Initially the broaching of the subject with one’s prospective father-in-law was akin to negotiating for a heifer at market. The father had to be consulted as he would be losing a working member of the family, with a real financial value, and would have to be compensated for her loss – hence the negotiating of a ‘bride price’.
However over the generations, as women became less carthorse and more show pony, the onus shifted. From once being hard-working breadwinners, young ladies and their increasing love of bonnets and brooches became a financial drain on a father and a family. Now daddy was keener to shift the expense of keeping his little princess onto another, and the dowry was born. Women were so high maintenance fathers’ couldn’t even give them away – now they had to pay blokes to take them off their hands. The period of engagement was a time to negotiate the dowry and arrange for the collection of the young lady’s ‘trousseau’, or ‘wardrobe full of shoes’ as we’d call it today.
So there you go, historically it was a meat market. How times have changed. Ahem.
While previously you might have crunched the numbers with the future old man before even raising the issue with the virginal object of your affection, in 2009 some cowardly fellas are so scared she might say no that they don’t even do the man-to-man pow-wow until her consent is already in the bag. These days the idea of asking her dad for his ‘permission’ is really more a polite heads up that you’re planning on getting hitched so he should get saving for the giant pumpkin on wheels and flock of morning doves. Class, as they say, is permanent.
So it’s the 21st Century, you’ve found yourself a woman to spend the rest of your life with and you’ve both decided that yes, you’re going to get married. For many, that is enough. But for at least three discernible types of men there is one more act – the asking of the father for his daughter’s hand.