You met the woman of your dreams. Figured out after months or years of dating that she’s the one. Things have been serious for quite some time now and you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level: marriage.
Although the tradition of asking a woman’s father for her hand in marriage has been slowly fading away, many argue that it’s just as important as ever. If anything, it shows to her father that you care about his opinion and want to create a solid foundation for the years ahead. It also lets your girlfriend’s father know that you’re sincere in your intentions and a true gentleman. It’s an important tradition, a rite of passage, and a bonding experience between you and your future father-in-law. Plus, most women think it’s a sweet gesture.
Regardless if your future father-in-law is a hard ass or a sweetheart, it’s no easy task. My father-in-law is one of the most understanding and chill men I know, but the experience still made me a nervous wreck. As much planning as I had put into asking him, from where to meet and what to say, I was still sweating bullets. If your girlfriend’s father has died, wasn’t around when she was growing up, or is simply a jerk that his daughter avoids contact with, ask the mother or someone else in her life that would carry the same weight.
Below are some ideas and guidelines that hopefully will help ease the stress and make the experience bearable if not enjoyable.
1. Talk to your girlfriend first. You should have a good idea before asking your girlfriend to marry you that she will say yes. If you’re not on the same page as far as the whole marriage thing goes, it may not turn out the way you want. Is she ready to commit? Does she even want to get married? If so, how soon does she want to get hitched? You don’t want to get your girlfriend’s father’s blessing to marry his daughter, just to have his daughter turn you down when you propose.
2. Try to meet him before you ask. If possible, try to meet your girlfriend’s parents a few times before you decide you want to marry her. Not only will this help ease the tension but it will help solidify your case as to why you’re the perfect guy for her! When my now wife and I were dating, she lived at home. While I initially didn’t think that was ideal, I now see it as a blessing because every time I went over, I had the opportunity to hang out with her parents. I got to know them rather well before we got engaged which made the occasion that much more special. It also made sitting down with her dad and discussing my wish to marry his daughter a bit easier because we had already established a relationship. Again, not all situations will allow this, but if you can, do it.
PRO TIP: I was so paranoid about someone finding out that I was meeting with him that I checked myself in on Facebook somewhere 30 miles away. This way, my girlfriend thought I was somewhere else which completely threw her off the trail. Worked really well!
3. Sit down with him man-to-man. There are several ways you can go about this, and I think it all depends on what kind of man your girlfriend’s father is. Consider taking him out to dinner or going to a bar or coffee shop where you two can talk. If that’s not a possibility, during a visit just ask if you can speak to him in private. If her dad lives far away, try to time the conversation for a trip home which has already been planned, perhaps during the holidays. If this is not possible, it’s okay to conduct the talk over the phone.
4. Start out expressing your feelings for his daughter. I think the perfect way to start off the conversation is to express to him how much you love and admire his daughter. Prove to him that you take this relationship seriously and will provide for her for the rest of her life. Try mentioning some specific qualities that you love about her (i.e. smile, personality, drive). He raised her, so you are really complimenting him at the same time.
5. Explain your wish to marry his daughter. Enough small talk – time to get down to it! Explain your wish to marry his daughter and that you’d like his blessing before you pop the question. Assure him that you understand the seriousness of the commitment and that being able to spend the rest of your life with his daughter would make you the happiest man in the world.
6. Promise him that you’ll take care of his daughter for the rest of her life. Put yourself in his shoes. He’s been the man in her life since she was baby, taken care of her for her whole life, and ultimately wants the best for her. He wants to know that he’s handing her off to someone that will take just as good care of her as he has. Make the commitment that you’ll always honor, respect, and cherish his daughter.
7. Respectfully ask for his blessing. Now, just request his blessing and support in you asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Before I even asked her dad, he already had an idea why I asked him to dinner, looked at me in the eyes, and simply said “Yes. Welcome to the family” along with a big hug. It may not always work out that well but if it does, welcome it!
What happens if he says no?
It can be tough to imagine your girlfriend’s father telling you “no,” but you have to know that this outcome can happen. Of course you don’t want this outcome, but you should also be prepared. If this does happen, remain calm and ask why. Depending on what he says, do your best lawyering to change his mind or reassure him that you are right for her. If you still can’t change his decision, you then need to decide whether you ask her to marry you anyways or take an alternate path.