The 10-Step Guide To Wowing Your Partner's Family Over The Holidays

by Jen Ruiz

Meeting your partner's parents for the first time is a cause for celebration.

Congratulations: You've found someone who cares about you enough to accept you into his or her world, and introduce you to loved ones.

Despite this undeniably good news, you probably have a pit of dread in your stomach, accompanied with traumatic replays of Greg Focker-like disaster scenarios in your head.

Thankfully, the likelihood of you unwittingly sparking a string of never ending calamities is slim to none.

You're already primed to make a great first impression, you just have to follow a few basic steps to seal the deal:

 1. Bring a gift.

It's always polite to bring a gift for the hostess, and this holds doubly true during the holidays.

If your partner's family is small, i.e. just the parents and sister, then a gift for everyone might be appropriate.

If the family is four or larger, resist the urge to play Santa Claus for a group of people you don't know.

Bring a gift that can be enjoyed by the whole family instead, like a nice bottle of wine.

2. Dress the part.

For girls, this means cover up.

Granted, women should be able to wear what they want without being judged for it, but at family events, it's best to keep it classy.

Think Jackie, not Marilyn.

For guys, make an effort.

A nice button down shirt and dress shoes go a long way toward making a good first impression.

3. Compliment people's children.

Parents -- especially mothers -- love to hear what a great job they did on raising their son or daughter.

They will be grateful for any recognition of their efforts in making the masterpiece you are now dating.

Bonus points if you can subtly mention in passing how much their son or daughter adores and appreciates them.

4. Relax on the PDA.

You might see that mistletoe and be tempted to lay one on your partner, but there is a time and place for everything.

This is the time for a demure peck, not a make-out session.

Similarly, a guy may be tempted to place his hand on his partner's leg while seated.

Anything above the knee is asking for trouble and will be noticed.

It's best to give your family something else to talk about.

5. Offer to help out.

Depending on the family and their traditions, you may be immediately put to work or you may be summarily dismissed, but it never hurts to offer your help in the kitchen before or after the holiday meal.

Even if your host insists otherwise, be sure to tidy up your own space after you're done eating.

It shows you have proper etiquette.

6. Get the inside scoop.

Your partner wants you to make a good impression as well, and a little teamwork can accomplish that.

Get the inside scoop before you go on the likes and dislikes of important family members, so you can be sure to bring up horseback riding to the equine enthusiast, and steer away from raving about how juicy the ham is to the family vegetarian.

7. Be on time.

This is not an occasion for which you want to be fashionably late.

Punctuality shows you're respectful and responsible, two traits all parents look for in their child's partner.

Also, it's awkward if you show up late and everyone turns at once to stare at you.

Being early allows you to stagger introductions and do things at your own pace.

8. Stay away from contentious topics of conversation.

Save your thoughts on Obama, Trump or Hillary for your Twitter account.

Any talk about money, or a lack thereof, is also inappropriate.

Generally, if you think what you're about to say is a sentence that could end with "just kidding," avoid saying it in the first place.

9. Be open-minded.

Every family has their own way of doing things, especially during the holidays.

While it may feel weird to open presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning, or eat matzo balls instead of yams, embrace the differences.

Try everything you're offered, and take in the full experience with an open mind and heart.

10. Don't overstay your welcome.

Less is more when it comes to first impressions.

The less time you're there, the more likely you are to make it through the entire endeavor without putting your foot in your mouth.

Stay long enough to partake in all the scheduled activities, but call it a night early enough so everyone has time to rave about how amazing you were once you leave.

Remember, you're not alone in this. If you have a good partner, he or she will do everything possible to make you feel at ease and accepted into the family.

Good luck.