Asking for Her Hand in Marriage

The do's and don'ts of asking parents for their blessing

Wedding ring in blue velvet box

The Spruce / Olivia Inman

He was so nervous he almost didn't go through with it. All he needed to do was ask a simple question, five little words, and yet at the time, they seemed to be the five most momentous words ever. But asking his girlfriend to marry him wasn't the problem; what was making him weak in the knees was asking her father "Will you give your blessing?"

Asking for a parent's blessing or permission was once a standard part of an engagement. Now asking for a woman's hand in marriage is sometimes viewed as an antiquated practice or a misogynistic ritual. But if done correctly, it can be a beautiful meaningful moment and opportunity to both honor and bond with your future in-laws.

Should You Ask Her Parents?

Generally, it's a nice gesture, assuming your sweetheart is close with her parents and that they are relatively traditional. If they are non-traditional, or you are worried they (or she) might see it as a sexist gesture, simply be careful about the way you phrase it. Rather than asking for their permission, ask for their blessing. Situations where you shouldn't ask include if she is estranged from her parents, if she is an older bride, or if you think her parents will spoil the surprise of your proposal.

How to Ask for Her Hand in Marriage

If you live close by, the easiest thing to do is to call and ask if you can stop by for a moment as you have something to ask them. They'll probably suspect, but that's okay as it will give them time to be prepared and know what to say. If you are friends with them, you might see if they want to go out to dinner, but since this will be rather nerve-racking, it might be better to keep it short and sweet.

Should they live far away, try to call at a time when you think they'll be home. If her parents are still married, and you happen to call at a time when only one is available, simply say that you have something you want to ask them, but would like to wait until you can ask them both together, and when would be a good time to do so.

What to Say

Start by saying a sentence or two about your love for their daughter. Then say something about why you feel now is the time to move the relationship to the next level and follow it by asking for their blessing. For example, you might say, "As you know, I love your daughter very much. She is the most beautiful, intelligent and loving woman a man could ever ask for. We've been together for almost three years now, and I can't imagine spending my life with anyone else but her. I would like to ask her to marry me and I'm here today to ask you for your blessing." Simple, but sweet.

If Her Parents Are Divorced, Which Parent Should You Approach First?

There isn't an easy answer to this question, but we suggest that you start with the parent that she has lived with the most. You could also start with the parent you think is the most approachable, especially if you are nervous. Be sure to ask both parents, unless of course she is estranged from one.

What If They Say No?

This is always a possibility, but fortunately not a very frequent one. If her parents do not want to give you their blessing, try to stay calm. Find out what their reasoning is if you can. You'll probably want to tell your girlfriend what happened, but try to avoid seeming like you are asking her to take sides. Decide together whether it is better to wait until you can earn their blessing (perhaps they just want you to finish school or have a steady job before you can get married) or go against their wishes. Try your best to understand where they are coming from, and to appreciate that it is almost certainly a position of love for their daughter.