We’ve all seen the scene play out in movies and TV. A nervous man approaches his girlfriend’s father and asks for his permission to marry his daughter. It’s the only wedding tradition that happens before the proposal even! The tradition dates back a long way and is meant to show respect towards the future in-laws. The tradition has changed a bit throughout the years. These days, many men ask for the bride’s father’s “blessing” rather than “permission”. But how did this tradition come to be?
This tradition actually dates all way back to ancient Rome. Grooms would present the father of the bride with a symbolic coin. If the coin was accepted, the father had given the groom permission to marry his daughter. Back then the decision to marry was up to the bride’s father, not her.
The tradition for asking the bride’s father’s permission lasted a long time. Back then, women weren’t exactly equal, and throughout history were actually considered property in many aspects. Marriage was far less romantic back in the day and was instead regarded as a contract between two families. The groom would ask the girl’s father for permission because he literally needed it for the wedding to happen and be valid.
While asking for permission was a legal aspect in many ways back then, as the tradition progressed it became much more about a sign of respect. By approaching the bride’s father, or whoever is most important in her life, and asking for their blessing, the groom is showing that they value their in-law’s opinion. It also in some sense is the groom asking for permission to join their family!
This tradition has really fallen out of favor in recent years. Women today don’t want to feel like a piece of property, and asking their father for permission to do anything as an adult is often insulting. That’s why many grooms instead opt to ask the bride’s father for their blessing. While this slightly modified tradition is still common today, our wedding photographers work with many couples that completely skipped that step of the engagement process. It’s no longer a socially required tradition.
Asking the bride’s father for permission can also be a sensitive subject for many families. If the bride’s father is not a part of her life or has passed, a groom may instead ask another family member for their blessing. This could be a grandfather, a sibling, a mother, or even a child.