It’s that moment you’ve been waiting for…You and your guy have been dating for several weeks when he finally asks you to join him for Sunday dinner at his family’s house. Queue the inevitable meet-the-parents jitters: What am I going to wear? Will they like me? How do I act?
I’ve experienced this same flurry of questions before, too. When this happens, I try to take a step back and realize that meeting the parents is just like a first date or an interview. A first impression means everything, and there are certain rules you just have to follow:
- Rule #1: Be yourself.
Don’t fake it. If you meet your special someone’s family and pretend to be someone different, chances are they’re going to catch on. There is a reason your guy brought you home to his folks…he likes you for who you are. If the entire family is talking about a subject you know little about, chiming in just for the sake of it might get you stuck in a sticky situation (who won that Monday Night Football game again?). Instead, if a topic of conversation comes up that you can’t contribute to, ask them to recap the details for you. You will come across as interested, not phony. And in the end, your guy’s family will respect you for being yourself.
- Rule #2: Be helpful.
If your boyfriend is asking you to come to dinner at his family’s house, offer to bring an appetizer, dessert, or a bottle of wine if you are of age. Bringing something to the table (literally) is just enough to show your appreciation for the invite, but doesn’t make you appear overeager. Once you finish eating, help clear the table and offer to do the dishes. Most hosts think highly of a guest who offers to help clean up. Whether they will actually let you do the dishes or not, it shows good manners and appreciation.
- Rule #3: Mind your manners.
Let’s do a little refresher on the basics, shall we? Always say please and thank you. Place your napkin in your lap. Eat with your mouth closed. And do not take your cell phone out while you’re visiting (check out my post about navigating first dates for a few more tips). As far as the dinner goes, if you have allergies or other special dietary needs, you may want to remind your boyfriend to mention them to his family. However, on the off chance that the menu includes a dish that you do not particularly care for, eat as much as you can, and when you’ve had enough, express how stuffed you are and how much you enjoyed the meal. Substituting the truth for good manners is the only time it’s okay to fake it.
- Rule #4: Dress to impress.
Wear something that shows your true fashion sense, but also make sure to err on the conservative side. No parent is going to be impressed by a super short hemline. Dress to flatter your figure and wear something you love—when you feel best, you tend to look best too. I recommend pairing a modest blouse with a feminine skirt. Think classy and comfortable, but still fashionable. For more outfit ideas, check out my Meet the Parents Style Guide. And as the final touch, keep your makeup simple and your jewelry pretty minimal. You don’t want his family to be distracted from your personality because your smoky eye shadow or hoop earrings are stealing the show.
- Rule #5: Get to know them.
Whether it’s his mom or his dad, his little sister or his older brother, it’s important to take the time to get to know his family members. When they ask questions about you, make sure you’re reciprocating by asking questions about their lives, too. If you only talk about yourself the whole time, the conversation will not flow and you might come across as self-centered. Plus, getting to know his family and their likes and dislikes will make for smooth sailing the next time you get together with them. If his brother likes the Dodgers, show him pictures of the last home game you attended. If his mom is a fan of Friends, bring your collection of all 10 seasons to share next time you see her. They’ll adore you for remembering those little details.
Above all, just remember to be you. If you do that, his family will most likely fall for you even quicker than he did.
Do you have any suggestions when it comes to meeting your man’s family for the first time? Share your stories in the comments below so I can check them out.
Also, do you have a Ladylike Laws request? Let me know what etiquette rules you’d like to read about next.
Photo: Kate Ermillio Spring 2013