How to Ask Her Father for Her Hand in Marriage

Couple holding hands
Before you pop the question to the love of your life, consider asking her father for her hand in marriage.

Asking your sweetheart's father for her hand in marriage is an act that means different things to different people. Whether you think of it as a trend, a tradition, or just a nod to the days of antiquity when women needed their father's approval to be passed from the family to a husband, there are some things you should know before broaching the subject with her father.

Keep in mind that your wording holds a lot of power. For example, there's a difference between asking for permission and asking for his blessing. It's worth practicing the right words with a friend or family member in advance, so you'll be ready to articulate your wants and feelings without stumbling over them. Of course, be true to yourself in whatever you choose to say.


Perhaps you're 40 years old, own a home and feel silly asking for permission in a formal kind of way. Or maybe you've been raised to honor this ritual, but her dad doesn't share the same appreciation for it. Maybe a short and sweet bid for his blessing would be more your style or more appropriate for the situation than a formal question. Whatever you decide, listen to your gut and develop an approach that both you and he will be comfortable with.

Asking is a way to show respect, not only to your future father-in-law, but also to your soon-to-be bride. It's a time to share your good intentions and plans for the future. Hopefully you'll receive the enthusiastic consent you're hoping for. But if you don't, and parental approval is an absolute must for you, this can be a valuable time to learn about any concerns or questions her father has about your relationship. You can either address those points right then and there, or you can work toward alleviating them over time, before you propose.

For some practical, concrete tips on how to have this important conversation, go to the next page.



Tips for Asking for Her Hand in Marriage

Couple talking on bench
Talk to your girlfriend first to see if she wants you to ask her father for her hand -- she may not be a fan of the ritual.

Sometimes it can be easier to identify what not to do when asking her father for her hand in marriage. But what about all the things you should do? Here are a few "dos" that may help ensure that you get the approval you're looking for.

Do find out what she thinks, and find out if this is something she really wants you to do. If you don't want to ask her directly (for the sake of a surprise proposal, for example) try asking her friends or siblings. One woman may be offended by the gesture of asking for her father's permission, while another may be insulted if you don't take the time to do it, so do a little homework first.


Do choose the right moment to ask the question. Timing is everything. Try to talk to her father or parents when they're at ease and in a good mood, not when they're upset or stressed out. While this may be out of your control, try to think of a time when they're the least busy. Talking to them right after they get home from a grueling day at work, for example, might not be the best approach. A weekend lunch meeting could be a better time.

Do think things through beforehand. Remember, it's very important to plan what you're going to say, since this will help you stay focused, on track and calm. You may want to share how much you love her, what you love about her, why you want to spend the rest of your life with her and what you have planned for your future together.

Do have a plan B. In the off-chance that her father says no, or he discloses some reservations about your marriage to his daughter, know how you'll respond so you're not caught off guard or left feeling foolish. Also, be prepared to answer potentially uncomfortable questions about your financial situation.

Next, we'll look at a few things not to do when asking for her hand. Click to the next page for some "don'ts" to keep in mind.


What to Avoid When Asking for Her Hand in Marriage

Young man talking to older man
Dress nicely and be respectful when talking to her dad, and hopefully he'll be your future father-in-law.

When asking her father (or parents) for her hand, there are a few things you probably want to avoid doing. To make the best impression possible, keep these "don'ts" in mind when preparing to ask the big question.

Don't ask in an e-mail. This is definitely a situation where you want to talk, not type. If possible, set up a meeting with her father and have the conversation in person. If her father lives far away or is unavailable to get together in a timely manner, a phone call is the next best thing. Just never ask over e-mail, as that can make it seem like you're not thoughtful enough to make the effort that a face-to-face meeting involves.


Don't forget mom! After all, she's the one who brought the person you love most into the world. Asking the father for permission originated in a time when the man was in charge of the family, but today, husbands and wives tend to have equal power in familial decision-making. Let her mother into the conversation, and set up a time to ask both parents your big question together. If her parents are divorced, ask them separately.

Don't just throw on anything in your closet. It's always a good idea to dress for the occasion. That's right, wearing nice clothes will help you make a glowing impression. Even if her parents already know you and your style, or you've been close with her family for years, this is certainly the moment you want to be at your best. Keep in mind her father's style, too. If he's the suit-and-tie type, you might want to dress up; otherwise, choose clothes that look neat but are still comfortable. A haircut might not be a bad idea, either!

Don't take the situation lightly. Let her parents know how serious you are about their daughter and about marriage in general. Assure them that getting married is something you've thought a lot about, and tell them exactly what it means to you.

Read on for links to more tips on engagement, relationships and marriage.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Carpenter, Mackenzie. "Popping the question: Some prospective grooms still ask parents for daughter's hand." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Nov. 13, 3007. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • O'Brien, Glenn. "Asking a father's permission to marry his daughter." GQ. Aug. 2002. (Oct. 7, 2010)
  • Sege, Irene. "Asking for her hand: after asking permission." The Boston Globe. Oct. 9, 2007. (Oct. 7, 2010)