Asking for a Woman’s Hand in Marriage

Yes, it's still wise, most of us believe — check out why (and no, it's not always easy to do)

It is one of the oldest institutions on earth. And something that has been around almost as long as marriage is asking a parent’s permission to marry.

One might think this has gone the way of the dodo bird, given that our society has become more progressive over time. Some men do see it that way, telling The Wall Street Journal they asked for a blessing as opposed to permission. But even so, a recent Twitter survey from NBC’s “Today Show” found that 65 percent of people believe they need a parent’s permission before proposing.

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“So there you go, a lot of traditional people out there,” said co-host Matt Lauer, in a bit of an understatement.

Dr. Kenyn M. Cureton, vice president for church ministries at the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC), thinks men should absolutely approach the parents or family members for permission to marry their chosen partners.

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“Communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship,” said Cureton. “Verbalizing intentions makes parents feel more connected, but more importantly, makes them feel respected.”

Marriage is enough of a challenge, but when you have the support of both sets of parents, Cureton said it is a tremendous help when there are hardships.

Russ Jones, a public relations professional living in idyllic Oxford, Mississippi, recently gave his daughter away in marriage.

“Her boyfriend of five years called me to seek my blessing, as he planned to ask my daughter for her hand in marriage,” said Jones. “It was very meaningful that he valued my role as father, and the phone call provided me the opportunity to offer my support and encouragement and wish them nothing but God’s best.”

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Having been through the pain of divorce years ago, Jones said the groom had his blessing as long as he was sure his daughter was absolutely the right person for him and that they could grow together.

“While a father’s blessing isn’t absolute, I do believe marriages are stronger when your children know they have your support, encouragement and prayers,” added Jones. “It’s also important to understand the difference between granting permission verses offering a blessing. I embrace the idea of offering my blessing as it’s not heavy-handed.”

The cons. As you might expect, there is that not-so-teeny-tiny possibility that a parent might say no.

“There is always that possibility,” said FRC’s Cureton.

He admits he was a bit intimidated when approaching his own wife’s parents; her father was a successful business owner and president of the chamber of commerce.

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“Her mother was a leading lady in society,” he said. “I was afraid they might think that I did not measure up to their standards, but I was pleasantly surprised when they welcomed me with open arms.”

Unfortunately, one should not expect this everywhere.

“Some families are so dysfunctional it’s virtually impossible to have a healthy relationship,” warned Russ Jones.

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As a result, knowing proper boundaries is important to finding the balance.

“Sometimes family relationships can be too involved in a marriage, not allowing room for the young couple to create its own identity,” Jones explained.

Speaking of family relationships, Cureton pointed out that in some homes the father and mother share the role of leader. “It may be best for the young man to request an audience with both to make his request,” he advised. “That was my personal experience, but each situation is different.”

“When the suitor steps up, the father is likely more confident in the young man’s ability to provide for his daughter.”

Either way, Cureton said it shows respect for the parent, especially the father.

“As a result of the suitor stepping up, the father would likely be more confident in the young man’s ability to lead, protect, and provide for his daughter.”

Russ Jones agreed. “There are fewer honors a father has than offering a blessing and symbolically ‘handing off’ his daughter into the care of the man who will have her best interests in mind.”

Chris Woodward is a reporter for American Family News and Based in Mississippi, he is also a contributor to and and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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