Emily Engaged Emily Engaged: Asking Dad for Permission Emily Dubinsky

Meet the Parents Movie Still

Hi, I’m Jim, Emily’s fiancé. Emily asked me to write a guest post about the proposal from the male perspective, which I will, eventually (brief summary: males are less surprised). But first, I wanted to write about the lead up to the proposal, particularly the thing that people ask me about the most: talking to her father.

Do people still do that? I’m pretty sure. I did, at least. Why? Respect? Tradition? I think we do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do you ask for permission or ask for a blessing? Great question that I hadn’t considered. See, most of us only do this once, so everybody’s an amateur at it. I’m sure there is a protocol, but every friend I talked to had a different story. The best I can do is offer mine. Well, I guess the best I could do is research proper protocol and report back, but…

I don’t live in the same city as Emily’s parents, so I couldn’t just pop by.  Instead, I stole Emily’s dad’s number from her phone under the guise of taking a picture (note: for this to work, also take a picture), and then chickened out on calling him multiple days in a row because, by far, the phone call was the most nerve-wrecking part. I knew that as soon as I asked if I could fly up and take Emily’s parents out to lunch, and asked for them to keep it a secret from Emily, my intentions would be pretty clear. At that point, it was possible he could say, “Don’t bother, I don’t want you to marry my daughter.” I didn’t think he would say this, but he had rejected one of her sister’s boyfriends before, so you never know.

Instead, he agreed and we made plans. Emily’s mom was visiting us the weekend between the call and our lunch, so I let her dad decide whether to stick his wife with this secret or keep it from her until she got home. That weekend, Emily, her mom and I were having a lovely drink by the ocean when Emily excused herself to the restroom. Her mom turned to me and asked, “So Jim, any plans on coming up north anytime soon?” I couldn’t tell if she was giving me a wink-wink or legitimately asking, so I eloquently responded, “Uhhhh, uhhhh.” At which point she got uncomfortable, and I came clean and told her. She got teary eyed and very excited, and the only thing I remember her saying before Emily came back was, “Don’t let her do something weird, like get married at Disneyland.”

When the day arrived, I told Emily I had to work that Saturday (she was pretty mad), but really I flew up, got picked up by her parents at the airport, had lunch and flew back. The hardest part was remembering not to tell Emily that I saw both Barry Bonds and Carmen Elektra at the airport, because normally, that’s pretty interesting information.

As for the actual meal, we talked a lot about almost everything. I actually had a job at this point (humble brag?) which, as a television writer, isn’t always the case, so that eased the classic, “How will you provide for my daughter?” concern. I learned a lot about them as well, and toward the end of the meal, I brought up the real reason for my trip. I told them that I loved Emily very much and I wanted to marry their daughter, and they were happy to hear it. I don’t know that I really asked for a blessing or permission, but by the end I felt that both had been given.

Image via Ulife.com

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  1. I would not like it for my fiance to ask my parents permission to marry ME. It may be tradition but it makes me very uncomfortable. I am a grown woman capable of making my own informed decisions. But of course if you like the tradition you should stick with it. I’m just saying that it would only curdle MY blood ^_^

  2. for those close to their parents**

  3. I love this tradition and think it should continue on for those. I think it really depends on your family life and relationship with your family. I have a very close relationship with my family and would be upset if my prospective fiance did not ask their permission first.

    If you do not have a close bond with parents then of course you’re not going to appreciate the tradition. There is nothing wrong with disliking a tradition however bashing it is another thing entirely.

  4. Personally, I would definitely want my significant other to ask for my parent’s blessing first. This is, of course, assuming that we had the marriage talk several times first. I mean, I think you should make sure the other person is in it whole heartedly before adding more people into the mix. But yes, I love that tradition. Then again, I’m a huge family person…

  5. My husband didn’t so much ask permission as just let them know he was going to propose. We had already talked about marriage (been dating 5 years at that point) so it wasn’t like I didn’t know it would happen eventually.
    Of course, then he also proceeded to attend 2 weddings (without me, I was on a 2-week study abroad trip) and tell almost all of our friends as well. So I was pretty much the last person to know about the proposal but I didn’t mind :)

  6. My husband knew way in advance that he would have to ask my father for permission. Though you’re right, when you randomly arrange a lunch (especially if you’re flying out to have lunch with them) they basically know it’s coming. My husband and I had been dating for almost 5 years, so when he called my dad to say he wanted to talk to him “in person” about something, my dad hung up the phone, turned to my mom and said “Well, Jeff’s proposing.”
    He also went the route of asking both of my parents for their permission and blessing. It’s not necessarily that it’s a requirement of marriage, it’s more a sign of respect to them as the people who raised the woman you want to marry.
    My husband described how terrifying it was this way: “It has been his job to care for you and protect you your entire life, and now I’m asking to take that responsibility. That’s not a small thing.”

  7. Personally, i would have been so disgusted if my fiance had asked permission or for a blessing from my parents before proposing that i probably would have said “no” instead of “yes”. It’s my decision and i could care less if they approve of it, they have made plenty of decisions in their lives that i had no say over, so why should they have a say in such an important decision of mine? Unless the prospective wife is 17, i see no need in asking permission from the parents.

  8. I understand that the whole asking parents for permission/blessing thing is traditional and I guess respectful, but personally, I would be incredibly offended if I were with someone and they spoke to my parents about marrying me before they spoke to me about it. What is the implication there? That I can’t get married unless my parents give the go-ahead? That I’m incapable of deciding for myself who is right for me? And if he is expected to get a stamp of approval from my parents, why aren’t I expected to get one from his? Because he’s shrewd and mature enough to decide for himself who to spend the rest of his life with but I’m not? It smacks too much of patriarchy for my taste.

    Please understand I’m not condemning this tradition. I guess I’m just asking why it’s something we still do apparently. Why is this considered okay (or The Right Thing, even), and what’s the reasoning behind it in today’s “modern world”?

    • As a mother of a daughter, one whom I raised for a time by myself, it’s a respectful thing to do. I don’t care who my daughter falls in love with and decides to marry: I am her mother, I loved her first and most fiercely, and nothing can ever change that. Speaking with your intended’s parents is a way of acknowledging and respecting the unique and protective relationship, no matter the age, that parents have with their children. I was okay either way with my son-in-law speaking to us about it or not; it didn’t change how we felt about him. A long time ago, when women were considered chattel, it made sense for a man to ask the parents for permission. In this day and age, it’s more like a notification and an acknowledgment that while parents may have the deepest love for their children, a future spouse is right behind. I think it’s something you don’t appreciate until have children of your own.

      Anonymous | 3/06/2012 08:03 am
    • I think it’s a sweet tradition, and it makes the parents feel nice. I would certainly be pleased to have my parents treated that way. And my assent is still a separate thing– I’m still perfectly free to say no even if my parents gave their blessing. I don’t think it undermines my capability to make decisions on my own.

      Perhaps also, it’s an acknowledgement of marriage being not just between two people but also kinda between two families. I don’t mean to say that I would marry someone just because we like each other’s families, but that’s definitely a big factor. (Maybe this is more emphasized in certain cultures… in Filipino culture, we really tend to keep close family ties.)

      And I guess the reason why it isn’t done the other way around is because of the same reason why it’s conventionally the man who does the proposing… because the lady is supposed to be the one being wooed.

      Not condemning or judging others who might go about the whole courtship thing differently, but just speaking for myself, I’d rather be wooed than woo. :)

    • See, my husband didn’t talk to my parents before talking to me – we had already had many conversations about our future, marrying, the ring, etc. However, he did talk to my dad about it before he actually asked the question. To me, I thought it was nice to just give him notice about it – his parents knew (when he bought the ring, he told them), and so mine should as well.

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