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Married Life 101: 10 Tips for Navigating the Holidays

There's a lot to figure out your first year of marriage, but how you choose to spend the holidays as newlyweds doesn't have to be a battle.

Contributing Writer
Photography by: New Line Cinema/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

1. Address early.

Just as you discussed your thoughts on having kids, managing money, and living together before you tied the knot, where you'll spend the holidays once you're hitched is best addressed before your families are awaiting RSVPs. This holds especially true if you're planning a fall wedding.

2. Discuss personal priorities.

Which of your own family's traditions are most special to you? It could be the hours leading up to a 4 p.m. Thanksgiving meal, when you're all gathered in your mom's kitchen, or Christmas morning pancakes. It's much easier to decide where you're going to be when, if you know what each of you really doesn't want to miss.

3. Consider distance and holiday traffic.

Whether your families live across town or across the country will affect your decision-making. Christmas Eve with your parents and Christmas Day with your in-laws may not be feasible, but spending half your holiday in transit—even if your families are just a couple hours' drive apart—may not be ideal either.

4. Acknowledge that it's a big deal.

Even if you're not the sentimental type, you may get emotional about being absent from your family's holiday celebrations, and so might your parents—especially if this is a first. Tune in to your feelings, and if your folks are being particularly possessive, let them know that you understand where they're coming from.

5. Don't accept immediately.

Even if you already have a sense of where you'll be spending the holidays, don't commit to invites the moment you receive them. If someone's demanding an answer on FaceTime, just say you still need to discuss plans with your spouse. 

6. Remember you can't make everyone happy.

And even if you can, just make sure you're not so busy making everyone else happy that you skimp on what makes you and your spouse happy around the holidays. Remember you're taking three families into account, not just two!

7. You can do something different next year.

Committing to Thanksgiving at your in-laws the first year doesn't mean you're signing up for life. You can alternate each year, or you can start to host, or you can decide to be out of the country on your baby-moon.

8. Hosting is a real option.

Even if you're newly married and live in a tiny apartment, hosting can be a lot of fun! It's an opportunity to bring your families together and potentially start a new tradition … or maybe it'll just be a one-off so you don't have to choose between families the first year!

9. Be flexible.

Special circumstances—like a sick grandparent or your husband's newborn niece—can alter holiday plans. Consider how you might want your plans to change if the situation were reversed.

10. It is a holiday season.

There's Thanksgiving Day, but there's also Thanksgiving Weekend. The whole week between Christmas and New Year's is wonderfully festive. If your families are vying for the official holiday, remind them what the holidays are really about—spending time together and enjoying each other's company!


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