Should You Ask Her Dad's Permission?

Outdated objectification of women, or charming tradition that shows love and respect?

The tradition of asking her dad’s permission has a complex and fascinating history. If you’re after a ‘how not to’ guide then look no further than one of the first examples, straight out of the Bible itself. No man deserves the fate that befell the originator of the first soup kitchen, and God’s window cleaner, Jacob.

Jacobs tale...

Jacob worked for seven whole years to earn his beloved Rachel’s hand in marriage from her papa Laban (that’s J planting a kiss on her forehead – SAUCY!). But the wily old coot only went and switched Rach for her elder sister Leah, and then insisted Jacob work another seven years if he wanted Rachel instead. Beware the veil, gents, beware the veil!

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.

Then there is the Gaylord Focker archetype.

The cowardly amongst us who live in fear of the only man who has more influence over your bride-to-be than them – her father. They know that without the big guy on-side any future happiness is already as good as gone. This is a fight they can’t win, so if they can’t beat him then they ruddy well better join him. Sir.

in these times of economic hardship, there’s always the financial pragmatist. They know Daddy-in-Law has the American Express card that is the key to their woman’s dream wedding, and thus to their survival on the single most stressful day of their entire life. Money makes the wedding go round, and Dad is King of the Carousel.

So there are some definite pros to asking. She’s Daddy’s Little Princess, win him over and her love is guaranteed. And that pink stretch Hummer and diamond-encrusted mini-gown don’t come cheap – schmooze pops and he’ll fork out for anything his daughter desires for her (not your) wedding. Plus, you get to feel like a ‘real bloke’ and have a man-to-man over a pint.

But beware. Where there are pros there are cons. For some women, this charming tradition does little more than reduce a female to a possession to be bought and sold. They don’t like this. There is also the possibility that the father may say ‘no’, which could be potentially awkward. Ask yourself if he likes you, or if you are a complete twat. Perhaps even more humiliating is the possibility that he may say yes, but if you have yet to ask your partner she may say no. Ask your self if you are ugly and a coward (see above).

And finally remember, if you let her old man know your evil plan to wed he may ‘pull a Laban’. If you have any suspicions at all remember – the veil is not your friend!