Some people absolutely love the way the holidays bring large groups of people together. Others, however, are happier with more intimate gatherings that allow for plenty of quiet time. Hey, the holidays can get chaotic! Regardless of which camp you fall into, spending the holidays with your in-laws is a reality every couple has to deal with, and the fact is that those first few holiday seasons after you get married can be a little stressful. You’re surrounded by people who, not too long ago, were your partner’s family, but now they’re yours, too, so figuring out how to ease the stress, avoid awkward situations, and actually make the season enjoyable is paramount. Here are five things to keep in mind as you’re making your travel plans—they’ll go a long way in keeping you sane!
1. Have Your Own Space
If the new in-laws don't live nearby and you're expected to spend several days with your new spouse's family over Thanksgiving or Christmas, skip the guest room and instead get a hotel room nearby. Feelings might be a little bit hurt initially, but have your new husband or wife explain to their parents that you don't feel comfortable sharing a bed in their parents' house quiet yet (even if that's not the problem). After all, you are still in the honeymoon phase! There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing privacy, and having you stay at a hotel in town instead of right under their noses will give your in-laws some privacy, too.
2. Establish Your Own Traditions
Traditions are what make the holiday season so special, and while there are ones that both of your families will always want to include, it’s important to start traditions of your own, too. Sit down with your partner and think about the traditions you’ll want to continue for years to come, whether it’s having turkey and ham on Thanksgiving or leaving the Christmas Eve party for just the two of you. Incorporate those specifics from the get-go, since your first holiday season together is bound to shake things up anyway, and it will be way easier to do it again next year. And of course, be open to creating new traditions with your in-laws, too! You might decide to kick the weekend off with a low-key family game night, complete with take out pizza and local beers, or mix up the perfect mimosa to sip while you open presents (hey, citrus is totally in season!).
3. Make It a Short Trip
Just because your husband's family usually spends the whole week between Christmas and New Year's together doesn't mean you have to stay that long. A few nights is more than enough time to catch up and visit with those relatives you rarely see. Split the time between both of your families, or hop on a plane and spend New Year’s Eve on the beach, just the two of you. The time you all have together will be full and fun, and you’ll have a much lower chance of running out of things to talk to your mother-in-law about. And if you end up having an absolute blast, you can always plan to stay longer next year!
4. Arrive Prepared
Talk to your partner about how your family usually celebrates. Do they get dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner, or head to the table in sweatshirts supporting their favorite football teams? Is Christmas morning followed by a formal breakfast, or do they stay in their PJs all day? Knowing what to expect (especially when it comes to attire!) will make you feel a whole lot more comfortable. If your new spouse is no help, email your mother- or sister-in-law for guidance—it will make life a lot easier, and it’s a good way to keep building that bond!
5. Arrive (and Leave) in Style
When it’s time to head to your in-laws’ house, be sure to bring a lovely hostess gift, and give it to them as soon as you’ve arrived. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive—you could show up with a tray of delicious cookies, a fragrant holiday candle, or a pretty arrangement of flowers to set on the dining room table. If you’re staying with your in-laws, make sure to leave your room in good standing. Offer to put a fresh set of sheets on the bed, and if your mother-in-law tells you not to worry, remove the dirty sheets and make up the bed with just blankets and pillows so it looks nice from the hallway. Take used sheets and towels to the laundry room, and empty the wastebasket. Remember, you’re not a houseguest, you’re part of the family now! Don’t leave any more work for your in-laws than is absolutely necessary. After you’ve left, send a handwritten note (or a sweet text) thanking your in-laws for their hospitality.