I want to marry your daughter
October 24, 2006 6:58 AM   Subscribe

After great advice on the green I am getting close to asking Rachel to marry me! I have met her parents and we get along extremely well. The problem is that I would like to ask her father for his blessing but he is 2000 miles from me and I most likely will not see him for a while. What is the classiest way to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage without doing it face-to-face?
posted by jasondigitized to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The classiest way might be to fly out to where he is to ask. The second classiest way, I think, would be the telephone. Good luck either way!
posted by dshargel at 7:01 AM on October 24, 2006

A hand-written note telling him how great his daughter is and how you will take care of her for the rest of her life. Follow-up with a phone call.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:04 AM on October 24, 2006

My fiancee asked my mother for her permission over the phone because he couldn't make the trip. I would say that it's not a matter of some elaborate scheme to ask him, but rather a sincere and genuine request on your part. Think of exactly what you are going to say before you get on the phone and you should be fine. Best of luck and congratulations!
posted by elvissa at 7:05 AM on October 24, 2006

Does he use MSN Messenger? Just kidding. I think a phone call is definitly the right thing to do.
posted by tomw at 7:09 AM on October 24, 2006

What about a YouTube post?

Nah, a sincere phone call sounds your best bet.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 7:20 AM on October 24, 2006

Ohh, if you are going all out. I'd say hand-written letter on good paper. Follow up with a phone call.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:21 AM on October 24, 2006

Well - I do like the idea of a handwritten note. Seems sweet somehow - and you guys will have it forever and can include it in the wedding mementos.
posted by beccaj at 7:29 AM on October 24, 2006

Hey! That's great.
No advice, other than be sure that the "asking permission" thing is cool with both of them. If Mr Dynagirl had asked my dad for "my hand" or whatever, we'd both have suddenly had doubts about him, as I was not my father's property to give.

A hand-written, heart-felt letter is still a good idea, regardless.
posted by mimi at 7:34 AM on October 24, 2006

Hand-written letter, definitely. Classy and old school.
posted by micayetoca at 7:50 AM on October 24, 2006

Unless your potential missus is 19 and living at home, then mimi's on the right track: don't do it unless you're absolutely sure that she would expect you to. Asking Dad's permission to marry his adult, independent daughter is creepy.
posted by mendel at 7:52 AM on October 24, 2006

Furture-Mr GoodForYou & I live about an hour away from my parents, but making a trip just so that he could talk to my dad would have been tough to keep a secret. He just called on a weekend when he was pretty sure my dad would be able to talk. I think a handwritten note is classy, but my SO was so worried that my dad secretly hated him & would say no, that waiting all that time for the letter to get there, then calling to follow up, and what if it got lost in the mail, & on & on, it would have been needlessly tortuous. However, that's just him, & my dad can be a little intimidating sometimes. If you wouldn't be panicking while it was in the mail, it might be a nice option for you. :)

One thought: my dad was on his cell phone while talking to SO, and the call actually got dropped, causing SO to panic again. If you call, try to call him on a landline.
posted by good for you! at 7:52 AM on October 24, 2006

Asking Dad's permission to marry his adult, independent daughter is creepy.

It depends on their family structure. In my social circle, it's not so much literally asking the dad for her hand in marriage, but rather more a matter of formality and respect.
posted by jmd82 at 7:57 AM on October 24, 2006

I would do the hand-written letter. Personally, I would go with a "real letter" and not an informal "note". It used to be that travel and telephone were often not possible, and it was not uncommon for this kind of thing to be done by letter. I would perhaps do some research by reading some classic literature written when this was still the way things were (19th Century stuff); you may be able to find some great examples to inspire you.
posted by Doohickie at 7:58 AM on October 24, 2006

One of my sister's fiances, a rather traditional fellow, asked our parents for their blessing; it kind weirded everyone out. (And eventually my sister broke of the engagement, but for other reasons.) Make sure your fiancee and her parents are into the whole asking Dad for his permission thing.
posted by orthogonality at 8:02 AM on October 24, 2006

Definitely hand-written letter. Find some lovely stationery just for the occasion -- go to the best stationery store you can find, or order it online from somewhere even better. However, if you can talk to the _owner_ of a stationery store, that person can advise you on what's appropriate -- i.e., dignified, not too fussy, nice.
posted by amtho at 8:03 AM on October 24, 2006

And this would be a fabulous question for Miss Manners.
posted by amtho at 8:05 AM on October 24, 2006

Ooh, another idea. If you decide that sending a handwritten note followed by a call won't work for you, perhaps you could call to actually ask for his blessing, then send him a note after you talk. That way you could still have the classiness of a handwritten note, with the relief of a phone call. I don't really know what you would write in it though, which is why I'm glad I didn't do the asking.

On preview: Yeah, mendal & mimi are right that you shouldn't ask if it would offend someone, but I think that you know your lady & her dad best. I sort of think that it's become less "asking permission" and more "showing respect to family".

On re-preview: jmd82 & I agree.
posted by good for you! at 8:06 AM on October 24, 2006

Agreed with a few - I find it hella creepy. Make sure it's appropriate before you plunge in.
posted by agregoli at 8:18 AM on October 24, 2006

I think calling would be sufficient and you might ask for his blessing instead of his permission.
posted by mmascolino at 8:28 AM on October 24, 2006

Agree with the ones who say it's kind of creepy. Let me add that I would have found it infantilizing, and would have been pretty upset. Make sure you think it would be ok with her.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2006

By the way, you may want to include her mother in this to make it seem less like you think baby is daddy's property. "Blessing" would be the way to go, and address it to both parents (if applicable).
posted by arcticwoman at 8:30 AM on October 24, 2006

He's not asking whether it's appropriate. He's asking how to do it. He's met the parents and knows this girl, so he probably knows whether it's creepy or not.

I'd call the father.
posted by sweetkid at 8:31 AM on October 24, 2006

And all we said was make sure, because a lot of people find it weird in this day and age. HE showed a desire to ask, but didn't mention whether his girlfriend or the family would want it - it's an appropriate caution.

But thanks, sweetkid, for your concern.
posted by agregoli at 8:34 AM on October 24, 2006

count me as another who would be creeped out - but then, you're asking her to marry you 6 months after you started dating, so we already live in different worlds...
posted by mdn at 8:34 AM on October 24, 2006

I don't think asking for the father's blessing is creepy at all.
Folks, he's not asking permission.

I Nth the nicely-written letter. Include your phone number (unless you're certain he has it) so he can get back to you when it's convenient for him.

My husband wrote a similar letter to my parents (both parents, not just my dad), and my mother cherishes that letter. One of our favorite stories is of the letter and my mother calling him back screaming "YEESS!!" into the phone.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 8:37 AM on October 24, 2006

I would like to ask her father for his blessing...

...ask for his daughter's hand in marriage

It looks to me like he is asking both for permission and for a blessing, or that he hasn't decided the way to go yet. The more I think about this, the more I think that asking for a blessing would be perfectly fine AS LONG AS it is addressed to both parents. If you address it only to the father, then no matter what words you use, you will be asking for permission.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:41 AM on October 24, 2006

Creepy, transferal of ownership, permission.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:42 AM on October 24, 2006

Yes, it's really not inappropriate to say that he should make doubly sure that that is what his prospective fiancée wants. Some women think it’s sweet and I’m sure that a lot of fathers think it’s great, but a lot of women would be angered by this. Not hurt, angered. Proposing is nerve-racking anyway; getting this wrong will make it even worse. Having said all that, if she’s cool with it a hand-written letter is the way to go.
posted by ob at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2006

If it's asking for a blessing that you're talking about then I think you should write to both parents AFTER you've proposed and she's said yes. If it's really important to you to have that then I don't see why it can't be after the fact.
posted by ob at 8:52 AM on October 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

In my social circle, it's not so much literally asking the dad for her hand in marriage, but rather more a matter of formality and respect.

I sort of think that it's become less "asking permission" and more "showing respect to family".

I would certainly hope it would not be taken literally - that would be obscene. The "showing respect" thing is merely creepy. It gives greater importance to the institution and familial structure than to the individual human being you want to share your life with. Announcing the engagement to the family is a chance to celebrate the connection to the family; going to the family before you've actually popped the question seems like a subtle dismissal of the agency of the woman and just feels a little weird, especially given the tradition it symbolizes.
posted by mdn at 9:09 AM on October 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

you could always take advice from this guy
posted by yonation at 9:12 AM on October 24, 2006

I must second what ob said. Ask the parents for their blessing after you've posed the question to her and she's responded favorably. For this, I think it would be perfect for both of you to fly out there and jointly ask for their blessing. Do the same with your parents if you want.

I would have been highly irritated if someone asked my parents for either permission or their blessing before asking me if I even wanted to get married. Even if you know in your heart she'll say yes, it is her decision to make, regardless of what her parents have to say about it. If you ask the father/parents first and they don't give you their permission/blessing, you've just made the whole situation awkward for everyone for years to come for no reason.
posted by lynda at 9:14 AM on October 24, 2006

Thirding ob (and lynda), and adding that traditional etiquette backs them up. It's not some new-fangled modern-women idea to ask for a blessing after; traditionally, talking to the father should occur after your fiancee has agreed to be your fiancee. (And there was at least one other AskMe thread about this with proper etiquette guides cited, but I'm too lazy to look them up again. If I'm remembering correctly, we're talking the 1920s original Emily Post guide, not even the newer ones.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:29 AM on October 24, 2006

If you ask the father/parents first and they don't give you their permission/blessing, you've just made the whole situation awkward for everyone for years to come for no reason.

Also, if you get their blessing and Rachel says "Not yet," you've also made the situation pretty awkward.

Fourthing ob, lynda, occhiblu... jointly ask for their blessing after you have proposed to her.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:32 AM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have been more careful with my words. Firstly, I would not be asking for permission. I am not even really asking, I am telling. I am not looking for an answer from him. This is nothing more than showing respect to her father in a old-school type of way. She has intimated to me that that would be a good thing to do. As far as the sequence of events goes, I guess I never thought about asking her first. But as an aside, I would never have thought the word 'creepy' would come into the conversation. If I would have asked how many goats I needed to give him in order to marry his daughter, then I would expect 'creepy'.

As a further aside, in my opinion, any guy who asks and gets a 'no' is either an assh*ole, desperate, or extremely out of touch. If I haven't performed enough 'due diligence' to know exactly if Rachel wants to get married, and wants to marry me, and then ask her out of the blue, I should be beaten with the Stupid-Stick until I am proclaimed 'The Stupidest' on the Planet Stupid.
posted by jasondigitized at 10:11 AM on October 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

hey jason,

she doesn't read ask.me right? because if she does, you're kinda screwed.

anyways, just call up and ask. you've already met the parents, so it shouldn't be hard to give them a call. getting their number might be difficult but i'm assuming you have that covered.

I know several girls who either wanted their fiancees/husbands to ask their parents or not and it really depends on the girl. luckily you've alread talked to her about this topic and you know what to do. i would suggest calling the father/mother unit before you propose. if Rachel is close to her parents, she's going to call and tell her parents about the engagement right after you ask. and since Rachel has already said that you should ask for a blessing, then she'll expect this to already have happened.

also, if you want this to be a surprise, figure out if her parents are good at keeping surprises from Rachel - that'll give you a timelimit of how early you should ask. If her mother or father can't keep it secret for a few days, ask them a couple of days before you plan to propose to Rachel. etc etc.

Also, congrats. best of luck to you both.
posted by Stynxno at 10:26 AM on October 24, 2006

If you really can't make the flight out there to do it in person (under the guise of a business or training trip so she doesn't get wise), I would say a phone call is alright. It's more about how sincere you are and the affirmation that you're going to take good care of his little girl.
posted by PetiePal at 10:41 AM on October 24, 2006

Definitely a hand written letter. It's romantic and will most likely become a keepsake.
posted by tkolar at 10:47 AM on October 24, 2006

How well do you communicate with future father-in-law over the phone? I mean, I get along extremely well with my SO's dad, but he is not much of a phone person, by any means. He is open/honest in person, but as far as the phone goes, I think he truly hates the device. (like most dads, right?)

If this bears any resemblance to your situation, I would go out on a limb and say that if it can't be in person, maybe don't do it at all.

If you are going to see these people over the holiday period (although obviously with 2000 miles in between y'all, it's possible that isn't likely) then maybe this idea can wait until then. This is a tradition that involves the type of respect and honesty (and a little vulnerability) that is best done in-person. While phone and letter are the only alternatives (vs. email and texting!), that doesn't make them great ones.

Best of luck!
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 12:27 PM on October 24, 2006

The tradition originates with the bride price. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 offers these instructions: "If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days."

With the rampant devaluation of the shekel, offering fifty shekels is obviously declasse. If you care enough to send the very best, nothing says honorable intentions like paying for your wife in livestock. I think 10 goats and 10 sheep is a fair price, assuming her maidenhead is intact. If you are asking for her hand and not paying a bride price, it is just creepy.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 1:34 PM on October 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As often happens on The Green, jasondigitized, a poster (you, in this case) has asked a question, and a number of people have critiqued that question, or suggested the question the poster should have asked (by their lights), and/or answered some question not asked at all, and even been fairly rude in offering their personal political reaction to a personal question. So, if you, jasondigitized, don't mind, I'll just stick to the question as asked.

Without a face to face meeting, the "classiest" way to ask your question is by letter. And I don't mean a note, or a card, or an email. I mean the sober, thoughtful kind of communication one man sits down and writes to another he knows, and then holds for a day or two, and reads over again, and improves, that calls upon the man recieving it, by its excellence, to read, and consider, and re-read, and answer with equal care and respect.

It's immaterial what politics you hold, or he holds, or what the customs surrounding such communications are. You are asking for his consideration of you as an element in his daughter's life, and you can only hope for his considered opinion in the best sense he can communicate it. For he has known her longer than you, and has known her mother, and quite possibly her mother's mother, to boot. He has, quite possibly, had secret hopes for you, or at least some faceless man who would want the role to which you now aspire, and been rehearsing his answer to such a question as you might like to ask, since before the day the girl you love was christened. In respect of his possible decades of rehearsal, you owe him a damn fine letter, and the full respect to his reply, at the very least.

You can imagine yourself, as he was some decades ago, holding this woman you now want to hold, when she was barely able to fill both his hands. You can imagine the heartfelt promises he made her tiny face then, before she could understand any promise, and how he'd now like to fulfill them, for his own heart's sake, and hers, as he remembers her tiny face, and also loves her now. And you can offer to help him do that, by asking your question with some humility and nobility, and never mentioning your imaginings of him in that long ago time, in anything but the most respectful terms, as you might hope to repeat, if you should be so fortunate to be father to a daughter, someday, of his daughter. You can say this in carefully consider phrases, that are yet manfully direct and heartfelt, in this damn fine letter you are going to write.

You can seek his wisdom, if you love his daughter, in how best you can be husband to her, before you become such. In doing so, you can take what he may offer to heart, in the spirit he gives it, in preparation for taking his advice in the future, should it come to that. For we are none of us perfect, and marriage is a trying thing, and you may well need his further wisdom in the future, to make such a thing as marriage work. It would be good to promise him your acceptance of his advice in the future, in some way that gives him leverage to have you recall it then, because there may be some things you will need to hear then, that you'll brook no other way, than by such a promise recalled. So, give him that, too, in this remarkable letter you're about to write.

And especially for a man with your personal history, you can ask something more meaningful, in exchange for something only you can give, which is, you can ask for his acceptance as a son-in-law, in return for taking seriously his role as your father-in-law. This is something women blow by easily, as it doesn't occur to them seemingly. But it does occur to him, as an older man, and it should occur to you, as you write this letter. Because if what you are asking is given, and what you hope comes to pass, you will, in some future day, very probably be a man standing by his graveside, holding women he once loved, and you will be remembering him with them, and helping them to grieve. So, you need to promise to become, if you are not now, a man he'd be grateful to have be there, and to do that. And you'll find that saying this to him, in such a remarkable letter as you must write, is extremely hard to do without being the least bit morbid or one whit presumptive, but you owe him that, too, to ask such a question as you want to ask.

And you owe it to him, and to yourself, to speak to the future, with the same humilty and lack of presumption that is the very essence of such a damn fine letter as you must write. If you hope to be father to his grandchildren, you must make sure he'll be grandfather to them. For any man can be father to a child, but it is something else entirely to give that child, even temporarily, into the loving care of others, and to sit back, and hold your piece, as they, in their own fashion, care for that child. If the man to whom you are writing your remarkable letter is a worthy man to be grandfather to your children, you must ask him to do double duty, because in your case, you haven't, from your history, a man of blood on your side, to which you can hand a child for the grand kind of parenting every child should have by birthright.

Now finally, if you've looked back to the past thoughtfully, and given due weight to future obligations, and made promises upon which you can be called in some future date, and indicated that you can share future happiness as a responsible member of some family, if they'd have you, and demonstrated some sensitivity in doing all that, you have to put your case and question, manfully and yet humbly. You owe the man to whom you write, some account of what you feel for his daughter, that will not sound as if you've borrowed it wholesale from some songwriter, and that will sound as if you not only given it some thought, but deeply believe it yourself. You might want to recap your qualifications as a breadwinner, if that is appropriate, and especially if you've never exchanged such details with him. You owe him, at least by custom in such things, disclosure of any history of crime, or madness, or of undesireable traits that run in the family. And if you can get all that down, succinctly and without bragging or apologizing in any remark, you then have cleared the decks, and laid the ground work to ask your question.

Ask, then, as simply as you can, for what you want, that he would gladly give, that you, if in some future day were so asked, would smile yourself, and pickup a thoughtful pen, to answer freshly, as yet the careful author of another page in the long book of humanity that asks and answers such questions.
posted by paulsc at 2:15 PM on October 24, 2006 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: paulsc, will you proofread the letter for me?
posted by jasondigitized at 4:25 PM on October 24, 2006

"paulsc, will you proofread the letter for me?"
posted by jasondigitized at 7:25 PM EST on October 24

I'd be honored.
posted by paulsc at 4:26 PM on October 24, 2006

wow, that was good paulsc.
posted by occidental at 9:22 PM on October 24, 2006

My partner hired a Zulu analyst. He has since learned the young man has a girlfriend living with his parents, whom he wants to marry. He must wait, however, because he can't afford the cows that must be given her father/family, and the celebration for the entire village. In his case, to do without the tradition is to cut himself assunder from his culture. Sounds potentially painful, and like utter bullcowshit

Different strokes for different folks, folks.
posted by Goofyy at 2:35 AM on October 25, 2006

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