I am terrified and excited to write this blog post about your first holidays together as newlyweds. We’ve got a few holidays coming up in the next few months. This is a BEAUTIFUL time, but if you’re a newlywed, it can also be a STRESSFUL time as you figure out how to merge traditions for the first time.
I want you to know that this comes from a very vulnerable place, from someone who is not perfect, and has not done things perfectly. But I can honestly say that with nearly six years of marriage under my belt, Brian and I have learned how to maneuver two different families and their expectations for what the holidays look like.
That being said, the first thing you need to know is that how you spend the holidays is a decision between you and your spouse first. Your marriage is your number one priority now. You are your own family unit. The decision you make about how you spend holidays, or anything in general, is first a decision of what’s best for you guys. Yes, this is tough, but it’s so real and so important as you navigate how you make decisions as a family.
So, here are my tips for having the right conversations so that you and your spouse can have a HEALTHY and enjoyable holiday season. The hope is that everyone feels valued and loved, even if it’s different from what they expected.
First, it’s always helpful to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and really recognize their perspective that this might be a really hard transition for your family to share you.
- For some of you, the holiday season is hard because you don’t have healthy family dynamics, and the stress comes from a totally different place. I want you to know you’re seen and valued.
- For others of you, it’s really hard to let go of traditions and systems you’ve had set in place for years and years. The first few years of that change can feel very painful and detrimental to your family. Depending on where you are in the lineup, if you’re the first person in your family to get married or have the first kid, then you basically are teaching your parents and siblings how to transition into this new season of life, which is a really big deal. So you’re not going to do it perfectly. And that’s okay.
After having the right perspective, my biggest tip is to first have honest and clear communication with your spouse. Make sure that you and your spouse know what you have traditionally done with your family in the past. Then talk about how best to split that up and find a new rhythm that both honors the traditions of the past with the ones you’re creating together.
My next suggestion is to make a plan and then stick to it. Here are a few ideas for adjusting the traditional plans:
- Two in a day: for each holiday, one option is to celebrate both in one day. For example, having Thanksgiving in the early afternoon and then one in the late afternoon with both families.
- Using the week: try having Thanksgiving on Thursday AND Friday, and then swapping each year with each family. For Christmas, perhaps one family celebrates Christmas Eve more, and Christmas Day is spent with another family.
- Swapping years: If you have to travel to your families, or the two in a day or using the week seems too complicated, then it might be best to split the holidays between each family and then trade off every other year. This way, each family gets you for the whole holiday when it’s their turn.
- Disclaimer: This is relative to each couple depending on where your families live, how many siblings you have, and what traditions have existed before. That’s why it’s SO important to TALK about it!
Finally, have honest communication with your families about your new plan for the holidays. Depending on the dynamics of your family, talk with your parents first, or whoever will be most impacted by your decision. Ease them into the idea that things aren’t going to be the way that they once were.
- Be honest and open with them and say this is hard for YOU to have to change things around and not be able to be with your family for everything. But with your marriage comes a new family that you’ve created together. And that new family needs to do what is best for that family unit.
The holidays come with so many different feelings and expectations for SO many reasons. For you newlyweds, how you spend the holidays together is a significant part of your first few years of marriage, so do the hard work of having these open and honest conversations. Your future self will thank you!
As you look at November and December, I want you to look at it with JOY. Have clear and honest expectations, communicate with one another, make a plan, stick to it, and notify your family members of that plan ahead of time.