Proposals, blessings and in-laws
September 26, 2013 6:59 AM   Subscribe

So I'm planning to propose and I'm already hitting a few snags...

Ok, so I've decided that I want to spend the rest of my life together with my girlfriend and I'm going to propose in July next year. We've discussed it before and I know that she'll say 'yes', but obviously I'm trying not to waste the surprise, which is actually really hard!

In any event, I know that she would like me to speak to her father beforehand to get his blessing, but I've decided that I'd like to get both of her parents' blessing as she's very close to them both (can't figure out a way to broach this subject with her without giving the game away. If any suggestions are forthcoming, please fire away).

So I want to speak to them both at the same time, but there's the snag of them living nearly two hours away, they both work during the week, and any pretense of arranging to see them at the same time will quickly be sniffed out.

But (!), the four of us are planning a weekend away in about six weeks time where, and if I can lure my girlfriend away by herself for thirty minutes, I'd be able to ask them both at the same time. The only snag is that it's a weekend celebration for her mother's 60th birthday, and I'm cautious that it might detract from her weekend. I'm genuinely not sure when another opportunity like this might pop up though.

A few questions:

1) Proposal will be in July. Is speaking to her parents in November *way* too early?
2) Should I just stick with speaking to her father? This would make things a bit easier since we'll have some time by ourselves during the weekend while my girlfriend takes her mother off to a spa-day. Some ideas on how to broach this with my girlfriend would be great, without being too obvious.
3) Is co-opting a birthday celebration to ask this question really tacky?

Feel free to tell me I'm bean-plating this too much though!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. Yes, way too early. Is there a specific reason that you're waiting 10 more months to propose? [I can just imagine your girlfriend posting a "Why won't he propose" AskMe).
2. Honestly, it's up to you. I think the whole asking the parents thing is pretty, I dunno, not sexist, but weirdly backwards. Presumably, your girlfriend is an adult.
3. No, that's not tacky, assuming you're going to be spending the whole weekend there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:03 AM on September 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

1) Nope, not too 'early' so long as you sincerely believe they can keep quiet (if you don't believe that, then nearly ANY time would be "too early").

2) I vote for speaking to both of them. Actually, I vote for speaking to neither and asking your girlfriend herself, seeing as she is an independent, autonomous grown-up person living in the modern world. BUT, since you know she would get the warm-fuzzies by asking her dad first, I say ask *both* parents in the interest of, you know, fairness and shizzle.

3) No, it isn't tacky, not given how difficult it would be to get the two of them together otherwise (but wait until toward the end of the weekend).

Go for it, and good luck!
posted by Halo in reverse at 7:05 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

1 -- Not at all, if they can keep a secret.

2 -- Could you speak to them one at a time? (also if they can keep a secret)

3 -- Not at all, as long as -- say it with me -- they can keep a secret. And as long as they like you (more accurately, if the mom likes you), it will be a lovely birthday present to know that her daughter is getting married to someone who respects her enough to ask for her blessing.

If they can't keep a secret, then there's really no point to asking them before you're ready to do the proposal immediately. I generally agree wiht roomthreeseventeen when she asks why you're waiting so long to propose anyway. The wedding will be a big enough event that there will be plenty of planning for -- proposals have evolved to these big things that people have to plan for and arrange and have some big event associated with them, but you know that you want to marry her. Go ahead and ask.
posted by Etrigan at 7:06 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Speaking to her parents in November about a July proposal is way too early, particularly if you want them to keep it a secret. In my family, at least, everyone from Grammy down to baby cousin Henry would know in about two seconds.

I also think you should let the birthday weekend be about the "birthday girl"; partially so they can focus on that and partially because they might not be able to focus on anything else (we waited until after my sister's wedding to tell my parents we were engaged, which was fine because they were CRAZED leading up to the wedding and much more relaxed & ready to celebrate after).

Can't you call them sometime in June? If they have e-mail, you could set up a call via e-mail for the three of you and your girlfriend would be none the wiser.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:06 AM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

The logistics of asking her parents can easily be worked out. But waiting until next July could cause problems for you. That's a big delay for a proposal. If you know you want it and she wants it, ask her sooner.
posted by alms at 7:07 AM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

1. Not necessarily, though it seems quite weird to me to plan this so far in advance. If they are more the theatrical types, go for it.

2. I think speaking to them separately is fine.

3. No.
posted by deadweightloss at 7:09 AM on September 26, 2013

I know that she would like me to speak to her father beforehand to get his blessing, 

This is what you do, then. She has made this decision easy for you by indicating her father as the one to ask. There is nothing backward about this step, and modernness is often overrated. Good luck.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:11 AM on September 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

yeah, way too early. Even if they don't actually say anything, they'll have The Look that she'll recognize right away. I'd talk to them as close to the proposal as you can. If you have to do it on then phone then so be it.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:12 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Traditionally, asking the father for his blessing = permission, and is a throwback to when women were chattel. You could approach it as talking to them together with your gf about joining the family. Perhaps you could arrange a similar meeting with your parents. To keep a secret, everyone must keep the secret, and time increases the likelihood of the secret getting out. Surprises are often over-rated. Surprise her with the way you propose - set up an elaborate candlelit picnic at a park, go to the Empire State Building, whatever. Try to get her help selecting the ring - she'll be wearing it every day.
posted by theora55 at 7:20 AM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy who asked Mrs. Tanizaki's father's blessing before proposing. He was a widower, so I did not have the logistical concerns you have. I asked him very soon before I proposed to Mrs. Tanizaki. It might have been just a day or so before, but I cannot recall.

1. I think it is premature to ask now for a proposal that you plan to take place nine months from now. A lot can happen between now and then. You might change your mind. You might break up. Her parents might change their mind about you. And, her parents are likely to think it is odd for you to wait so long. Beyond that, you're asking them to keep a secret for a very long time. How confident are you that they won't let something slip? (I would have none - nothing personal to them - I'd say the same for most anyone)

2. If it were me, I would just ask her father very shortly before you plan to propose. I am sure this idea will make people scream but if I am going to be a fuddy-duddy, no half measures. And, your girlfriend likes this idea anyway, based on what you say in your question, so I don't see why anyone should shame you about this. Alternatively, you could ask them both separately.

3. I think the occasion of a momentous birthday celebration is not the best time for you to do this. While this is not something you are doing publicly, it does feel like stealing someone else's thunder a bit. Let Mom's mind be on her birthday celebration.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:25 AM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd take a day off work shortly before you're going to propose and take both parents to lunch and talk to them then. Like a couple days or a week before. They will never be able to keep it secret for seven months.
posted by KAS at 7:28 AM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Typically you ask after you've secured your beshert's approval.

In olden times this is where you and her father would go over the books, he'd would tell you what her dowery would be and basically, it would be the financial discussion.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:30 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Asking her parents in November and not proposing to her until July seems like it would be really, really awkward for everyone involved. Even if her parents, like, work for the CIA, and would never let anything slip... just imagine how uncomfortable it would be for them to know about something that their daughter doesn't yet, and not being able to talk about it.

If you're not going to propose until July, talk to her parents a week or so beforehand then.
posted by Asparagus at 7:38 AM on September 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

The proposal can be a surprise, but being proposed to shouldn't be surprising. I think you should absolutely ask her how she'd like her parents consulted/informed about her plans to marry. It's not "giving the game away" to ask her preferences on such a personal topic, especially when the actual event is almost a year away. Not "too obvious" at all; start talking about it with her now, and then you'll be in a good position to (if she wants you to) plan to talk with both of her parents next July.
posted by decathecting at 7:39 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

1) Yes, it's way too early. Why are you waiting until July to propose, if you've decided and you're ready to ask her folks? They might definitely slip up between November and July, in demeanor if nothing else, or wonder if you've changed your mind or if you're waffling.

2) The idea of asking for a blessing gives me hives, but if your girlfriend specifically said she wanted you to ask her dad, then ask her dad. Her mother might have the same sensibilities.

3) Not a problem, except insofar as step 1 is concerned: it's too early if you're going to propose in July.
posted by lydhre at 7:41 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know you want to spend the rest of your life with this woman. You know your feelings are reciprocated. You've discussed marriage. And you're waiting another ten months to even pop the darn question? You must have one hell of a poker face!
  1. Speak to her parents in November, and bring the proposal forward to November/December. Don't keep the poor girl on tenterhooks like that.
  2. Speak to both parents. Even if your girl is traditional enough to want the whole talk-to-the-parents-first thing, I think she'll really appreciate that you included her Mom.
  3. I'm assuming you wouldn't do it at the actual party! It might be a good idea to do it right before you leave. That way it won't overshadow the festivities, and they won't have to try to hide their excitement from her. Maybe you can arrange to leave something behind in the house/hotel and ask her to go back in for it while you talk to them, or some other business like that.

posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:46 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there some special event going on in July, and you wanted to propose there? Maybe you could work that into your wedding/honeymoon instead.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:49 AM on September 26, 2013

I agree that it is too early to ask. When my husband asked my mother for her blessing, she found it hard to wait too weeks (although Mom kept the secret like a champ). That's just a long time to ask someone to hold-off on doing something they want, which is celebrate and share the joy with their daughter and the rest of their family and friends.

Give them the opportunity to share their happiness as soon as possible after you talk with them! What a nice gift from their [son]/[daughter]-in-law to-be!

You could talk with them over Skype or FaceTime if they can manage that?
posted by teragram at 7:52 AM on September 26, 2013

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for the answers everyone. Most people seem to think it's way too early, and I'd tend to agree. However, some reasons for this include a) I'm an academic so I tend to work around summer holidays and semesters. July is my next big block of 'free' time (I suppose the other part of it is that being an academic, 10 months doesn't really feel like a 'long time'...), b) her father is a jeweller and I'll be getting the ring from him, so I wanted to give him time in case there are particular ones he comes across that he would like to show me (this also makes it easier to get a placeholder and swap it if need be) c) unfortunately yes, I am one of those 'plan far too far in advance' kind of guys and I wanted to make a holiday/event out of it. July gives me that kind of time to organise something and d) asking them in November also gives me an opportunity to do it earlier if I decide (I had been/am dithering between July and this December). Obviously though, I'm over-thinking this

For those suggesting that I should phone/email them, absolutely not on the table I'm afraid. I'm asking for their blessing to marry their daughter, not catching up on the week's news. It deserves a face-to-face interaction.

So to summarise; way too early + potential for intruding on a birthday celebration = bad idea in general. Not to worry, that was kind of my suspicion anyway, but it's good to have it confirmed! I'll likely hold off until July time and have the chat then :)

NB. I did think about adding a 'no comments on the morality of having this discussion with her parents/father please' but I thought it was overkill. I kind of wish I had now... In any event, I've spoken with my girlfriend about this and I know it's what she wants, I know she's not chattel, I know she's an autonomous, independent adult who is more than capable of making her own decisions, and I know it would make me, her and her parents happy. If she didn't want me to, I wouldn't. But she does. Just my two pence on that particular topic.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:59 AM on September 26, 2013 [14 favorites]

1) Propose earlier than July. Seriously that is sooooooo long. Honestly no one -other than the people in the relationship - care that much about when you got engaged. Is it nice to have it on an anniversary or something? Sure. But does it really matter? Not really. Once you get married no one will be asking "So when were you engaged?" It's going to be "When were you married?" So waiting almost a year is going to be a lot of time wasted. You can't even start planning for a wedding together until you propose, since you want to keep it a surprise.

If I were her, I would want to get engaged as soon as my man decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, had the ring, etc. NOT after almost a year of him sitting on it. Obviously it's your choice, but that's coming from a girl's perspective who has been engaged and married.

2) Ask the parents beforehand. How often do you usually see them during the year? Honestly, calling is okay. I assume you are both adults and have been together for a while so it's really not a surprise that you guys might be getting married. I don't think the dad will be like "Why didn't you drive all the way out here?" - Unless he is SUPER old fashioned or something.

But, you want to drive. So do you have guy friends - assuming you are male? Can you say you are taking a guy's weekend and go visit the parents then? Can you say you have an academic/job convention out of town? And definitely do it a few weeks in advance, not months.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:06 AM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I guess I don't understand why you need free time to propose. Proposing takes all of five minutes. Ask her now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:09 AM on September 26, 2013 [28 favorites]

1. Ignore everyone who's pontificating that you should ignore her stated preference for you to ask her father. They have no right to tell you nor her which antiquated rituals are "OK" to perform. I'm an atheist; I use the phrase "Oh my god!", put up Christmas trees, and so forth; doesn't make me a hypocrite, nor does it mean I'm supporting a religion falsely. It's just a feel-good thing.

2. The parents live 2 hours away. That means asking their permission would require you to make a 5-hr trip one evening. Invent a special meeting with a "couple coworkers" on a "big project" closer to the date, and "go to it". Clue a couple coworkers that you need to pick up something special as a gift for her, so they don't spoil it (slightly misleading, but not really lying).
posted by IAmBroom at 8:09 AM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

(I had been/am dithering between July and this December)

December is perfect. Gives her dad time to help you with the ring, and it's a really family-oriented time of year. You even have some time off, if you need time to set up some elaborate arrangement or something. But yeah if you do end up going with July, definitely wait to ask her family until the spring/early summer.
posted by randomnity at 8:10 AM on September 26, 2013 [12 favorites]

Ask them separately. They live separately, you should deal with them separately if you want to ask both.

Propose when the ring is ready. Don't wait until next summer. If you're ready to propose, she's ready to accept (and make sure she should have had such a discussion already), and you have a ring (even then, the ring is optional), then do it. Don't have her waiting! It's an unfair balance of power if you're waiting to propose and she doesn't know when it's coming for that long. Do keep her feelings in mind.
posted by inturnaround at 8:13 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I second proposing this December.

Knowing something important is going to happen but having no idea when or how is fun...for a while. But it's *crazy-making* over the long term. Please don't put her through that! Especially if you expect her parents and you to all be in on this secret together beforehand.
posted by rue72 at 8:15 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

See, most people who work in the non-academic sector don't have any large chunks of free time away from their day-to-day responsibilities. But people still fit these kinds of things in. You don't need to hire a sky-writer or organize a flash mob ... please don't let the proliferation of proposal videos on YouTube cause you to think that the theatrics are what matters and you need to keep up with that to prove how much you love your girlfriend or something.

A propsoal can be really simple and still incredibly beautiful and romantic. You don't even need a ring.* Basically all it comes down to is, "I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. What'ya say?"

*And she may actually prefer the opportunity to pick out a ring herself... you may want to ask her about this.
posted by Asparagus at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2013 [22 favorites]

For what it's worth, if you can make a quick trip up to see her parents in the next couple of weeks, that both avoids co-opting the birthday celebration, *and* is plenty of time to do jewelry consultation with her dad and have a ring ready to propose with by the winter holidays, even for something custom. My husband and I did some ring-shopping the weekend after Valentine's Day so he could have an idea of what styles I liked; the official proposal came in mid-April, and even knowing that we'd gone looking a couple of months before, even knowing that it would be "coming soon," when it happened, it was still a lovely surprise. (Like, so much of a surprise that I'd made last-minute shopping plans with a friend when he came bouncing in and was all, "It's a gorgeous day! Let's drive to our special place," I was on my way out the door to meet up with said friend.) It worked out. :)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:37 AM on September 26, 2013

2. The parents live 2 hours away. That means asking their permission would require you to make a 5-hr trip one evening. Invent a special meeting with a "couple coworkers" on a "big project" closer to the date, and "go to it". Clue a couple coworkers that you need to pick up something special as a gift for her, so they don't spoil it (slightly misleading, but not really lying).

I really love this idea - and it would make a really cute story for a toast later on.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:41 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should wait until closer to the proposal to ask the parents and in regard to the dad jeweler angle, maybe you could plan on using a placeholder (25 cent spider ring!) and make it a family thing after you've proposed for dad, girl, and you to pick out a ring. You know your GF best, but a lot of women like to have input into daily jewelry.

And if surprise is a major element of the proposal that you want to keep, then I wouldn't take too long to plan. Anything too elaborate would give it away. Something smaller would keep the surprise, like suggesting "hey, why don't we go eat at that [restaraunt where first date was] this week?" Then when you get there open her car door and propose before going in. Boom, engaged, and eating. what more do you need?
posted by WeekendJen at 9:14 AM on September 26, 2013

Oh also - IS Skype an option to have the talk with the parentals?
posted by WeekendJen at 9:15 AM on September 26, 2013

My husband really wanted to put the idea of marrying me forward to my parents before he asked me. It was important to him and I didn't think it was a backward step in equality that he politely talk to my parents. At the time, he lived in Missouri, I lived in Middle Tennessee and my folks lived in East Tennessee.

One holiday weekend he suggested we take a short trip to the mountains, and since we'd be driving through the area where my parents live on the way to the mountains, we should stop by and say hi. You know, just to make a long trip shorter.

I knew exactly what was up. When we got to my parents' place, I made a point of leaving him alone with them for chunks of time, taking the dog for a walk, running into town to get milk, etc. They all seemed like natural things to do, but they also gave him a window.

After we left my folks house, I was waiting impatiently for him to propose, because I assumed he'd talked to my folks and all was good. The whole entire trip I waited, and finally at a rest stop a few miles from my house he asked.

So yeah, she'll know what's up, but if you make her wait until July, she may loose her mind. I only had to way a few days and I was nuts. But then again, I detest waiting.
posted by teleri025 at 9:52 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do this in December. It doesn't take a "big block of free time" to ask someone to marry you. You will still have the exact same amount of time between the proposal and the wedding to have her father help source rings. To some degree, I think you're overthinking. Give up all ideas of doing this perfectly, and just do it sincerely.

I don't think this is a bad thing to ask on the birthday weekend. Assuming her parents think well of you, this could be a great birthday gift. It's easier to keep a secret from November to December than from November to July.

No one gets younger. Her parents are around and alive. I agree with those who say when you know you want to spend your life with this person, get on the road to starting that life now.
posted by Miko at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you're certain that this marriage will happen and that it is what you want... do it sooner. You're choosing between next July and this December? Do it in December. We never know what will happen tomorrow.
posted by k8lin at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

My husband ask my parents for their blessing before he proposed. Everyone knew it was a given and that the asking wasn't actually about him getting their permission. He "asked" as a sign of respect for my parents. It was something that meant a lot to my dad, my husband, and to me. I'm very very glad he did it, as is he. It doesn't matter if other people think it is 'backwards'. What matters is the meaning and importance it holds for you guys.

Re. the timing of the asking, I say just do it and get it done. Cross it off your list. And then you and your father-in-law-to-be can start discussing rings. I agree that she may have particular tastes and opinions on what her ring should look like, and if he is custom making it then letting her have input may not be a bad call. For what it is worth, I knew about the ring before my husband proposed because we had looked at rings together beforehand. Knowing about the ring before didn't ruin any of the surprise. I actually was even MORE excited and anxious for him to propose because I knew the ring was gorgeous and I couldn't wait to wear it! ha ha

I also agree that you're overthinking how much time/effort/thought you need to invest to prepare to ask someone to marry you. Seriously, it takes 5 minutes. If you love her and know that this is a done deal just ask her already.

As for it being a surprise, you should do what my husband did, and that is to have a rough time frame for when you want to do it, and then if at any point in that time frame it feels right then you do it. My husband had the ring and knew he wanted to propose soon-ish but didn't have a set way or date that he was going to pop the question. This also worked well because he doesn't hid things well from me, so because HE didn't know when he would do it I never had any reason to suspect. He ended up asking me to marry him just before we went out to dinner on a normal date night. I was absolutely not expecting it because it was just a normal thing we did, it didn't feel like he was leading up to something. It caught me totally off guard and I burst in to tears yelling "no no no no" and trying to escape! ha ha ha Anyway, it was awesome. So my suggestion is that if you want it to be a surprise for her maybe have it be a bit of a surprise to you too. Don't plan it too much because she'll probably sense it, and you'll get all stressed out and worked up that it has to go perfectly. Just have it be in a very normal every day moment. * if your girlfriend is anything like me she may be expecting a proposal during any time that falls even slightly outside the norm. There was one time when my husband was late getting home because he stopped to get milk and I was all "Ooooo! Maybe he is buying time because he is getting his special proposal ready!". (Yes, I'm serious, that was my thought process.)

*Just don't propose right when she comes out of the bathroom. I have known a few women who were proposed to that way. One had just finished pooping and she couldn't really enjoy the moment because she was worried the guy was going to smell the stink she left.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, you could, you know, write them a letter. Like, on paper.
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nah don't do a letter, or an email. You should have a conversation about it. The key to the asking the father thing is what you percieve her and her mother's reaction to that to be. Will your future bride be all "Aww that's traditional, cute" or something else? Her parents are married I assume? If so is your MIL the type to enjoy that tradition too or not?

I asked my wife's father, alone, in March and proposed 2 months later. He was a total rock about it, very cool, but still it was slightly stressful since they knew my plans.

My advice is to move up the proposal date. Talk to her parents in November and then plan something for New Years Eve. She'll be so surprised that you moved it up, right? Plus NYE is a time you're planning a big thing anyway, in most cases.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:14 AM on September 26, 2013

Oh and...
3) Is co-opting a birthday celebration to ask this question really tacky?

I asked her father at her brother's wedding. It worked great, we could have the heart-to-heart while everyone was distracted and then hug and walk away sniffling to avoid awkwardness.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:17 AM on September 26, 2013

First, an observation for the people who are making the "asking permission is backward/sexist/etc." comments - please note the following from the original freakin' question - "I know that she would like me to speak to her father beforehand to get his blessing". As in, the bride-to-be has expressed a desire for this course of action.


I do think you're putting a bit more thought than necessary into this, but I understand why you would - this is a big-deal thing that makes you all nervous, and the world has recently blown proposals up into choreographed production numbers that go up on Youtube or whatever. To counterbalance that (and hopefully take the pressure off), I can attest that my best friend's husband proposed to her while he was taking a crap, and she still said yes. (Well, to be fair, she first said "could you maybe please finish what you're doing and then ask me again" and when he did, then she said yes.) If she wants to marry you, she will say yes no matter how much or little of a Big Deal the proposal is.

In terms of asking one or both parents - I couldn't possibly see how you would be shooting yourself in the foot either way. My brother asked both his in-laws' parents, and they thought it was lovely. Also, he did it via email - granted, he had to do it that way because he and my sister-in-law were in the middle of a backpacking trip across South America, and he wanted to ask her while they were in a certain campground, so he emailed them a couple weeks beforehand from an Internet cafe somewhere in Chile. But the fact that he emailed them rather than speaking to them personally didn't bother them in the slightest - they were more concerned with whether my brother was a good person. And if your girlfriend's parents like you, they're going to be far too excited about the prospect of you wanting to marry her than they are to even notice what means you use to speak to them.

I know there are a lot of videos out there that turn proposals into big production numbers, but the method of proposal doesn't mean anything compared to the fact that you are proposing. If a person is worth their salt, that's the bit they're going to be excited about, not whether or not you asked at a given time.

Good luck!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. Way too early, if you have to ask her parents at all. November for July and her parents are going to be wondering why it's taking you so long to propose to their daughter.
2. Definitely ask both parents at once (you SERIOUSLY do not want her Mom to be locked out of any of the wedding shizz.)
3. No letters/phone calls/e-mails/etc. This is where you man up and face the music if asking her parents is something your girlfriend has hinted at that she would like you to do. Surely there's some item you can think of to celebrate her mother's birthday that might take a bit of time to go and get?

posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:23 AM on September 26, 2013

We've discussed it before and I know that she'll say 'yes',

So, you're framing this question and timetable on the assumption that you are both rational mature people without any kind of peer pressure, self doubt or anxiety driven thoughts of the future. "Sure, July makes sense, we could make it a vacation."

I will not say this makes me proud to admit, but "waiting" made me go absolutely insane. I knew he wanted to ask. I knew I would say yes. We discussed that he wanted to be the "asker" (since I had no problems asking myself) and that he wanted to surprise me. The fact that it took a year for him to actually do it made me feel like it was a dreaded chore, like cleaning out the garage or something. And before next July she'll have gotten a few more wedding invitations, seen a few more engagement rings on Facebook and each one will involuntarily make her think "my guy doesn't love me enough to do this". Which will lead to "there must be something wrong with me" which is a pretty shitty situation to be in, even if you know empirically that it isn't true.

Seriously, you'll never know what tomorrow brings. Do it sooner rather than later. You don't need to have a wedding right away, you don't need a special ring, but knowing that you're making that commitment sooner rather than later will save you both lots of miscommunicated tensions.

I also think that having her mom know, and then spend a whole day alone with her daughter in a spa would be very tough. Even if mom didn't say anything, daughter would know something was up, and could take a decent guess at it. If you could time it, do it on the last day you're together. Maybe get her all packed into the car, start the engine, and then suddenly remember that you forgot your toothbrush! I'll be right back! Having the car running makes her feel like she's got to stay with the car, even if you end up taking a suspiciously long time to find a toothbrush.
posted by fontophilic at 10:24 AM on September 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

So I want to speak to them both at the same time, but there's the snag of them living nearly two hours away, they both work during the week, and any pretense of arranging to see them at the same time will quickly be sniffed out.

I'm not seeing how that's a problem at all. They're going to say yes, you know it, they know it, and your fiancee knows it. That makes it easy for you. Just go up and have lunch with them, ask for their blessing, shoot the breeze and be on your way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:46 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, OP has said this is how they want to do this. You can go to MeTa if you want to talk about something that is not the OPs question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:47 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to come back to encourage you to ask for blessings in November, propose in December, and you can MARRY in July!

Sooner is always better than later.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:15 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why not propose soon with a simple stand-in ring and then you and your betrothed can work on the ring with her Dad together. If my Dad was a jeweler and he could make such an important ring for me, I'd want some say in the design and I'd love the experience of having a very special project with the two most important men in my life.

You don't need a big chunk of free time to propose, you'll need it to get married and have a honeymoon.

Don't ask her parents now and then wait until July. Your girlfriend knows it's coming and having her parents sit on such a big secret and having her wait nearly a year seems unnecessary and it'll take away from the excitement and momentum. Instead of "YAY!!!!", it'll be, "GEEZ! FINALLY!!"
posted by quince at 11:35 AM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would use the upcoming opportunity to speak with them both, not of a proposal, but of your serious intentions and affections for their daughter. Find a way to express to them that you love her, respect her and are planning a future together. Tell them that you would like to include their blessing in any future proposal and that you sincerely hope that your relationship with their daughter continues to develop along those lines.

I think it's nicer to get the approval from both of them.
posted by cior at 11:53 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

1) No.
2) Talk to both of them if that's what you'd like to do; I think it's a good idea and I'm willing to bet her mother will appreciate it.
3) I don't think it's tacky at all; you won't be hijacking the whole weekend, just taking a few minutes at a mutually convenient time.

Anecdote: My mother's husband took time during unrelated weekends to talk to both myself and my brother before he proposed to my mom, and I thought that was pretty damn cool. I like the idea of talking to the people who love your girlfriend to let them know. I hope it goes well, good luck and (early) congratulations!
posted by jennaratrix at 12:04 PM on September 26, 2013

Yes, both of them, but closer to the actual proposal time if you can manage it.

Before he proposed to his girlfirend, my son, who was living out of town at the time, sent a letter to his dad and me, and to his girlfriends parents, talking about what he saw and admired in our marriages and in our parenting and asking our blessings on his relationship and plans.

I think it was lovely that he included both sets of parents. Not a 'permission' issue at all, but a sharing of his love and happiness.

Best of luck.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:50 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

As Dad in November, Mom if she is with him and it is easy, otherwise don't worry about it as it will be obvious. You don't want this to be contrived.

Also, letting Mom know on her birthday celebration that you want to marry her daughter is not going to cramp her style. If I am any judge, this will just be the icing on the birthday cake. So no worries there.

Propose in December! Christmastime, whether you celebrate the religious holiday or not, is a crazy romantic time for proposals. Happy people and pretty lights everywhere. Also, if you do celebrate, the gift giving offers numerous opportunities for ring shopping, packaging and presenting that would otherwise arouse suspicion. So it will be easier for you to keep the proposal a surprise then, too!

Your girlfriend sounds somewhat traditional, and traditionally Summer weddings are also popular. Get married in July (or, if you can do it, go whole hog traditionalist and get married on the last weekend in June!
posted by misha at 1:09 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Asking her father for his blessing means you are doing what your fiancee wants, which I think is lovely. It is a way to show her family that you know how important they are to each other and that you want to include her family in your lives. After all, you will all be family when you are married!

Also, your girlfriend feeling free to express what she wants and you respecting her wishes is what feminism is all about, as far as I am concerned, so feel free to ignore all the silliness that implies otherwise. Some people just can't see the forest for the trees. That's their problem, not yours, and not your girlfriend's. You guys are Doing It Right.

posted by misha at 1:29 PM on September 26, 2013

A December proposal could be so beautiful -- maybe on the winter solstice? Such a lovely, symbolic date.

I think you are fine to first focus on getting alone-time with her dad at the mom's birthday weekend. You two can have your talk. Then, you might be able to enlist his help to set up alone-time with the mom, either on that weekend, or another time soon. Can they meet you somewhere halfway between your place and theirs?

I think it would be asking too much to have them keep a secret between November and July. They (and you) will be in the position of lying to your SO, should the topic of engagement come up in discussion.

And perhaps most importantly: as an honesty-uber-alles type of woman, I would be very uncomfortable to learn that my SO and parents had conspired for six months, even in a best-intentions way. I wouldn't find it charming or romantic -- I'd be rewinding every conversation we had, and feeling a bit "played". And I would feel lousy if, during those months, I'd been feeling and expressing unease or frustration about the lack of engagement.

Think of it this way: by popping the question six months sooner than your original plan, you are adding six extra months of extra joy to your loved one's life. And think how terribly sad it would be if something were to befall your SO between now and July, and you never got to make that gesture of commitment to her...
posted by nacho fries at 1:31 PM on September 26, 2013

How about this for a simple answer to your question:
Talk to her father while she is having a spa day with her mother. Arrange for the father to capture her attention as soon possible after she gets back. While he distracts her, you talk to the mother so that both parents got to hear from you first (rather than father tells mother) and your SO remain unaware.

Bonus - snap a photo of you + Dad and you+Mom right after each conversations so you can show her later how well it all went.
posted by metahawk at 3:04 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

1) Yes. Yes. That's eight months. Two thirds of a year. That's crazy. Why not just ask her the day after you ask them? Why July? I don't know what it's like where you live, but around here academics have two or three big breaks between November and July.

2) Yeah, go ahead and stick with just the father. If asking for his blessing is something that she insists on -- rather than something she thinks they insist on -- then chances are they'll just shrug and go, "Okay." Just don't tell them beforehand that you're planning to wait eight months to propose, or they may well say no.

3) Tacky? Not really. But it's a lot less special than if you were to go up for that sole purpose. Of course, if the trip is too much hassle, most people do have telephones nowadays...
posted by Sys Rq at 5:04 PM on September 26, 2013

Mod note: Folks, question has been in MeTa all day. If you are not mostly answering the question you can go over there and discuss how things bother you but lecturing the OP is out of the question here. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:55 PM on September 26, 2013

I'm cautious that it might detract from her weekend.

Why? Isn't it good news, a nice thing, etc? A birthday party isn't one of those occasions, like a wedding or a baby shower or something, where any other happy news/event automatically ruins everything for the guest of honor. Besides which, it sounds like this will be a private conversation anyway. It's not like other guests will know this is going on, thus taking the focus off your future mother in law.

Answers to your direct questions:

1) No, if asking them is such an ordeal you should do it while you can, regardless of when you actually plan to propose.

2) No, why? Also I'm curious about why you would need to broach anything with your girlfriend since the whole point of this entire thing is NOT to broach it with your girlfriend. Just take her parents aside, either collectively or individually (whatever works), and speak to them about it.

3) No, it's not "co-opting" anything, especially since the conversation in question is private.

Another thought -- is there a reason you can't do this over the phone or via skype? It seems like that would be the convenient way to do this, and I don't think it would detract from the sentiment. Especially since it's not like there's a formalized Asking The Parents For Their Blessings ritual that needs to be performed. You could ring them up right now and talk to them about it, and that would be fine.
posted by Sara C. at 6:35 PM on September 26, 2013

Asking in November for a July proposal is comically early, especially if your girlfriend has a close relationship with her parents. The odds of them keeping that kind of secret for that long is vanishingly low. Also you should count me in with the crowd of people that thinks you should propose in December. The time between when my husband and I knew we wanted to be together and when he eventually proposed was excruciating, and not in a way that I look back on fondly. (Like a commenter above, I asked if I could propose, and he preferred I didn't).
posted by snarfles at 8:08 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is beanplating the beanplating.

(for the record, my wife told me that if I asked her dad first, she would refuse, so...)

Get this done. I proposed to my wife with a plastic spider ring from a gumball machine. Call her dad. That, or take a day off work secret and go visit him, if you insist on doing it in person- otherwise you're just making excuses to take longer.
posted by notsnot at 9:42 PM on September 26, 2013

I don't think asking on Mom's birthday weekend is rude at all! I bet she will be so happy. My husband had 'the talk' with my folks while I was in the shower because we were all getting ready to go somewhere. Surely she will want to shower at some point over the weekend. Once she does grab them immediately and ask. If you run out of time you can hash out the ring details later or even on the phone.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:14 AM on September 27, 2013

Personally, I'd be extremely annoyed if asked to keep a secret as big as an engagement for like nine months. That is insane. Don't do it to her parents.
posted by ktkt at 1:12 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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