Meeting the in laws – the dos and don’ts

Unless you have unusual circumstances, the likelihood is that at some point before the big day, you’re going to meet the in laws. Whether you’re engaged or not, whether it’s five minutes or five years before the wedding, if you’re meeting your future parents in law, then the chances are the relationship is pretty serious. As they say, first impressions are everything (no pressure) so how do you make sure that you make an impression for the right reasons?

My in laws are so awesome that I could chat to them about anything. Plus they live overseas, so we never went to their place for dinner, we were all thrown in the deep end with a long stay together, which actually turned out very well. But not everyone is as easy going so always be careful on that first meeting – you’re not quite family yet! Image © Satureyes

Under the Vintage Veil’s guide to meeting the parents

Do

Bring a gift if you’re going to their house for the first time. A bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates… just check with your other half that nobody’s on a diet / diabetic / a recovering alcoholic / a hay fever sufferer first. If you can find out what their favourite is, even better.

Scrub up nicely but be yourself. By this, I mean make an effort, but don’t come dressed up as some preppy wannabe a la Phoebe from Friends (see below). Remember that your in laws are forever, so if you pretend to be something you’re not on the first day, you’re going to have to keep up the act for a very long time… probably not a good idea! PS, there are some BIG don’ts to be taken from the below clip, we’ll get to those…

Take an interest in their lives, hobbies etc. My dad used to be a helicopter pilot and John originally trained as a commercial pilot. John could listen to my dad go on about flight instruments and celestial navigation all day long and so quickly became a firm favourite with him.

Offer to help, pick up after yourself and generally display good manners.

Let them know in advance if you have any special dietary requirements. I’m a vegetarian (not the kind that can politely eat a chicken leg if presented with it, I’ve never eaten meat in my life and feel really strongly about it), and I also have a really unusual phobia – dead fish! I won’t go into too much detail, but the sight, smell or idea of a dead fish has the power to make me simultaneously throw up and pass out. I assumed my then-boyfriend would have passed on the message – that was a mistake, he had completely forgotten and when I showed up for dinner they were frying whole fish on the BBQ.

When they realised I was a vegetarian, they quickly fried up some corn on the cob on the same BBQ for me but it was completely tainted with fish smell. I spent the whole dinner absolutely mortified and faked stomach cramps to get out of having to see the whole fish (heads and all) and eat the fish cob. To this day I can’t eat corn on the cob without feeling ill and I obviously made a terrible first impression as it was like walking into my personal room 101. If you let them know in advance if there’s anything you can’t have (say it’s an allergy if you don’t want to appear fussy) then you’ll be able to relax knowing you can eat and join in the conversation.

Don’t

Flirt with his dad. It’s just gross, and his mum definitely won’t appreciate it.

Milk the cat. Or the in laws. Or just don’t tell ridiculous lies that you’re going to have to follow up with a story…

Tell them your whole life story. I mean sure, tell them where you were born, where you grew up, what your parents do etc. but (as in the Phoebe clip above) leave out the gory details until you know them a lot better. Or just never tell them. Up to you.

Swear. Unless they swear first. And if they do swear first, stick with what they’ve said. Don’t one-up their “S” word with the “C” word…

Talk politics. That’s a good rule for forever. If you’re a radical leftie and they’re card carrying Tories, just leave politics out of the conversation. If they say something unsavoury but not outrageous, put your principals aside and smile and nod (unless you’re Mr Schuester from Glee – sadly I can’t find a clip of Emma’s ginger supremacist parents).

Talk about your sex life. Even if they ask (I’m not sure why they’d do that) even if you think there’s a funny story to be told… just don’t go there.

Nobody expects you to pretend to be a Stepford wife for the sake of the in laws. But there is a certain etiquette that needs to be followed and caution definitely needs to be exercised when meeting people you will need to be around for the rest of your life. I’m lucky that John’s parents are like a second set of parents to me too, but some people are more difficult than others and easing into the situation will only help you to build a strong relationship later on. Good luck! 

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