"Will you marry me?" might be one of the most daunting questions you'll ever have to ask, but before you buy a ring and figure out the perfect place to propose, you may want to also consider asking another question first — to the parents. Asking for a parents' blessing for marriage is a custom that dates back hundreds of years, and as outdated (and equally daunting) as it may seem today, it's still a significant part of the engagement process for many couples and their families. In essence, demonstrating your respect for her family is a way to show how much you love her—and how serious you are about your future together.
However, the tradition of asking for a parents' blessing for marriage isn't always as simple in today's world as it was in years past. The following are some modern tips for getting their blessing to get down on one knee without stepping on any toes:
Know Your Crowd
It goes without saying that if you're asking a woman to be your bride, you should know her quite well. So you would know, for instance, whether she thinks asking for her father's blessing on the marriage is an antiquated custom that has no place in your relationship. Perhaps she'd prefer that you speak to both her father and mother or someone else entirely, such as an older brother or stepmother. Your first step should always be to ensure your girlfriend—and her family—are comfortable with the tradition.
Set the Scene
A conversation this serious should ideally be done face-to-face rather than over the phone, although sometimes this just isn't possible. Luckily, you don't have to spend big bucks on a plane ticket to do this right—save that for the engagement ring. If your location allows, let her parents know you'd like to have a word in private. This could be as simple as quietly pulling them aside after a family dinner or inviting them out for a cup of coffee. If you're limited to the phone, be sure to call at a time when they will be able to talk and, most importantly, listen. Whatever you do, don't ask for their blessing via text message—even if you do accompany it with 50 heart emojis.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Just as you're likely to think long and hard about the words you'll use to propose to your girlfriend, take some time to think about what you want to say to your in-laws-to-be. While you don't need to go in with a stiff, rehearsed speech, this isn't a situation where you'll want to completely wing it, either. Speak from the heart, but give it some thought beforehand. Just remember: you're asking for their blessing, not their permission. This is the key difference between this conversation today and this conversation a few generations ago.
Not sure what to say? Here are a few talking points to get you started:
As a bonus, you may find this conversation and its heartfelt contents to be a good dry run for your actual proposal. This may help calm your nerves when you actually do pop the question.
As nerve-racking as this conversation may be, keep in mind that the vast majority of parents will be honored that you've chosen to share your intentions with them before you propose. Joining your life with someone else's means joining her family, too, and this tradition remains a solid way to start off on the right foot.