It's a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl (or boy meets boy/girl meets girl). They fall in love and decide to get married. Typically, somewhere along the way to happily ever after, the partner must ask their significant other's father for his permission to pop the question. Perhaps it's a respect for tradition that has kept this practice alive, but why are we asking the father to transfer ownership of his daughter or son in the year 2022?
Emily Forrest, Zola's director of communications, says the tradition dates back many, many years to a point in time when the father's permission — in addition to quite a generous dowry (hey, Bridgerton is good for more than just the steamy scenes) — was required for a union. "Today, asking for a hand in marriage is usually more centered on asking for support in this major life milestone decision, rather than asking for actual permission," Forrest tells me before adding that some couples forego that custom entirely or change it to fit their unique family situation, including mothers, siblings, friends, or even children in the process.
In fact, depending on the familial relationship, asking one of the aforementioned people might be more important than (or at least as equally significant as) asking someone's dad. Heather Vaughn, founder and marriage proposal expert of The Yes Girls adds that "asking anyone that is an important figure and role in their future fiancée's life will mean a lot to them whether it's a father, grandfather, sister, [or] mom."
It's becoming more common to switch it up a bit these days. And even our favorite celebrities are doing it. On Thursday's episode of The Kardashians, Kris Jenner and Khloé Kardashian received a call from Kourtney's then-boyfriend Travis Barker. ICYMI, Barker proposed to Kourtney Kardashian last fall on the beach before a lavish dinner party with her family and friends.
In the Hulu show, the Blink-182 drummer FaceTimed the famous family's matriarch with the Good American founder after the two touched down in New York City ahead of Kim Kardashian's Saturday Night Live hosting debut. "So yeah, the 17th is the first day we've ever hung out," Travis started as Khloé listened with her hand over her mouth. "Like I told your mom, I've been madly in love with Kourtney forever. And I believe she's my soulmate, and I would like to propose to her."
Khloé interrupted, "Oh my god, I'm so happy! Just 'cause Kourt is going to be so happy," Khloé said through tears. "I do not cry, and I'm crying because I'm happy. And that's really fucking weird for me."
Forrest tells me that Travis's ask is a great example of evolving the principle and fine-tuning it to your partner's needs. "It makes so much sense to ask siblings, mothers, friends, and other family members because the point of this tradition is about holding hands moving forward into marriage with all of the people who will support the union," she explains before adding that she'd love to see Mason, Penelope, or Reign included, too. "Since Kourtney and Travis both have children from previous relationships, too, I would love to see them even ask their children for support as well."
As someone with an older sister who doubles as my best friend (and recently got engaged), I deeply understand Khloé's excitement. Sometimes, under all that younger-sibling angst, toughness, and defensive exterior, we're just being protective and want the best for our sisters. So, when I knew things were getting serious between my sister and her long-time boyfriend, I made it known that I wanted my blessing to be included.
There was never a doubt in my mind that my soon-to-be brother-in-law, was right for her, but it wasn't about that. I wanted to be consulted (in addition to my parents) because I grew up by her side. I like to believe that I've shaped her life, that our friendship and sisterhood have left some sort of imprint on her, and that my opinion is valuable to her. The request may sound bratty and entitled to some (I was scoffed at by people — the nerve!), but genuinely, the intention was pure. Why should only my parents have a say when I've also witnessed their relationship and seen her cry over many frogs before finding her prince (and trust, she's seen me through it, too)?
Her now-fiancé got the hint and made plans with my family one day when my sister wasn't around. We all knew it was coming, but he brought us flowers and lattes — something that is specific to our family and our interests. "This is a very personal request, so it's nice to do it in a way that is tailored to that person and your relationship to them," says Forrest. "If the person would enjoy a seated meal and you'd also enjoy a seated meal, ask them over for lunch or dinner."
The most important part? He didn't ask for our permission, but rather expressed how much he loved my big sis before telling us he was going to propose. Which resulted in immediate tears on my end and a resounding chorus of "yes" and "welcome to the family."
While it's an old, outdated practice, maybe the tradition isn't quite so bad. If we get the idea of a father owning his daughter or child out of our heads, we may be able to see it as a very sweet and respectable action that actually just shows the partner's love. Maybe what should shift is who is sought after to do the blessing. It is all dependent on your S.O.'s family and situation. Like the Kardashians, my immediate family is majority female, which gives the ladies the power — a non-traditional, but certainly empowering, familial structure. Putting women in charge is usually the most successful tactic, anyways.
And Forrest agreed, saying that things are definitely changing: "The idea that the only person who can and should be asked is the bride's father is outdated, considering family dynamics and couples getting married have changed significantly since this tradition came to be. It's not wrong for the father to be asked but it's also not wrong for the mother to be asked, or for any very close relatives or even close friends to be asked."
At the end of the day, regardless of gender disparities or slightly fucked-up traditions, my family, including my dad, just wants what's best for our loved one. Bible.