family toasting on Northern California coast

With Thanksgiving kicking off the holiday season, this might be your first time navigating the sometimes tricky waters of celebrating with new family and friends. Here are a few simple tips to making sure your holidays are filled with peace, joy, and harmony!

Don't be a holiday hog.

Pretty much everyone likes their family best. Of course you would prefer attending concerts with your mother and shopping with your sister over going with his family to pick out the tree. But you know what?  You've got to.  Make sure you are providing opportunities for both family to play a role in your festivities (of course as long as geography or his relationship with his family allows this as an option).  Besides, learning about each other's holiday traditions will deepen your relationship and help you decide what traditions you want to keep down the road.

Always bring something.

Your mother-in-law insists that you "just bring yourselves."  Don't buy it.  Old-school is always safest, and those etiquette rules state you never show up empty-handed. Don't try to overstep the chef, but rather bring a bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates, or a bottle of her favorite Chardonnay.  This little gesture will be remembered and appreciated!

Make a plan for gifts.

All those new relatives might really cause a stretch on your budget. Do what you can, and be consistent with your list. Some families that are larger might already do some type of Secret Santa drawing in lieu of buying presents for everyone (individual gifts for a family of ten? No, thank you!).  Don't stress or go into debt over wanting to make a good first impression. Talk about gifts with your spouse and come up with a plan that fits your goals and bottom line.

If you are hosting, acknowledge everyone.

Maybe it is your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner this year. Make sure your families feel extra welcome by acknowledging some of their tradition. Serve coffee and pie later in the evening like his family always has.  Make your mom's cranberry sauce.  And add in your own traditions, if you and your spouse would like to start something new.

When in doubt, flattery wins.

Mother-in-law still not totally warmed to you yet? Ask her for the recipe for those amazing spiced nuts your new husband can't stop raving about.  Most of the time when families are first starting to come together awkward moments occur because everyone is so paranoid about overstepping or offending. The best way to combat that is to be warm and inviting. Compliment more than you normally would, but always sincerely.  Ask interested questions about your new family and their traditions.  It will kick off the conversation and set the tone for a pleasant holiday!

Photo Credit: Viera Photographics