We don’t need to tell you that spending the holidays with their family is a serious step in a relationship. When someone wants to include you in one of their biggest celebrations of the year, one that’s usually reserved for immediate relatives, you know they mean business.
Some couples will even be together for years and still go their separate ways for the main events of the holidays, so the first time you break the barrier of your significant other’s family affairs you don’t want to be caught off guard.
Let’s face it, you probably will no matter what, but at least by reading this list, you won’t be totally blindsided by your brother in-law’s sleeping attire, or lack thereof…
1. They Eat Differently
Sure, you’ve been to dinner with their parents, but the holidays always seem to bring out some of the most unique culinary traditions. The figgy pudding you’ve always heard about but never wanted to try might actually be good, so give it a taste for Grandma, and at least pretend you love it. Oh, and they always appreciate an offer to help with clean up.
2. They Have Rules
If you’ve seen Meet the Parents, you’re prepared for this one: you might be sleeping in the guest room. This scenario is exacerbated when it’s a longer stay, or worse, a destination holiday, so you might want to brainstorm in advance as to where and when you’ll sneak in your “alone time.”
3. They Open Gifts Their Way
Some families get up really early; some sleep in. Just roll with it. And act really excited when you unwrap the cartoon character slippers they got you.
4. They Dress Differently
PJs at dinner; or shirt and tie at brunch. You just never know, which means this one should go on your list of pre-event questions to ask in order to avoid offending anyone.
5. They Celebrate Differently
If you’ve been together a while, you’re probably well aware of their family’s religious beliefs, but this time of year, even the least pious among us have our own traditions. Regardless of your own beliefs, this probably isn’t the time to comment on theirs. Being respectful is probably your best bet. Which leads us to our next point…
6. They Drink Differently
This one’s also worth a conversation in advance, because some families encourage hitting the bottle, while others simply don’t. Your best mive is obviously to just go easy, but if they engage in an annual drinking game, hey, let loose. But only to the point when you can still remember what we told you in #5.
7. Close Quarters
There’s really no preparing for this one, but in most cases, you’ll be staying at a residence that’s experiencing an influx of residents. Get ready to coordinate shower schedules and wait in line for the bathroom, and maybe even share a room with a pseudo-stranger. Just embrace it.
8. They’re Honest
“Are you really going to eat that?” says grandma, when you pick up your second dessert of the night. It’s one thing when your family makes blunt statements, but a whole different (cheese) ball game when members of theirs do. Sorry to break it to you, but they will anyway, so be ready and don’t take it personally. They’re just old.
9. They’ll Ask Questions
Similar to #8, it’s not unlikely that certain members of the family will have no qualms with asking you to divulge very personal things; sometimes even things you don’t have answers to. If you can in any way anticipate the marriage conversation arising, it might be a good idea to playfully suggest to your significant other that you prepare a response. This way both of you can avoid looking like a pair of deer caught in the headlights when it comes up.
10. You’ll Miss Your Family
Amidst all of the weirdness, the loveliness and the excitement of your first holiday with their family, it’s inevitable that even if in a very small way, you’ll miss your own family. There’s something nostalgic about the holidays, whether good or bad, so if you prepare at all for any of this, be ready to embrace this part, whatever that looks like for you.