Asking for Permission to Marry

Once upon a time, a gentleman caller asked my grandpa for my aunt's hand in marriage. Grandpa asked him what he thought about my aunt working after marriage, and the dude said he hadn't thought of it. My grandpa kindly redirected the frat boy to suggest that he might want to talk to my aunt more before he proposed to her.

I had forgotten this story until listening to this week's This American Life and watching this week's The Bachelor.

I'm opposed to asking parents for permission to marry your loved one. It's 2017, we are all autonomous adults, we get to make our own choices about who to spend our lives with. If you want to marry your partner, talk to him or her (or zir) about it. Discuss your hopes, fears, and expectations. Figure it out, together, as adults. 

But then I was listening to This American Life today about how kids in Utah go to "grand gestures" to ask dates to dances with scavenger hunts, or by decorating their rooms or cars. Growing up in California, I hadn't really thought through the logic of grand gestures. It sounded terrifying to me to risk so much to set up a spectacle and maybe be turned down. Asking someone to Sadie's in the high school parking lot and being able to run away to the picnic benches of my clique afterward felt safer to me. 

But during This American Life the kids discussed how much scarier they would find it to ask someone to a dance directly and be turned down. And suddenly I understood the point of asking your beloved's parents for permission to marry. It's not to get permission. It's to get turned down and still save face. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, if you think your significant other would be flattered if you asked their parent for permission to marry them, ask away. It might give you more information about what you should talk to your partner about before you propose. 

And, ladies and gentlemen, you can always ask your own parents the same question. They might also have good insight into you and your relationship. Go ahead and use the opportunity to learn more, so when you do propose, you've thought it through with your family and your intended.


 Monica Carmean

Monica Carmean is an attorney in Washington DC watching her first season of the Bachelor. You can follow her on twitter and instagram @MonicaCarmean.