The holidays can be a truly lovely time of year, with parties, delicious dinners, and family and friend reunions—but they can also be super stressful (travel and fundamental differences among family members can all lead to disaster). The dynamics change even more when you're in a brand new relationship, especially if it happens to be the first time you're meeting your partner's family.
Of course, you want to make a stellar first impression and have a great time. You know you're polite and have heard that you'll have a lot in common with them, but it can still be nerve-wracking. The good news? A little bit goes a long way in impressing the parents, so don't worry—you've got this.
Dress your best (to feel your most confident)
Much like first dates and job interviews, a lot of people agonize over what to wear the first time they meet their partner's parents. It makes sense—what you wear has a lot to do with how people perceive you, especially when it's your first impression. Your best bet? Wear something that makes you look put together and feel confident, and if you're really stressing over your outfit, ask your partner for help. They see you all the time and know what you're like when you're confident in your clothes, and they'll know what their family will appreciate, too.
Bring a small host or hostess gift
For this one, definitely ask your partner for advice—it can be something as simple as a bottle of wine or some flowers, but your partner will know the nuances of what will really impress their family. Maybe their parents prefer red wine, or maybe they're highly allergic to flowers (but they love chocolate instead!). Or maybe they collect holiday ornaments—whatever the case may be, don't show up empty-handed.
Because nobody wants to walk into a party empty-handed.
Compliment them—but do it genuinely
Everyone likes to hear that their home is beautiful or their food is delicious, and compliments will definitely be appreciated by your partner's parents, so long as they seem genuine. Say nice things, but don't just say nice things because you feel like you have to—give compliments that are real and therefore, will come across natural and sincere.
Talk up your partner a little
Along the same lines as paying the family a few thoughtful compliments, talking up your partner in front of them can definitely help. First of all, it shows that you care about them and that you're proud of them, which their family will definitely be happy about—it shows that you have a good relationship. Second, it's kind of like paying their parents a compliment, too, but in a different way—they did raise your partner, after all.
Make conversation on your own
It's definitely a lot easier to participate in discussions when your partner is there to encourage you or refer to you, but make sure you can hold your own too, even if you feel awkward or nervous. Starting conversations with your partner's family will show off your personality and help you establish more things you may have in common. Just make sure to avoid any controversial topics, like religion or politics—maybe you'll get into those things eventually, especially if the relationship progresses further, but they're not always the best idea for a first meeting.
Offer to help with prep and cleanup
This is something you probably already do when you're a guest in another person's home, but just in case, make sure you offer to help out with cooking and cleaning. A simple "Is there anything I can do to help?" during meal prep or clean-up afterwards will get you far. (Also, don't just jump in and start doing things without asking first—you want to make sure that you're actually being helpful and that it's wanted).
Say "thank you"
Again, you undoubtedly already do this, but it's worth repeating: The simplest thing you can do to make a good impression on your partner's family is to say "thank you" whenever appropriate. If they give you gifts, be sure to say it (and send a thank-you note later!). And as you're leaving their celebration, thank your partner's family for having you and for a great time. Those two words can go a long way in showing that you're polite, considerate and grateful, and it'll definitely be remembered and appreciated.