer!
Meet the parents
If you haven’t already met your partner’s parents, try to arrange a meeting so you can get to know them better. If your girlfriend is close with her parents, this is a simple way to show her you’re interested in being a part of her extended family.
While a dinner or in-home meeting would be nice, meeting for coffee can be just as good if you have a busy schedule. Additionally, if you live too far apart, try video chatting with them instead. Speaking with her parents can help you learn more about your partner and improve your relationship with your future in-laws.
Schedule an in-person meeting
Similar to meeting her parents before asking, try to see them in person for the actual event as well. How and when you ask her parents can be important, because you want them to feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts.
It can be difficult to plan an incognito meetup without your partner knowing, but try to at least sneak away for a quick chat. If you simply cannot find time in person, try FaceTiming them instead. Finally, a phone call always works in a pinch!
If you and your partner visit her parents occasionally, try to sneak in the conversation while your partner is running errands or out of the house. Overall, try to give them a one-on-one experience with you where you can have their undivided attention and they can cherish the memory of you asking for their daughter’s hand in marriage.
Prepare what you want to say ahead of time
While you don’t need a full speech prepared, think about how you want to ask your partner’s parents for their blessing. ✅Think of some talking points ahead of asking, and practice them a few times to make sure you remember them!
Keep it short and sweet, as they’ll probably just be so touched that you asked them that they’ll want to jump into our next point right away...
Be prepared to answer questions
You can’t tell your partner’s parents you intend to marry their daughter without a slew of questions being lobbed your way. Inquiries about the proposal plan, future wedding, and who they can tell their new “big secret” to are common after receiving their blessing.
Be ready with some answers for their questions! You don’t need to have all of the details, but have some idea of what you’d like to say if they start discussing your future plans. They may also want to be involved in the proposal, so think about whether you’d like to invite them to join in on your planning!
What should I say during the conversation?
Many men hate public speaking, and it can be nerve-wracking to have all of the attention on you. Asking your partner’s parents for their blessing can seem daunting, but just remember that this is a happy occasion and they’ll ultimately be excited for you and their child!🎊
When thinking up your talking points, don’t go overboard with flowery language or an overly formal tone. Her parents will be your in-laws, your future “bonus parents”, and so you should keep things casual and light just as you would in any other conversation with them.
It can be difficult to discuss your feelings, but try to do so in a way that leaves you feeling comfortable. Ideally, speak from the heart and explain why you love their daughter. Talk about how happy she makes you, and explain how much it would mean to both you and her to have their blessing.
Last minute tips for a successful conversation
We’ve covered plenty of information to get you started, but here are a few more bits of advice to consider:
Seek their “blessing”, not permission
Ultimately, your partner is an adult and can make the decision to marry you. Her parents don’t need to give you “permission”, but it’s wonderful to have their “blessing”.
Having their blessing means they approve of the match and are excited to welcome you to their family. Don’t stress yourself out over their answer, as in the end, you have the final say. However, do try to make them feel their opinion is valued and appreciated!
Put a modern spin on this antiquated tradition
If the whole tradition just doesn’t sit right with you but you still want to respect your partner’s wishes, try switching things up! Today, many grooms don’t “ask for permission”, but rather they complete this custom by throwing in some fun nuances.
Instead of asking, give her parents a heads up and just let them know you plan to propose. You don’t need their permission, but you want to let them know so they can get involved if they wish.
You can even record the whole moment and create a “pre-proposal” full of fun details relevant to her parents and your relationship. Then, watch the video later with your fianceé and share a laugh!😁
Be prepared for “No”
It’s rare, but some parents do reject their daughter’s partner and refuse to give their blessing. Try to keep the conversation casual to dig deeper into why they don’t approve.
If you can, say you’re sorry they feel this way and ask them what exactly they are concerned about. Maybe they are worried about something they’ve noticed in your behavior or demeanor, and it would be a great opportunity for them to air any grievances.
Regardless of whether they say yes, if your partner is comfortably getting married without their approval, you still have every right to move forward.
Make the moment memorable
Last, but certainly not least: make the moment memorable so you can cherish it forever with your in-laws. For many men, this is the first intimate moment they share with their partner’s parents, so make sure you preserve the memory in some way.
You can take a picture together, record a short video for your future fianceé, or even just all celebrate with a drink afterward.🍻 Whatever you do, her parents will probably want to share the details with their daughter as soon as you’re engaged!
Marriage proposal etiquette: Seeking permission or showing respect?
Asking your partner’s parents for their permission to marry their daughter can seem like a patriarchal custom. Considering your partner is her own person, she shouldn’t need their permission to get married. However, if you look at this situation as “showing respect” to the important parental figures in her life, it makes much more sense.
Are you ready to ask your fianceé that important question and aren’t quite sure how to plan the proposal? Take a look through our advice on how to plan the perfect proposal that will sweep your partner off her feet!