As your big day approaches, there’s a relationship (other than yours with your S.O., of course) that needs some attention: The one between your parents and your in-laws! If they’ve never met before, it’s high time for that first introduction, and even if they have had a chance or two to chat, there’s no time like the present to help them get to know one another a little bit better. We asked our experts for their top tips to help this important relationship get off on the right foot.
Extend an Invitation
Traditionally, the parents of the groom are supposed to reach out to the parents of the bride to arrange that first meeting. While we’re all for tradition, if your mom just can’t wait to meet your future mother-in-law (and your FMIL doesn’t live her life according to Emily Post), your parents can definitely make the first move. Or, if you don’t want to risk a faux pas, the two of you can arrange a meeting, instead. This option is becoming more and more popular, especially for couples who have dated for a while.
Navigate Divorces Respectfully
If your or your partner’s parents are divorced, you may need to arrange two separate meetings (especially if the separated parents don’t exactly get along). Regardless of which parent you might be closer to, try to give both parents a chance to meet your in-laws in advance of your big day if possible.
Deal with Distance
If you and your S.O. grew up near one another, arranging a meeting may not be too difficult. But if you’re from the East Coast, your partner is from the Midwest, and you both live in California, arranging to get your parents in one place could be tough. And while it might be the easiest choice, having your parents and your future in-laws come to visit for multiple days at the same time is a lot of pressure with no easy escape plan. In this instance, meeting in the days leading up to the wedding is probably your best bet.
Ask both sets of parents to come to town a few days before you tie the knot so you can have a leisurely afternoon or evening getting to know one another before the stress kicks in.
Meet on Neutral Ground
Once you’ve found a date and time that fits in everyone’s schedules, it’s time to choose a place. It’s a gracious gesture for one set of parents to offer to host, but finding somewhere neutral (whether your own home or a local restaurant) will make everyone much more comfortable. This way your dad isn’t worried about manning the stove when he should be talking to your in-laws, and your S.O.’s parents aren’t nervous about making themselves comfortable in someone else’s home. Choose a setting that’s affordable (like a mid-priced restaurant) and crowd-pleasing (think Italian, not sushi).
Make sure the setting is on the quiet side so you can all carry on a conversation!
Decide Who’s Paying—in Advance!
Don’t wait until the check comes to negotiate who will be footing the bill. If you know who will be paying ahead of time, you’ll be able to cater the setting to the host’s budget. Etiquette states that the groom’s parents pay during this first meeting, but that’s much more flexible than it used to be. Your parents may want to pay if your in-laws are visiting from out of town, or you and your S.O. may decide to pay yourselves and avoid any awkward moments.
Act as Hosts
Even if you’re not paying for the meal, you and your partner should act as hosts to facilitate conversation and make sure everyone is comfortable. You know your own parents, and are probably familiar with your in-laws, so use what you know to lead the conversation to common interests. Think about the topics in advance to avoid a conversation that feels like an interrogation. Get the “Where do you live? What do you do?” questions out of the way quickly or, better yet, use them as a jumping-off point.
If your father is a chef and your mother-in-law is an avid home cook, steer the conversation toward their common interest.
It’s easy to get nervous about introducing your parents and in-laws for the first time, but if you and your S.O. are relaxed, everyone else will be, too. So take a deep breath, smile at your fiancé, and join the conversation!