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Asking for the Blessing: Tradition Bounces Back

Some engagement traditions have fallen by the wayside, but one is coming back into vogue.

For years, engagements and weddings were enrobed in tradition, and anyone who veered from the expected path could expect some side-eyes, if not outright battles. But now you can get married in a barn as easily as you could a church, and you might trade the catered buffet for a gathering of food trucks. Happily, just about anything goes.

The throwback

But there is one tradition making a comeback. Surveys show that, surprisingly, the number of grooms asking the bride’s father for permission has grown over the past few years, while the number of women who object to it has fallen.

While it never went away completely, asking for the father’s blessing on the marriage fell out of favor as a relic of a more paternalistic time. Women strongly felt that it was a personal decision to get married, and no one else should get veto power.

Changing times

Maybe as a result of equal rights becoming less of a battleground, asking your future father-in-law for permission to marry his child feels sweet and respectful, embracing your future, and extending the feeling of family. Still, there are a few changes this time around:

  • You should talk to your intended well before — it takes away the idea that someone else gets to decide your future together. And if there’s an objection to this ritual, honor that.
  • Talking beforehand also avoids the awkwardness of asking dad first, getting a yes, and then getting a “no” when you actually propose.
  • Do it in person and alone. Play a round of golf, go out to dinner, ask when you’re visiting over the holidays. If geography is too much of a hurdle, use the phone and speak to him. This is no time for emails or texts.
  • Though we’ve been referring to “father” as a result of the tradition, we know that may not always be the case. It may be dad, it might be mom, both of them or a stepparent.
  • You know the family dynamics by now, and how traditional or not they are. Remember this is a loving gesture.
  • Open the conversation with your feelings — the love and respect for the person he helped raise, how you plan to build your life together, and then ask for his blessing.

Taking part in this ritual doesn’t mean you can’t spring a surprise proposal either (but first learn how to avoid the pitfalls.) It takes some planning, but it can be a real bonding opportunity with your in-laws as you and the love of your life set out on a life together. There’s a lot of wedding planning to take care of after she says “yes.” Having everyone looking forward with genuine love and joy will create memories for you and the new family you are uniting.

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