He has gotten the ring, made the dinner reservation and rehearsed the speech. What’s an aspiring husband to do next?
If he wants to head down the aisle on the right foot with the in-laws and charm the bride with an old-fashioned gesture, asking the bride’s dad for “permission” still puts the groom in good graces, according to some experts.
“It’s a really sweet and romantic tradition,” said Lesley Carlin, co-author of Things You Need to Be Told: A Handbook for Polite Behavior in a Tacky, Rude World! “It gives the fiancé and the dad a chance to talk -- I don’t know how common it is for guys to spend quality time with their girlfriends’ fathers. Dads tend to clam up when their daughters’ boyfriends are around.”
Carlin, 29, said when she got engaged, her father was “really happy” that her fiancé asked him for her hand.
“Before then we had talked to both sets of parents so he wasn’t really surprised. But he really appreciated it,” she said.
But others say when it comes to modern marriages, father doesn't always know best. Indeed, the tradition, which dates back to the days when marriages were essentially business deals brokered between families, doesn’t charm everyone.
Amanda Keropian, a 26-year-old personal assistant who lives in New York City, said she would be extremely upset if her boyfriend, Shane, sought an OK from her father before popping the question to her.
“My parents were divorced when I was two, so my dad hasn’t really been involved in my day-to-day life," she said. "He still refers to Shane as Sean."
However, Keropian added that while she’d rather be the first to know of her imminent engagement, she wouldn’t mind if her boyfriend let her mom in on the big news.
“Although Shane does not want a big, traditional wedding, he still has some weird affinity for traditional values," she said. "I think he would ask my mom, or rather, tell my mom that he was proposing.”
Wedding expert Sharon Naylor said that asking a woman's mother along with her father -- or instead of her father -- is becoming increasingly popular among today's couples.
“Asking both the parents is a new trend; it depends on how traditional you are,” Naylor said.
Carlin agrees that asking mom is great if the bride isn’t close to her father, but said that if a groom-to-be wants to be "really" traditional, he should go ahead and ask dad.
"You might as well go all the way," she said.
And most fathers seem to appreciate the respectful gesture. Maryland resident Bill Schultz said he felt “overwhelming happiness,” when his future son-in-law recently asked for permission to marry his daughter, even if it made him feel a little old.
“He told me when, where and how he planned on asking her," he said. "For once I knew more about their lives than my daughter.”
And with some fathers, repairing the damage if you don't ask them may be a monumental task.
“I know one bride who got thrown out of the house because her fiancé didn’t ask her old-world Italian dad,” Naylor said. “It’s important to a lot of families.”
Of course, calling a potential fianceé's father is not appropriate in every family, Naylor warned. But in most cases, suitors won't fail to please with the quaint request.
“It’s one of those things that has stayed with us because it’s harmless. And it’s good for the other part of the wedding, which is planning a future as a family.”
And if papa preaches? Naylor said a father's disapproval isn't likely to stop a happy couple from getting hitched.
“It’s not like the bride’s going to listen,” she said.