Clint Eastwood celebrated his daughter's wedding this weekend, according to a number of news sources. His daughter, Alison Eastwood, married Stacy Poitras — an outdoorsy, lumberjack archetype. Mr. Poitras is known for making sculptures with chainsaws.
Poitras decided to ask Mr. Eastwood, the star of shoot 'em up movies like "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and "Dirty Harry," for his daughter's hand in marriage. No report published about the wedding so far has failed to include, usually as the article's conclusion, Eastwood's response.
"He looked at me for four or five seconds, which felt like 15 minutes, and then he said, ‘You’re going to have to take that up with her,’” Poitras told Westlake magazine last year. “I said, ‘Is that a yes or a no?’ And he said, ‘That’s a yes,’ and he shook my hand.”
With marriage customs constantly in flux, the tradition of asking a father for his daughter's hand in marriage seems unshakable. But is it?
A study reported by The Associated Press in 2007 showed that 73 percent of men said asking a father's permission to marry his daughter is necessary while 68 percent of women said it was not necessary to ask their fathers.
A report published in The Christian Science Monitor in 2003 describes the changes that popping the question to the wife-to-be's parents has gone through over time.
While some couples interviewed, regardless of age, considered the question a legitimate step in the marriage process, others considered it a formality, they rejected it outright, or, within the context of divorce, multiple parental figures, and changing gender roles, confusing.
Tom Branigan, a public-relations executive in Whitefish Bay, Wis., estimates that only 35 or 40 percent of his friends posed the question to their future in-laws. "That's a shame," he says. "That action says to the family of your bride-to-be, 'I want to be part of this family, and I want to build a relationship.' It also lets them know that it's important to me that you agree that we are a good match."
[M]any men are no longer very concerned about the answer.
"It's been about 50 years since Dad held the ultimate veto power,' says Lisa Daily, author of "Stop Getting Dumped!" a dating book. 'Today, if the father says no and the daughter says yes, the marriage (minus Dad) is likely to go forward."
Other couples reject the idea of seeking parental approval. John Potter of Maplewood, N.J., and his wife were 26 and living on their own when they married in 1990. "I did not ask for permission first," he says.
In an age of divorce, seeking permission can get complicated. One woman recalls that her boyfriend asked both her father and stepfather. In another sign of changing times, Justina Grubor of Takoma Park, Md., proposed to her boyfriend, Dennis Fleming. "I didn't ask his mom first," she says.
So while we celebrate the wedding of Eastwood's daughter, and applaud the courage shown by Poitras to ask a man who often seems like the gritty, conservative characters he portrays on the big screen, perhaps the custom should be followed through on a case-by-case basis.
But if the potential father-in-law is the "Man with No Name," yeah, you should ask.