Asking Her Dad
Tradition states that you should request her hand in marriage from her father. You scoff at this thought. You barely know the guy. Or maybe he scares you a little. And anyway, this is the twenty-first century. Do you
Just Do It
If you're leaning hard on the argument that you're not living in a time of arranged marriages, and asking permission to marry anyone is ridiculous, you obviously do not want to have any part of chitchatting with her dad. And you have a valid point. After all, she's not exactly her dad's property, and it's her opinion that matters, anyway.
Consider this, though: Her father loves her, too. He's watched her grow from a little girl to a woman, and he's supported her and loved her all that time. Fathers often have a real soft spot where their daughters are concerned, and they want to know that the man she intends to marry has good intentions, and is forthcoming and honest, corny as it sounds to you right now.
It may seem like an outdated idea, but most fathers who have any type of relationship with their daughters will appreciate a future son-in-law who has the fortitude to touch base with them first. (And that doesn't make you look bad, does it?) This includes a father who hasn't lived with his kids for 20 years — so long as he's been involved in his daughter's life after he moved out.
Consider this, also: One day you may have a daughter of your own. You'll feel the same way about her, and you'll want to know that the man she intends to marry has courage enough to address the issue with you.
The thing about asking her father is that you're only getting half the job done. A lot of women have been raised in homes headed by their mothers, and while it's tradition (and very nice) to ask for your girlfriend's father's permission … it could be interpreted as a sexist move by the woman who was actually in the trenches, rearing this wonderful lady whom you intend to marry — so if you're going to ask for your future father-in-law's permission to marry his daughter, plan on having a chat with her mom, too.
Keep It Simple
There's no need to go off on a poetic tangent, using flowery language and metaphoric images while explaining your intentions (unless you have a dramatic flair for life in general, of course). Put it to your future father-in-law simply: “I've been working for two years at my present company; I'm in a good financial position; I love your daughter very much; I want to spend the rest of my life with her; and I intend to ask her to marry me.” (You may also want to include, “I'd like your blessing,” since that's essentially what you're asking for.)
You've covered all the big issues here: You're working, so you'll be able to eat after you get married; you've been working for some time, which means you're an ambitious and stable man; and you're ready to commit to marriage. That's all you need to say. Not so hard, right?
Be aware that some parents will give you a hard time, either for their own amusement or because they want to see you sweat a little — that way they can tell what you're really made of.
Karen's then-boyfriend, Dennis, had mustered up his courage for this very task. Karen admits that her father can come off seeming “a little scary” and “intimidating,” but she is quick to add that he loves to see people — particularly his daughters' boyfriends — squirm. “Dennis' words were: ‘I'd like to marry your daughter’,” Karen recalls, barely stifling a laugh, “and my father said, ‘I've got three of them. Which one do you want?'”
A lesser man might have been at a loss for words, but Dennis rose to the occasion and replied, “I didn't realize I had a choice. I'll get back to you on that” — which, of course, made Karen's poker-faced father chuckle. Now they're all living happily ever after.
Moms can be just as tough, though, and fiercely protective of their young. Brian experienced this reaction when he sat down for a chat with his future in-laws. He recalls the night he asked his future in-laws for their blessing:
“They were completely stunned, both at the idea of Jeanne getting married and my asking their permission. Their generation threw a lot of tradition out the window for what I'm sure they thought was for good. I think they're surprised to see some of these traditions coming back.
“Jeanne's mom's response was, ‘Is this something Jeanne wants?’ She apologized later for this, as she thought it must have sounded bad. I recall having respected her having the instinct to ask this question. Personally, I would rake a kid who wants to marry my daughter over the coals.”
Play it safe. Cover your bases. If you're asking her father, ask her mother, too —
The moral: Be brave, future grooms, and be nimble. Go into this meeting prepared for any eventuality. When all is said and done, no one is going to fault you for having the courtesy and the courage to initiate this conversation with her parents. And unless you and her father come to fisticuffs, you
“I Won't Ask Him”
You're a toughie. You think asking her parents' permission is absolutely ridiculous and you flat-out refuse to do it. No one can force you to follow tradition, and if you won't do it, that's your call. You may luck out: Her parents may like you so much that they won't care, or they may also feel that this is a tradition better left in the past.
However, you might just as likely come off looking bad — if, for example, they really would have preferred to know about the engagement or if they have valid concerns about your impending marriage (e.g., neither you nor your fiancée is working and you plan on living with her parents — except you haven't told them that, either).
In the end, it's a decision you have to make on your own, but raising the topic with her parents before you propose isn't going to hurt your image — while springing a complete surprise on them just might.