Breaking Engagement Traditions

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When we got engaged, my fiance and I skipped some traditions. In this post, I’ll go over what we skipped and why.

First of all, my engagement ring is not a diamond. I believe the stone is aquamarine but I’m not positive. It’s light blue. (I’m the weirdest girl ever. I couldn’t be bothered to remember a thing about jewelry.)

I love it, and I’m actually relieved my fiance didn’t waste a fortune getting me a diamond, because not only do I know and understand that diamond engagement rings are way overpriced, I also think it’s ridiculous to spend a fortune on a one-time purchase that isn’t a necessary item. My mother refused to even be given an engagement ring at all, and I was really happy to learn that about her.

As requested, here’s a picture of my engagement ring:

engagement ring

For more on why diamond engagement rings are a scam (and really just the result of what was perhaps the most successful ad campaign ever) check out this video from CollegeHumor:

Engagement rings are a minor tradition as far as I’m concerned though, and we didn’t really skip it, just alter it. The big deal tradition that we skipped–the one my dad gave us some crap over–was asking the father’s permission.

My fiance and I had talked about getting married long before he asked me to marry him. It was something we both wanted to do, and we both felt this relationship would eventually be ready for that big step. We also feel that the decision to get married is completely up to the two of us–the members of the couple–and not our parents’ decision. So the question about whether or not my father’s permission needed to be obtained was not about whether nor not we could get married, but rather about whether or not skipping that tradition would offend my father. In the process of that discussion, I did something that offended my father even though it shouldn’t: I asked my fiance not to ask his permission. Because seriously, if what he says doesn’t really matter, why go through the motions of asking?

The way I see it, that tradition isn’t a matter of respect. It’s the remnant of a patriarchal culture in which women were the property of their fathers until they were married, when they became the property of their husbands. I’m not anyone’s property. I’m a person. So I said no; don’t ask him. We toyed with the idea of telling him ahead of time somehow, while simultaneously letting him know that we didn’t want permission. The idea reminded me a bit of this scene in Fiddler on the Roof, in which Perchik and Hodel (the couple) ask Tevye (the father) for his blessing on their engagement rather than his permission.

Spoiler: Tevye doesn’t take this well at first, but eventually agrees. In a half-baked attempt to take back his role as the patriarch, he says, “I’ve decided to give you my blessing AND my permission.”

But why go through that trouble at all for a silly tradition? Why partake in it? Why continue the patriarchal nonsense?

So we didn’t ask him. And when we went to my house to announce our engagement, my parents were shocked. My father, dumbfounded, started rattling off all the things he had done before proposing to my mother:  making sure he could provide for her financially, asking her father’s permission, etc. I had to remind him that my generation is coming of age in the worst economic times since the great depression, and that a lack of financial autonomy (and massive student loan debt) is the reality for the majority of us (average student loan debt is currently $30,000). If we waited until we were as financially stable as my parents were when they got engaged, we’d be well into our thirties. Then I explained my beef with the permission tradition. He never gave me any inkling that he understood, or that he respected our decision.

Which didn’t surprise me. My relationship with my father is rocky at best. He had an outburst today that nearly lead to a post, but I’m trying to give things time before posting about them–which is why I’m writing about this now, months after it happened. I don’t want to say mean spirited things because I’m angry.

What do you think about the engagement tradition of asking the father’s permission, or any other wedding or engagement tradition for that matter? Did any of you break traditions when you became engaged or got married? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful to other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

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