winter tablescape for the holidays

Navigating the Holidays as Newlyweds

How to Communicate Openly & Plan Ahead for a Holiday Season to Remember

Your first holiday together as newlyweds—or a newly engaged couple—is an exciting time. Let’s be honest though, it can also bring on some stressful moments as you both now learn to navigate the season as members of two families. Pair that with possibly different cultures and traditions (and let’s not forget your parent’s expectations) and this time of year can often become less cheerful and more tearful.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. With open communication and some planning ahead, you and your partner can have a holiday season to remember—for all of the right reasons!

Engage in some real talk.

Sit down with your partner and have an honest conversation about what's most important to you. Not every family celebrates or even acknowledges certain holidays. For example, some aren’t that into Thanksgiving, while others might make a big deal about Christmas Eve and don’t do much the following day. This information could make the compromising ahead easier.

Be prepared to negotiate.

Speaking of compromise, you both must be prepared to give and take a bit during the holiday season. It might be hard to not be with your side of the family for the holidays but remember that it’s no longer all about you. 

Speak to your parents.

It could also be tough for both sets of parents, especially if you’re the first child to get married and they’re used to having everyone with them during these special occasions. Then again, they also had to navigate this sensitive time when they got married so they might be able to offer up some helpful advice.

Split up the holidays.

If both sides of the family live nearby, things could be easy. You can try to have Thanksgiving dinner with one side, and then head over to the other family’s house for dessert. If you both celebrate Christmas, you can be with one family on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day.

Set a rotation.

Of course, if there's a lot of travel required, this isn’t possible. So the fairest solution is to alternate the holidays between families. For example, if you really want to spend Thanksgiving with your family, then that means you’ll be with your in-laws for the December holidays. Then the following year, you’ll do the reverse. 

Embrace your different traditions and cultures.

Every family has their own way of doing things, so work with your partner to determine what's important to the both of you—regardless of where you're celebrating. If you love going to midnight mass every year, ask your spouse to invite their family to do the same when you’re celebrating with their loved ones. And if there's a particular dish that your mother-in-law makes every year that your partner will miss, ask her for the recipe so you have it on your family’s dinner table during the season.

Acknowledge each other’s feelings.

It’s normal if you or your partner feel a bit sad during the first holiday (or two) that you're without your respective families. Be supportive of one another during those moments and take the time to “see” the loved ones you’re not celebrating with via Zoom or FaceTime.

Be a united front.

Even if someone (a parent, sibling, grandparent, etc.) expresses their disappointment that you’ll be missing from the holiday table, never throw your partner under the bus. Simply explain that while you’ll miss everyone, this is a decision you’ve made as a couple.

Start your own traditions.

When you said "I do," you created your own little family with your spouse. With this in mind, work on creating some traditions of your own. That could mean hosting a “Friendsgiving” every year, creating your own special dish to make each holiday, or bingeing holiday movies on Christmas Day instead of shuttling back and forth between families. Whatever makes you both happy should work for your families!

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