First, let me start with a basic: This is definitely something I advise engaged couples to talk about right away, especially if you marry in the fall or winter—meaning that family holiday plans hit right away. You’re still adjusting to married life, and then bam! The families are calling to arrange holiday plans. Sometimes, both sets of families become very emotionally attached to ‘getting you’ for your first married Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Thanksgiving. If distance is a factor, someone’s family has to ‘win.’ And someone’s family has to hear, “We’ll be with you next year.” That can be very, very tough on your new marriage—and also on the families.
Here, the four basic steps to deciding how to spend your holidays (don’t worry—we’ll get into the nitty gritty, too!):
STEP 1: Don’t Commit Right Away
If parents start calling in November to ask if you’ll be at Christmas or other holiday events, don’t give an immediate answer. Use this smart stall tactic: “I have to talk with (spouse) so that we can make a plan that works best for everyone.” It’s not okay to say “yes” to the first family that calls, then tell the second family—whodoesn’t start planning Christmas in November—that they missed the boat.That sets up a competition that stresses out parents, hurts their ability to blend in with the other side of the family (if they see them as trying to ‘steal you’ for holidays), and sets a precedent that’s really hard to break.
You have to be the one to deliver the diplomatic message of, “We love spending holidays with the family, and since we’re a combined family now, we have to explore ways to make the holidays fun and fair to everyone. Some things are going to need to change a little bit for everyone, but that’s necessary so that the holidays stay special and enjoyable.” Deliver this with a smile, of course.
STEP 2: Discuss Your Priorities
Talk to your fiancé or spouse about what family holidays mean to you. Would you be heartbroken to miss out on your family’s traditional Christmas morning breakfast? Maybe your groom doesn’t hold that moment as a must with his family. Maybe he’s more of an ‘I can’t miss Thanksgiving’ guy, and you’re fine with that. When you know each other’s key holiday moments, you can work together to make sure you’re both getting the precious holiday experiences that mean the most to you.