Planning the holidays with family can be stressful. Organizing the holidays between two families? I'm getting hives just thinking about it. We know our newly engaged couples – splitting or merging the holidays for the first time – could use a little help…
Surviving the holiday season can be tough as it is for many. And figuring out a way to accommodate both families' holiday plans with a new fiance can be tough. We know the struggles – traveling between faraway families, merging cultures, getting guilt-tripped, the financial burden of the holidays or just organizational stress. But, it also has a pro: you have a partner to get through it all. Hopefully, you can lean on each other to not only survive the holidays but feel festive, too!
As a newly engaged couple, we want you to spend the holidays celebrating your new chapter in your relationship with your loved ones. We don't want you to stress about how to get through the holidays. That's why our friends at Be Inspired PR called upon all their wedding experts for their own tips to surviving the holidays as a newly engaged (or newly married!) couple…
Agree on a “holiday schedule” early.
“I felt really lucky when I found my husband because our families lived literally 10 minutes away from each other! It was easy for us to start at his family's house, spend a few hours there, and then drive on over to mine. Or, spend Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day with the other.
Most couples don't have it so easy! If your families are far from each other, compromising on your “holiday schedule” in advance is key. Decide where you'll spend the holidays well before any party planning begins—and communicate to your families early so that they can adjust to this “new normal”. The nice thing is, you can still “see” everyone on every holiday courtesy of FaceTime or Skype!” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide
Create some new traditions.
“When you get married, your holidays are forever changed from what you experienced as a kid. Embrace this change! Sit down with your partner and talk about what traditions you'd like to establish for your own home. Maybe it's hosting a casual night-before-Thanksgiving cocktail party or simply having your nieces and nephews over to help decorate the tree. Coming up with traditions you as a couple can call your own makes the holidays that much more special.” – Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide
Be a team!
“It can be overwhelming heading into holiday celebrations as a newly engaged couple, not just because of new traditions and sharing time at different households, but because you’ll often end up fielding questions and lots of extra attention! If you start to feel overwhelmed, remember that you have a partner there with you who can be a support system!
Take a few minutes to yourselves, have your partner help with replying to all the questions (a simple “We’re so excited! We haven’t made any big decisions yet, so we’re taking the planning process one step at a time!” should work!), and remember that people are usually coming from a place of excitement for you, so take a moment to appreciate their good intentions!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events
Check-in on your partner (and yourself!).
“It can be so exciting starting new traditions together, but it can also feel like a loss to experience change. Whether you’re spending the holidays with your partner’s family this year instead of your own, forgoing your usual holiday traditions in lieu of new ones, or shortening the usual length of your trip in order to accommodate multiple trips to see multiple family members and friends, it can be hard to feel like you’re missing out on something during a joyous time of year. Take the time to check in on your partner AND to be honest with yourself! It’s completely valid to have a bit of the “holiday blues” but communication can make all the difference in the world.” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events
Alternate smaller holidays between families.
“My favorite way to split time between households for the holidays is to alternate smaller ones like Thanksgiving and Easter with each other's families. Every other year, we visit the other family. This helps each side feel included, and also keeps things from getting too lop-sided (IE, if we are with my side for Easter, we're with my husband's side for Thanksgiving, or vice versa.)” – Ashley Lachney, Owner of Alston Mayger Events
Spend the major holidays with both families (if they live nearby).
“Determine which holidays are the “big ones” for you and your family, and for your partner as well. For example, for Christmas, we find a way to celebrate with both families. Occasionally, this means spending Christmas Eve with my husband's side, and Christmas Day with my side. We make sure to include hosting gifts any time we're invited, too. These are thoughtfully curated to go along with the meal we're sharing that day, or a treat for the hosts to enjoy later on as they please.” – Ashley Lachney, Owner of Alston Mayger Events
Have your partner introduce their own traditions to your family.
“If you've decided together to spend the holidays with your family, make sure your partner gets to have a ‘bit of home'. That can be done in so many ways! Bring dishes their family normally enjoys, incorporate a tradition from their childhood, and get your own family involved in the experience so your partner feels included rather than the odd one out.” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings.
Account for more time with each family than expected.
“Always plan on more time with each group than expected, as after a few drinks and chatting with your nearest and dearest, it's not easy to leave. Plan and plan early so you can share with your family what you are going to do, and they can't guilt you into something that they haven't announced yet. You have the leverage if you share what you are going to do first!” – Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss + Co-Founder Rock Paper Coin
It's okay to do the holidays as just the two of you!
“Guess what, there's no rule that you have to go to any holiday party or event you've been invited to. When I moved to New York City at age 20, I started spending the holidays on my own, or with friends, in the city. I made new traditions for myself (like always going to Chinatown for Christmas dinner) and began to love my lavish & free holidays.
When my now-husband and I started dating he chose to stay with me in the city for the holidays, which began my favorite tradition: Sexy Christmas. Going beyond the obvious, Sexy Christmas means having a holiday void of familial stress and expensive travel. Instead, we do whatever we please! That often includes lavish sushi dinners, exchanging gifts, skiing nearby on Christmas Day or booking a beach house or cabin getaway.
Of course, you can Facetime your family or even live stream your holiday traditions. There's no reason you have to cross mountains and oceans to still feel together.” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings
Celebrate early: you don’t have to fit it all in one day.
“Try not to fit too much in. Remember that you can celebrate a holiday on a day that isn't the actual holiday! Maybe plan a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving, or gift exchange on Christmas Eve-Eve. Get creative and don't let it stress you out. The holidays are supposed to be fun–be creative!” – Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss + Co-Founder Rock Paper Coin
Carve out some alone time together!
“It goes without saying the holidays can be hectic. Be sure to carve time out from your busy schedules to get away from the holiday hustle to spend time alone. One of my favorite traditions my husband and I have done for the last ten years is putting up the tree and decorating it together with ornaments from our childhood, heirloom pieces, and ornaments that tell our story.” – Meghan Shaughnessy, Lace & Belle
Give gifts as a couple.
“Start signing those gift tags with both of your names! Give personalized, meaningful gifts to loved ones this season as a couple.” – Colleen, The Handkerchief Shop
Stand up for your partner.
“We all know holiday stress can bring out the worst in people. To assume your time with family is going to be 100% hunky-dory is probably naive. If you see your partner being treated unwell by family members, this is your chance to set the tone that such behavior will not be tolerated. Just because you “only see your family once a year” does not mean you should let unkindness become the norm. Making sure your partner feels welcome and comfortable will help holiday planning for years and decades to come.” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings
Dealing with wedding planning stress? Anxiety begone! Get loads of wellness advice & expert real talk from our Planning section.
These tips were gathered with help from Be Inspired PR, a PR + Social Media Agency for wedding, wellness & lifestyle clients. With over 10+ years of experience, we’re here to take our clients to the next level! Find oodles of stylish wedding inspiration on their Instagram & Pinterest.