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A traditional way to show respect: asking parents’ permission to wed

Asking someone out can be a stressful endeavour requiring a lot of patience, planning, and a bit of courage.



By Anthony Biondi (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: February 25, 2015



Asking someone out can be a stressful endeavour requiring a lot of patience, planning, and a bit of courage. For those of you who are considering marriage, you may be coming up to the next big question.

Asking someone to marry you is one thing; asking for a blessing from the parents to marry their son or daughter requires a whole new level of courage. Asking parents for permission might be somewhat outdated, but these days it’s a way of communicating respect and a means of maintaining smooth relations with the in-laws. While traditionally the husband-to-be asks the bride’s family, you may choose to ask both sets of parents as a nod to modern gender equality.

Parents aren’t easy. They’re cunning, wise, and have been through all of this before. They know how to play games, manipulate little angles to make the situation more stressful, and worst of all, they enjoy doing it. Still, their decision is important to your relationship. It is a courtesy and a respect. Without it, you are coming into their family without their permission and without the culturally required respectful gesture.

So how does the prospective victim overcome this challenge? Well, it takes a few careful steps.

Parents can be interesting people. Some are fun, some are a little reluctant, some are straight-up shy, and some are just insane.

The first step is to get in contact to arrange a time to talk, and this can be as awkward as awkward can be. Never ask permission over the phone. That’s bad form. Only do that if you want to leave the worst possible impression on your in-laws.

I still remember pacing through a field, sweating bullets, trying to get a hold of my now father-in-law. I was probably shaking, pulling my hair out, and stuttering, and all I needed to ask was: “Can we get together to talk?” All I needed was a quiet space to collect my thoughts and breathe. Worst of all, he pretended he couldn’t hear me the first time. He was having fun. I was like a sea lion in a killer whale’s jaws. I can’t imagine this situation ever being easy, but just remember that you are over the phone. It’s not face-to-face yet. Just take a deep breath and do it. It’s for the greater good.

Step two is the actual meeting. Depending on how step one went, this should be rather simple. The parents-in-law-to-be should already be anticipating what’s coming to some degree.

If you’ve been a good significant other, you likely won’t have to defend yourself. You sit down at a table or whatever, and just ask the question: “I’d like to marry so-and-so, and I would like your blessing / permission.” Of course, make sure to sub out “so-and-so” with your significant other’s name. That’d be bad mojo.

Breathing is also important here. This is a pressure-cooker situation. The air will be stale, hot, and thick. In a way, you have to robotize yourself. Become an automaton and everything else will be easier. I had to face down both my father- and mother-in-law during my session. I nearly soiled myself at the table. But after it was done, breathing became a lot easier.

Needless to say, “no” is always a possible answer. Much of the anxiety stems from this possibility. What then? If they say no, is the relationship fated to fail? That depends on your relationship, and your spouse-to-be’s relationship with his or her parents. Keep in mind that you aren’t your parent’s property and the asking of permission is just a formality. It would be acceptable, in my mind, to at least get reasoning as to why. Perhaps there is misunderstanding at the heart of it, or something that you can do to be able to get a “yes.”

A “no” is rare, but all the same, it is still something to consider. Respect is something that is important, especially to your up-and-coming in-laws. Just try to abolish the thoughts of “no” from your mind as you wade the deep waters of such a humble request. Dress up nice, go in with your best smile, and you’ll be just fine.

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