Katherine Hicks, 24, didn’t need her father’s permission to marry her now-husband Tanner Hicks. She wanted it.
“I was just raised up in a family where that was expected,” Hicks, a Galveston resident, said. “I knew it would hurt both of my parents’ feelings if we just made a decision without including them.”
Although some have tossed the idea of asking parents for permission or a blessing to wed, the tradition has remained alive for the Hickses and thousands of other couples. According to a 2015 study by the popular bridal magazine The Knot, more than three-quarters of men asked for permission of the bride’s father or parents before popping the question.
The magazine surveyed more than 12,000 U.S. brides and 1,200 U.S. grooms engaged or recently married from 2014 to early 2015.
The practice isn’t necessary like it used to be, when marriage was part of a monetary exchange between families, Stephanie Coontz, research director for the Council on Contemporary Families, told The Wall Street Journal in June 2017. The council is an Austin-based nonprofit that studies the American family.
Some couples choose to ask parents for a blessing so their families can be included in the marriage at a time when many matrimonial traditions are fading away, Coontz told The Wall Street Journal.
Experiencing Katherine Hicks’ parents’ divorce, as well as the Hickses’ Catholic faith, played a part in the decision to include Katherine Hicks’ family, they said.
“We’re probably in a Catholic bubble, but a lot of our friends asked their parents beforehand,” Tanner Hicks, 27, said. “I knew that’s what Katherine expected, and I wanted to give her the best version of myself.”
Although Katherine Hicks hoped her husband would ask her father for permission, the thought didn’t even cross Gayle Davis-Fortenberry’s mind.
At age 58, Davis-Fortenberry had already been married once, and was shocked to learn that her husband asked her father, who is in his 80s, for a blessing in marriage.
“My husband and I are older, in our later 50s,” said Davis-Fortenberry, an Oklahoma City resident who got married in Galveston. “I guess at that age, you don’t feel like you have to ask for anyone’s permission.”
Some people reject the practice because of its emphasis on male control of the ritual, but Davis-Fortenberry said she still felt independent in her decision.
“It felt nice at this older age to feel supported by my family even though I’m a grown woman,” Davis-Fortenberry said. “I’m probably a little bit of a traditionalist.”
Elizabeth Castro, 44, a Galveston native who currently lives in Japan, said her husband mailed her parents a letter asking for permission to get married. He was abroad and wasn’t able to ask in person, Castro said.
That tradition has continued on in Castro’s family, and she has seen cousins recently ask for permission to wed, she said.
Castro has two sons, and although she wouldn’t insist they ask their partner’s parents for permission, she said she would strongly encourage it.
“The fact that they do take the effort and the time, it’s a sign of respect and going that extra step is very important,” Castro said. “It’s a beautiful tradition to pass down.”
Tanner Hicks his wife’s father for a blessing because their marriage will affect family members, he said.
“By asking someone’s parents, you are showing a desire to prepare for something so big,” Tanner Hicks said. “By meeting with her parents, it was kind of a foreshadowing of the fact that marriage is more than just us.”
Ultimately, the practice was more of a formality, Tanner Hicks said. If Katherine Hicks’ father and mother said no, then the couple probably would have gotten married anyway, he said.
“I wasn’t going in asking for their permission, I was going in saying I would like your blessing,” Tanner Hicks said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t really their call.”