In most every long-term relationship, there will inevitably come a time when you need to spend time with your partner’s parents over the holidays. Whether you’re planning to attend their annual Christmas party, have been invited to Thanksgiving dinner or are going to their church on Easter morning, planning what to give them and how to act can be stressful.
If you’re lucky, you’ll already have met your partner’s family and get along well, but even if not, the tips below will help you to avoid common blunders and enjoy yourselves. It is the holidays, after all!
- A Gift
- It’s always better to overdress than underdress. Make sure to wear modest, situation-specific clothing. Enquire about dress codes, and if you’re not sure how formal the holiday party will be (and your partner doesn’t know), dress at least one more nicely than you expect to need to. Men can always take their tie off and women can always bring a pair or flats if the event turns out to be more casual than expected.
- Be on time, every time. People who arrive early or on time tend to be seen as more competent, trustworthy and responsible than late-comers. First impressions always count and you’ll likely be meeting many people in your partner’s circle for the first time, such as neighbors, school friends, extended family members and/or co-worshippers.
- Ask the host what you can bring. This is a kind and thoughtful gesture! Prove that you’re a great guest by offering ahead of time to cook or bring something to the event. Ask what is needed and if you’re too short on time to cook, offer to buy drinks, ice, or eating utensils.
- Bring a small gift. It is customary and considered good manners to always bring a present when visiting someone’s home. It doesn’t need to be large or expensive - a nice bottle of wine, box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers will be very appreciated!
- Keep the conversation light. You are on a date, so you should spend most of the time alongside your partner, letting them introduce you to people and making small talk. But there will also be moments when you’re on your own or sitting at the dinner table making your own conversation - keep it light. Avoid any intrusive or overly personal questions and instead focus on topics like art, sports, work and the weather. Be very complimentary of your partner (along with their mother) and don’t let yourself be dragged into any family arguments, should they arise.
- Help clean up. Ingratiate yourself to the host forever by being the first person to jump up and offer to help them bring out food, clear plates and wash dishes.
- Thank them for the invitation. Holidays are generally reserved for family members and close friends, so thank not only your partner, but also their family for making you one of them for the day.
Everyone has different holiday traditions, so be open to celebrating in a new way! With any luck, the next year will be spent with your family.