Most young adults say they still ask fathers’ permission to propose: ‘A form of respect’
One of marriage’s long-running traditions is the practice of men asking fathers’ permission to marry their daughters. But are today’s young men still chatting with dads before they pop the question, or has the practice become outdated?
In conversations with young adults about marriage, several agreed that asking for their partner’s hand in marriage was a no-brainer.
New Jersey resident Kyle Pender just happened to propose to his girlfriend a few days prior to his interview with Fox News Digital.
“My girlfriend comes from a very traditional Italian upbringing,” he said. “So even if she wasn’t from that upbringing, I still would have done it. I think it’s more of a respect thing. Not like… ‘Oh, it’s tradition, you have to do it.’ I think it’s just more respectful… if you’re close with your fiancé or partner’s family, it’s a good thing to do and just to make sure that everyone’s on board with the next steps.”
Pender credited his upbringing as having guided his current views on the subject.
“I grew up… my parents taught me to be very respectful,” he said. “I was always around my mom and my dad. So I had both of them to kind of look at. And they had a good marriage and that’s what my dad did. So I just want to emulate that.”
Alivia Grace Talley, vice president of the Network of Enlightened Women chapter at Clemson University, helped share the female perspective.
“As a 21-year-old woman who just recently got married, I believe that it shows respect and honor to a father by a man asking for his permission to marry his daughter. I believe it’s a sign of integrity and maturity,” Talley told Fox News Digital.
“As a woman, it’s important to know that the man you are going to marry is man enough to be vulnerable and honest in front of his future father-in-law, and voice to him his desire to marry you,” she continued. “It also shows the father of the bride that the man who wants to marry his daughter values and appreciates all he’s done to take care of his bride-to-be until this point. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without the daily sacrifice and love from both my mom and dad. My husband, Bennett, asked for my dad’s blessing because he is grateful for my parents — and all they’ve done to help me become who I am today.”
“If you weren’t raised by the type of father who would demand I ask for permission, you’re probably not the girl for me,” another young man matter-of-factly told Fox News Digital.
Another friend of his told him he prefers asking for the parent’s “blessing,” as opposed to their permission.
“I don’t know if it’s actually much of a difference, but I asked her dad/mom for their blessing, not permission,” the friend said. “Kind of a blurry line between them… I do see it as a form of respect since you will be entering their family through marriage.”
Kim Forrest, senior editor at The Knot, said their recent studies have shown the tradition of asking fathers for permission continues to be “popular and relevant.”
She pointed to The Knot 2022 Real Weddings Study, which found that 71% of surveyed individuals asked their partner’s parent or parents for permission before proposing.
“If your partner comes from a traditional family that anticipates a discussion about your proposal plans, seeking their blessing might be important to prevent any hurt feelings,” she suggested. “Similarly, if you share a close bond with their family, involving them might hold significance to you.”
But she noted some evolving trends.
“However, it can look a little different these days,” Forrest told Fox Digital. “Today, it’s not uncommon for the groom to seek the mother’s or even a stepparent’s blessing, and it’s also not unheard of for the bride to be the one seeking permission to marry.”
“We’re also finding that marriers are moving away from ‘asking for permission,’ and rather stating their intention to marry to parents and family members,” she later said. “Modern couples don’t necessarily need parents’ permission to wed, but they do want to include their families in the process. Sharing the intention to marry with your future in-laws before the proposal will be a special moment for them, and give them a sense of involvement.”
Juliet Gomes, the customer success manager for Ritani, a fine jewelry company specializing in engagement rings and bridal jewelry, has a unique perspective on the tradition. She, too, has noticed over the years how much more involved partners are in the process, particularly when it comes to picking out engagement rings.
“I feel like there’s less of a surprise these days, and I feel like that almost everybody is getting involved in the process,” Gomes said. “Now I have mothers getting involved, girlfriends, friends coming to see the diamonds to get involved. So I don’t know if it’s completely gone, that tradition, but I do think it’s evolved a little bit.”
There are critics of the longstanding tradition of seeking parents’ permission. Young men like Matthew Marmolejos say asking dads for permission to marry has become antiquated.
“Growing up, I used to think that it was just common courtesy to do, and it was a must-do before asking to marry a woman,” Marmolejos told Fox News Digital. “However, over the years I now view this as a reflection of historical misogyny and patriarchal norms. Why should a father have that much influence over such a deeply personal decision to be made by their daughter?”
“I think it perpetuates the notion that women are treated as property and incapable of making significant decisions for themselves,” he continued. “Even in scenarios where you ask both parents, the ultimate decision (regardless of how horribly bad/good they may choose) should rest with the daughter.”
A piece published by Ritani in October 2022 headlined, “Asking Her Dad For Permission To Marry Her Is So 1917,” encouraged young men to make sure they and their girlfriends are on the same page before they consider approaching the parents. And, as a few young interviewees noted, to ask for their “blessing,” as opposed to their permission.
“That said, most women, including myself, think it’s a sweet, respectful gesture to ask your future bride’s father for his blessing—not permission,” the author wrote. “As you start down the path towards matrimony, talking to him lets your GF, and your GF’s father know that you’re a gentleman who respects family values—which is something that pretty much everyone can agree on, no matter where you come from or what your beliefs are.”
“Having a conversation about marriage with her dad, or other important family member, is an important tradition, a rite of passage, and a bonding experience between you and your future father-in-law,” the author added. “Bonus points if you also include her mom in this conversation.”
Lindsay Goldenberg Jones, Founder and Editor of WomanGettingMarried.com, a wedding planning website that has been helping couples since 2009, shared how she and her now-husband talked about the idea around the time they started talking about getting married.
“I expressed how much it would mean to me if he spoke with my parents ahead of time, and he did,” she told Fox Digital. “Because I’m so close with my parents, it was a tradition that was important to me, just like having my parents walk me down the aisle was. There’s a large percentage of couples who feel the same.”
She added what she’s observed from the many other couples with whom she’s worked. She, too, has noticed an evolution from asking for “permission” to asking for a family’s “blessing.”
“While a large majority of the couples I’ve spoken to over the years have honored this tradition, it’s definitely a personal choice,” she said. “The thing to realize is it’s no longer about ‘getting permission,’ though it started off that way in Ancient Rome. The tradition and the meaning behind it (much like marriage itself) has rightfully evolved. Now, it’s more about getting the blessing of your partner’s dad, parents, or parental figure before you propose. It’s saying ‘Thank you for welcoming me into your family. I love your daughter, and nothing would make me happier than to marry her. I am planning on proposing and I would be honored to have your blessing.’ It’s a sign of respect to the parents.”
Forrest said data from The Knot also showed the majority of young adults still regard marriage “as a significant life event that they eagerly look forward to.” In their recent Future of Marriage survey, they found that 81% of Gen Z are open to the possibility of getting married, with 1 in 2 saying they definitely see it happening this year.
And yet, a record number of 40-year-olds in the United States have never been married, and most of those unmarried individuals are living alone, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The Pew Research Center analyzed Census Bureau data from 2021 and found 25% of 40-year-olds that year had never been married, up from 20% in 2010.
“I don’t think marriage is for everyone,” Pender said. “But… I think it brings stability to some people and helps them get through… and have someone by their side throughout life. But… I have friends who never want to be married, and friends who got married and love being married.”
“I don’t think it’s ever changed for me,” he continued. “For me, it was always if I found the right person, I think it would be the next step for me… Like if I found the right person or not. So I think I did.”
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