7 Tips for Surviving the First Thanksgiving with Your S.O.’s Family
As Thanksgiving approaches, you’re probably anticipating the delicious food (we really think side dishes are the best part of the feast), the Thursday off from work, the QT with loved ones, and the early bedtime that tends to happen naturally as soon as all those hours of eating fully hit you. If your significant other has invited you to join their family for the festivities this year, you have even more to anticipate. Naturally, you want to make a good impression on everyone gathered for the occasion — and no matter how confident you are, we’re willing to bet that there’s at least some small part of you that’s nervous about the whole thing going well. We want you to be a lot less nervous and a lot more excited (celebrating with the family is a big milestone), so we reached out to etiquette consultant and Mannersmith founder Jodi RR Smith for her advice on ensuring that this situation runs as smoothly as the silkiest mashed potatoes. Keep scrolling for her best tips.
1. Ask questions first. “You may think you know your partner, but you will see them in a whole new light when they are surrounded by their family,” Smith advises. “It’s best to speak frankly in advance of your departure to find out what exactly Thanksgiving is like in their house.” Make sure you have a strong handle on things like dress code, guest list, and menu, and don’t be afraid to ask thoughtful questions about funky family history that could lead to tense moments around the table. It’s important that you know what to expect, and if you and bae are serious enough to spend Thanksgiving together, you’re serious enough to have these kinds of honest conversations.
2. Reach out to the host. If the Thanksgiving feast is happening at your S.O.’s parent’s house and you already have a great relationship with them, you can send an informal text a day or two before the holiday to see how you might be able to help prepare. If the host is instead a family member you’re less familiar with, you might consider sending an intro email to thank them in advance for including you in the festivities and offer your assistance. If all else fails, suggest that you and your significant other call the host together, on speaker, to ensure that everyone is on the same page leading up to the big event.
3. Don’t be afraid to address your dietary restrictions. No one wants to invite a guest into their home who then can’t indulge in any of the food they’re serving. It’s awkward for everyone involved. It’s best to find an appropriate way to share any allergies or other restrictions. Ask your partner to relay the information to the host or, if you’re comfortable, send them a note yourself. “While you should not expect them to completely alter the menu to suit your needs, you may offer to bring something you are able to enjoy that others would be able to sample as a side dish,” Smith tells us.
4. Bring a gift. Even if you feel totally at ease with your S.O.’s fam, you should never show up empty-handed to a major event like Thanksgiving. Smith suggests wine, flowers, or gourmet chocolates for the host. For extra brownie points, pick up goodies for children and pets too. If you and bae come from different cultural backgrounds or areas of the country, definitely get their advice before selecting a host gift. While the effort will probably be appreciated regardless, what you bring and how you present it can have very different connotations in different families.
5. Have stories and questions prepared. “As a new — or new to the Thanksgiving table — partner, you should expect other guests to be curious about you,” Smith reminds. “Have some stock answers at the ready to both benign and invasive questions. From ‘How did you meet?’ to ‘When are you getting married?’, you should be prepared to share only the information you want them to know.” You and bae may want to consult earlier in November about how each of you will answer questions about your relationship (particularly the future of it) so that you can feel confident about being on the same page. Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt to bank some questions to ask grandparents, cousins, siblings, and other relatives so you can jump right into getting to know each other.
6. Practice basic manners. You know the drill. Wait to start eating until everyone is seated and has been served. Take small bites. Chew with your mouth closed, and swallow before speaking. Ask for dishes to be passed instead of reaching across the table. Keep the conversation light and polite. When in doubt, follow your partner’s lead. They know what flies in their family.
7. Be flexible about sleeping arrangements. If Thanksgiving dinner is an overnight event, don’t be surprised if you and your S.O. are expected to sleep in different rooms. Even if their parents have been okay with you bunking together on previous visits, they may prefer to separate you if there are other relatives staying at the house. “Graciously go where you are directed,” Smith recommends. “You should retire to this room at night and emerge from this room in the morning. Where you or your partner [actually] spend the night is up to you.”
Do you find holidays with your partner’s fam stressful? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)