This year, many coupled up young professionals are going to be faced (of they haven’t already) with first meetings and Christmas dinners with their significant other’s (SO) family. We have learned a few things over the years when we have either been a guest at our SO’s holiday dinners, brought our SO to ours or watched the interactions of our siblings and their SOs. Here are a few no-fail tips to that first holiday dinner with the family.
Come Bearing Something
We are not suggesting you become Santa Claus and go crazy purchasing gifts for everyone from your new(ish) SO’s parents, grandparents, nieces and nephews, but do not arrive empty-handed. Bring a dessert, selection of locally made jams or spreads, or a bottle of wine. Most importantly, write a personal note on whatever you bring or attach a holiday card to it. Not only does it add a personal touch, they will know that it was you who brought that amazing pie or bottle of wine.
Do Your Research
We are going to assume that, if you’re already being included in family holiday dinners, you know a thing or two about your SO’s family…if not, make sure you do. If, for example, you know that your SO’s dad loves basketball, bring up the Raptors game you just saw on TV. If your SO’s sister is completing a Masters program, ask her about it. Not only will it make for conversation, it shows you genuinely pay attention and care.
Participate in Traditions
All families have silly traditions around the time of the holidays and we must say that we have always been impressed when either our SOs or those of our siblings gladly participate in dinner table games, songs or even ping-pong and air hockey tournaments in the basement. This signifies that you can fit in with the family, as these long established traditions are probably not going to disappear anytime soon.
Don’t Tell Too Many Details
Your SO’s parents may not know that you are planning on moving in together or taking a trip around the world just because yours do. He or she may be more private with their parents or strategic with timing in terms of the details of your relationship. Bottom line: if there is a relationship bombshell to drop, don’t let it slip at the family dinner unless otherwise discussed with your SO.
There was a reason that your SO fell for you and the amazing person you are. We have been met with some intimidating parents and have been, frankly, frightened the moment we set foot inside their front door for the first family dinner. What we learned was not to try too hard and to simply be your unique self, the person your SO loves. When we say be you, this also means (obviously) don’t drink too much.
Even if you’re the least domestic person in the world (we’ve been there at one point), make a point to help out as much as you can (unless the meal is fully catered and served by hired staff, obviously). Ask your SO’s parents if they need help in the kitchen or offer to grab other family members a drink when you go to refill yours and help to clear plates after the meal. It does not go unnoticed.
Give your SO some breathing room
Regardless of how shy you are, do not cling to your SO. Give him or her some time to catch up with their family. Respect that he or she may end up in a half-hour long discussion with mom during post dinner cocktails. You must know how to hold your own. Use the time to get to know your SO’s family better…you get to know him or her more in the process.
Follow up with a card, note or even an email thanking your SO’s family for including you in their celebrations.