The ancient tradition of asking a woman’s parents for her hand in marriage can have significant importance to your daughter, especially if she is Christian. The tradition of asking her parents for permission dates back at least as far as Genesis 29 when Jacob asked Laban for Rachel’s hand. Never mind that the request created in-law issues -- it’s not a bad way to hit a homerun with your daughter and her suitor.
Secure Her Agreement First
Before you give your permission for your daughter’s suitor to marry your precious girl, have a chat with her and be sure that she wants to marry the boy. If you give your permission and she isn’t open to the marriage, there will be no easy way to handle the situation. A chat with your daughter gives you an opportunity to tell her how precious she is to you and how much you want her to have a happy and secure life. Explain all the reasons you believe she deserves the best and how much you hope he treasures her as you do. If you can have this chat before the suitor asks your permission, you can give him an answer immediately; if you haven't talked to your daughter before he asks, put him off until you talk to her.
Building a Relationship With the Suitor
When her suitor asks for a private meeting with you, you can surmise that the question is coming soon. Build a relationship with him. Find out about him without grilling him like a fish for Sunday dinner. Ask how he met your daughter and what he likes most about her. Find out about his family and their traditions. That might tell you how often you might see them after the wedding. Share some stories about your daughter and why she is precious in your sight. Help the suitor understand who your daughter is from your perspective without passing on stories that will make your daughter cringe with embarrassment.
Important Questions to Ask
It’s OK to ask the young man questions about how he will support your daughter and what he believes about marriage. Ask about his faith and how they will share that together. If he isn’t a Christian, you can express your concern about them being unequally yoked, as described in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Ask any questions that have been on your mind since you met him, such as how his family feels about the relationship, where they might live and how he feels about children.
Graciously Blessing the Couple
The decision to marry is really between your daughter and this man, although you likely feel that it’s your responsibility to protect your daughter. If you have problems with the suitor, keeping your mouth shut can give her a chance to see it for herself. To stand in his way could drive her into his arms. Trust your daughter’s ability to make a good choice and graciously bless them if you can.
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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.