How I Felt When My Son Asked His Girlfriend’s Parents for Their Permission

A few years ago, when my oldest son was ready to propose to his long-time girlfriend, a few things happened. First, he asked me to go ring shopping with him. I thought about it for a bit and then said “Yes.” Okay fine, I’m lying. I didn’t think about it – in fact, I couldn’t say “Yes” fast enough.

Mother/son quality time together? My son asking for my help/opinion? Count me in! I’ve been around long enough to know that when an opportunity like this comes around, you grab it. With both hands.

Engaged couple
My son asking his girlfriend to marry him. (Image via Marlene Fischer)

After the ring was chosen, my son told me he was planning to ask his girlfriend’s parent’s permission to marry her. I was surprised. Was that a thing? I mean I’d seen it done in old movies and tv shows about other cultures. I’m not what you would traditionally call a feminist but my initial reaction was that woman are not chattel to be bartered. My son’s fiancée was an independent, strong, educated career woman. 

My sons asked their girlfriends’ parents for their permission to marry

My son said he was going to ask both parents, which I thought was a definite improvement on the father-only ask I had seen in the movies. He called his future in-laws up and requested to have lunch with them. The mom had other plans, so it just ended up being my son and the dad. 

When my son mentioned what was on his mind, his future father-in-law asked him why he wanted to marry his daughter. I think he wanted to make him sweat a little and it worked. My son, who is rarely at a loss for words, was caught off guard. He rattled off some reasons, the first things that came to mind, “I love her, she’s this, that and the other thing, etc.” Apparently, his answer was good enough because the dad did not voice any objections. 

When I asked my daughter-in-law after the fact what she thought about the whole permission thing she said, “Since I’m close to my parents I thought it was very sweet…I see it more as including them in the proposal rather than a genuine question.”

When my middle son was ready to get engaged, he also set up a meeting with his girlfriend’s parents. He described it as less about asking permission and more about getting their blessing/letting them know what he was planning. This time there was no interrogation. And then we went ring shopping together.

My husband regrets not asking for my parents blessing

Thirty-five years ago when my husband and I got engaged I didn’t know anyone who approached their beloved’s parents to ask for their hand in marriage. We got engaged and then told our parents after the fact. Not that it was a huge surprise; we had been dating for several years. I’m not quite sure when this custom came back in fashion. 

My husband now says he kind of regrets not asking my father’s permission to marry me – he thinks it’s a nice tradition. I know that everything old is new again. I’ve even heard that Formica is back in style. And there are so many little girls named Rose. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you had a mom/grandma/great grandma/aunt named Rose. So I suppose that it’s not surprising that young men are back to asking for a blessing/permission before getting engaged. 

I understand people who think it’s an antiquated custom that should not be revisited, but having two sons who’ve done it, I’ve decided that it’s lovely. I like to think of it, as my middle son said, as less a request for permission and more a blessing or the sharing of information.

It opens the lines of communication between generations and it shows respect. After all, with everything parents pour into their children isn’t it nice for them to get a heads up about something that is so life altering for everyone? It’s definitely a positive way to enter into a new family. 

Not every custom is worthy of revival. But you can count me in on this one.

More Great Reading:

Son’s Girlfriend: The Big Mistake You Need to Avoid

About Marlene Kern Fischer

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