It goes without saying that you should be on your best behavior when you are a houseguest at your in-laws' homes. No matter what sort of snarky remarks you may have made to your besties about your new in-laws (and that extended family), you are a part of their family now, and you want to make a good impression. Or at the very least, not leave them with a bunch of snarky things to say about you after you've gone. If you plan to have children, you're setting the tone for many years of future holidays, and you want them to be something you look forward to, not dread.
Sounds like common sense, right? So it should be easy? Maybe not. Every family is different, and we've all been raised with different manners and behavioral expectations. Some adults revert to childhood behaviors when they go home — letting mom pick up after them, and do their laundry, for example — but that doesn't fly once you're married, especially if it's not your own parents' house.
Here are some tips to make sure you don't become the dreaded holiday houseguest:
Clean Up After Yourself
Be a good houseguest. Put used cups and dishes in the dishwasher, not the sink. If you're sharing a bathroom, leave it tidy after you use it — and don't leave your products and possessions on the counters. Hang up the wet bath mat. Fold your towels. Change the toilet paper roll if it's running short. And wipe out the sink. Carry your cosmetics and gear in a tote you can take back to your room. Restrict your personal mess to the bedroom you've been assigned, and make your bed daily. Strip the sheets off your bed before you leave, and put fresh ones on it if they're available. Leave the bedroom looking as inviting as it did when you arrived, or better. It's nice to empty wastebaskets too — there are things your mother-in-law doesn't need to know about your life...
Join the Kitchen Crew
Some mothers-in-law rule the kitchen, and don't want anybody to cross the red line into their space. Others expect everybody to pitch in and do an assigned task. Find out as much as you can about what to expect at your in-laws' house on a holiday. Even if you aren't usually the chef in your house, join the crew in the kitchen, and become a part of their team. Find out, in advance, if you're responsible for making a dish, or just helping prepare your mother-in-law's menu. Every household is different, but it's best to try to fit in with the crowd, in this case, when the crowd is your new husband or wife's family. Do the women rule the kitchen, while the men bartend? Or do the gentlemen help with the cleanup? Intel in hand, approach things enthusiastically and try to find a way to help. Do not feel intimidated by everybody there who seems to know their place. There's a spot for you, and you'll figure it out.
Follow Their Schedule
Sometimes a house is big enough that everybody can do their "usual" thing when it comes to how late they go to bed, or how early they get up. In a smaller home, or when there are a lot of family members visiting, you don't have the luxury of partying late and getting up at noon. Find out if your new mother-in-law makes breakfast at a certain time, and expects everybody to make an appearance. Does the whole crew crash at 10 p.m., but you and your mate usually stay up until 2? This stuff might not matter when you and your spouse go home to your parents' house, where it's perfectly normal for you to sleep 18 hours of the day and wake up to laze about in sweats, but you should think about the impression you're making if you stay in bed all morning at your in-laws' house when everybody else is up helping prepare the holiday meal. Even if your new mate doesn't seem to care, in this case, it's not his or her opinion that matters.
Watch Your Mouth
Even if you usually swear like a sailor and express your opinions freely in front of your husband's parents, tone it down when you're their houseguest, especially if they're entertaining a larger group. You do not want to embarrass them, or yourself. Listen to the words they use in front of their neighbors and extended family, and adjust your mouth accordingly. Be especially careful around new nieces and nephews — not just avoiding inappropriate words, but also inappropriate subject matter. This year's election, for example, invites a lot of different topics that really aren't best discussed in front of a younger audience.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.