1) Bring a Gift
Start with asking your SO what you can bring. If he or she says “Oh, you don’t have to bring anything!”, bring something anyway. Flowers. A box of chocolates. A bottle of wine. Something specific from your hometown or wherever you’re coming from. His or her family will definitely appreciate the gesture.
2) Dress Your Best!
You don’t have to go out of your way to wear a suit if you’re more of a ripped t-shirt and jeans kind of guy, or heels if you live your life in flats. But when meeting the parents it’s important to present the absolute best version of yourself, not because you need them to validate your appearance but because dressing up in order to meet someone is a sign of respect: it shows that you care enough about making a good impression to put in effort. Parents will definitely appreciate this.
3) Let Your Significant Other Take The Lead, re: Physical Affection
All families are different in terms of boundaries and PDA. If your boyfriend or girlfriend holds your hand, hugs you, or kisses you in front of his or her parents, then you can go ahead and return the gestures. But don’t go in for a kiss in front of the folks without getting the OK.
4) Stay on Neutral Topics
Ask your partner beforehand what his or her parents like to take about, and then stick to those subjects.
Anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about on a first date should definitely be avoided when meeting parents. Anna Post, grand-daughter of etiquette guru Emily Post, suggests:
“You definitely do want to stay away from the big four: stay away from money, stay away from politics, stay away from religion, and stay away from sex. Those four topics can become very personal, very heated, and very uncomfortable. It’s best to feel out who this person is and what they’re like before you start broaching these topics.”
5) Pitch In
Your significant other’s parents will want to see that you’re a thoughtful and generous person. An easy way to prove this is to help with the festivities: setting the table, washing the dishes, clearing away wrapping paper, and pitching in with any little task that needs to be done.
As Mindy Kaling writes in her book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”:
“Never ask when you’re at somebody’s house if you can pitch in and help. You just start helping, ’cause no hostess is ever gonna be like, “Yes, I would love help, just do the dishes.” I think it shows that you’re well raised if you just start.”
Happy holidays, good luck, and don’t worry — they’ll love you!