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Do You Propose or Ask the Father First?

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

The tradition of asking a girl’s father for his blessing is alive and well, according to a December 10, 2008 feature on “Today.” Many men use the tradition to cement good family relations by showing respect for your future in-laws. Before popping the question, however, you might wonder whether to propose or ask her father first.

Feel Her Out

Ensure that your girlfriend is willing to marry you before you talk to her father, suggests the Art of Manliness founders, Brett and Kate McKay. Talk to her about her plans for the future and see how she feels about commitment. She might say that marriage is something she will consider when -- and then, she might add whatever milestone she is aiming for. For example, this could be when she finishes her education, gets that next promotion at the office or when her kids are out of the house. If she indicates that nothing is standing in the way of taking the plunge, schedule a chat with Dad.

Talk to Her Dad

Call and ask for a face-to-face meeting if you can, suggest the McKays. If that isn’t possible, you could make a phone or video conference call. Avoid emailing or texting her father the question. Take the opportunity to assure her dad that you care about his daughter and want to make her happy. Establish trust and open communication. You could ask him to accompany you to pick out the ring, confirming that you asked for his blessing first. Get his take on how to make his daughter happy and how to keep family relationships smooth.

If He Says "No"

Asking her father for his blessing runs the risk that he might say “no.” If he does, listen carefully to his concerns and promise to consider them carefully, suggests licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., in a PsychCentral article. Avoid arguing with him or being critical of his concerns. He wants what’s best for his daughter and his concerns could be legitimate. Thank him for his time and promise to get back to him. Keep your word and give those concerns proper consideration, advises Hartwell-Walker.

The Proposal

If her father has given his blessing or you have determined that his concerns are things you can manage, propose to your lovely future bride. If Dad withheld his blessing, share that information with her so you and she can deal with those issues as a team. She might decide to wait for her Dad’s blessing before accepting. Alternatively, she might agree with you and agree to marry you while you both work things out with her family. In either case, you know what you need to do next -- plan a wedding or work on those parental concerns.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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