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Whoever coined the phrase “you don’t just marry the person, you marry the whole family” surely had holidays with the in-laws in mind. As a newlywed, you might not know quite what to expect from that first holiday with your spouse’s family. Don’t fret!

Spending the holiday season with your in-laws for the first time? Here's how to make it a success.

Plan ahead

First and foremost, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page regarding how you would like to spend the holidays as married couple. You may decide to spend every other year with his family and every other year with yours, or to split the day between both sides, or to host the whole gang together at your place. Regardless, working together to come up with a clear plan that makes sense and feels fair to both of you will lay the foundation for happy holidays (and a happy marriage!) ahead.

Pitch in

Offer to help with cooking, shopping, decorating, cleaning up, or assisting with any random tasks that need to be done. Pitching in is a great way to bond with your spouse’s family and assume your role as a fellow family member as opposed to just a guest. Plus, your in-laws are sure to appreciate the helping hand.

Don’t play the comparison game

Every family has their own way of doing things, and the last thing you want to do is turn the holidays into a “who does it better” contest. You might prefer your grandmother’s famous homemade cranberry sauce to your mother-in-law’s straight-from-the-can version, but there’s no sense in blurting that out. If you go into holidays with the in-laws expecting everything to be done exactly the way you’re used to, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, anticipate these differences and welcome them with open arms. Which brings us to the next point...

couple at wedding with santa claus
Christopher Bell Photography

Embrace their traditions

Now that you’re officially part of your spouse’s family, it’s time to get on board with any holiday traditions they may have—no matter how silly, odd, sappy, or even mundane they may seem to you. Whether it’s getting up at sunrise to run the neighborhood Turkey Trot with the whole family, or helping your mother-in-law craft the perfect candy roof for the family gingerbread house contest, participating in the family traditions shows you’re excited to be one of the clan.

Take little breathers

While you definitely want to help out and immerse yourself in the festivities, stepping away from the hustle and bustle every now and then can be a wise move. These mini breaks can be especially beneficial to your sanity if you’re all staying under the same roof. Even if you’re working with a jam-packed schedule, planning a few solo errands or taking a nice walk around the block with your spouse can help you stay calm, cool, and collected.

Keep in touch with your own family

You may not be able to be with your own family in person this time, but you can still show them some love! Call to wish your grandparents a happy Thanksgiving, FaceTime your mom and dad on Christmas Eve, or send your little sis some festive Christmas day updates on Snapchat.

Cut yourself some slack

Even if your relationship with your in-laws couldn’t be better, spending your first holiday with them is an adjustment. You’re charting new territory, and it’s normal to experience some nostalgia (and FOMO) for the places, faces, and traditions you’ve known all your life. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t feel completely natural at first—you’re just getting into the swing of a new family dynamic, and you’ll find your rhythm!