If meeting your boyfriend/girlfriend’s family this holiday season for the first time, or even just the first time meeting extended family, here are some guidelines to make fitting in a snap and winning over his/her family easier than pumpkin pie.
1. Do your research. Find out as much as you can about who will be attending: names, relationships, interesting tidbits, what they do, interests, family traditions, what to expect. It will help keep conversation flowing and prevent you from looking like a turkey.
2. Dress appropriately. Ask your date what he/she typically wears as well as other guests. If everyone wears jeans, feel free to do the same. If your host/hostess is wearing a skirt/dress/dress pants, find something to match the formality of your hosts. Not only will you fit in, but being over or underdressed will make you feel uncomfortable throughout your visit. Also, pay attention to neck lines and length as well as snug-fitting attire.
3. Bring something. Whether it’s a bottle of wine, dessert, or a simple bouquet of flowers, never arrive empty-handed. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a gift for the host/hostess is proper etiquette any time you’re invited to someone’s house.
4. Offer to help shortly after arriving. Your request may be denied, but the effort will be remembered.
5. Mind your P’s and Q’s. Manners are still important. Not only remember please, thank you, it was nice to meet you, and thank you for having me, but also turn off the cell phone, make eye contact, watch your language, don’t talk with your mouth full, and place your napkin in your lap during dinner. Minding your manners isn’t about putting on a show, it’s about respect for yourself and respect for those around you.
6. Clear the table, without asking or being asked. Before doing so, make sure to excuse yourself. Make sure your timing is appropriate, and ask those seated on either side of you if they are finished before clearing their plates as well.
7. Compliment your host/hostess. Don’t brown nose, offer empty or excessive compliments, or insincere words. At the same time, don’t hold back from verbalizing a fondness for a dish served, home décor you find appealing, or snappy attire you hostess is wearing. Whatever it is, find something nice to say and express it.
8. Participate in traditions when asked and play with the kids if any are present. Don’t hop right into a traditional family photo without your presence being requested, but if the group plays a traditional game or watches a movie after the meal every year, join in. If there are kids present, every parent in attendance will automatically love you for keeping the kids entertained while they enjoy a few brief moments of adult time.
9. Find common interests, but avoid controversial topics (ie: politics or religion). Ask questions and actively listen to answers. Don’t offer unsolicited advice; no one enjoys conversing with a know-it-all. Don’t offer super-personal information unless asked, even then consider what is appropriate to share. No one needs to know your family secrets the first time you meet.
10. Avoid PDA’s. You will not win over your date’s mother, father or great grandmother Pearl by gluing any part of yourself to your boy/girlfriend. Public displays of affection are inappropriate, rude, disrespectful, uncomfortable, and well, just plain gross at a family function. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but PDA’s will make a lasting negative impression.
Remember that you are a guest in someone else’s home while visiting, and making the best first impression is your responsibility. Follow these guidelines for a successful holiday with your date’s family and you’ll be likely to make the guest list in the future.