- The couple should organize the meeting
- Don’t meet in the home of the parents
- Choose a fun, relaxed meeting place
- How to sort out who pays what
- Get some background info before the meeting
- Prepare two conversation topics
- Be positive in everything you say
- They love their child, show you do too
- Find out what makes them tick
- Discover a shared interest – ready for the next chat.
Meeting the groom’s parents can be oddly nerve-wracking. This is probably because we can’t afford not to get on. They are going to be important in our daughter’s life and we will probably see them many, many times over the coming years. Follow these tips to make sure that meeting your new in-laws goes smoothly.
- Get your daughter and her fiancé to arrange the meeting
Depending on where you all live, meeting up might be complicated. In fact it might only be possible the day before the wedding if, for example, you live in different countries. The couple can discuss the options with both sets of parents and find out when they might be available.
Ideally everyone should meet at least once before the ceremony and if possible as soon as the date has been announced. This makes it easier for the mothers to decide on what to wear as the date gets nearer. Later, you might also want to discuss how the wedding will be paid for and what gifts you are planning. These topics can’t really be addressed at the first meeting which is just about getting to know each other.
- Meet on neutral territory
It might sound welcoming to offer to host the first meeting but this is not a great idea. The groom’s parents may feel intimidated by your fabulous home or instantly put off by your taste in interior design. Once you get to know each other you will both have a better idea of how the other parents live so their home will come as less of a (good or bad) surprise.
Choose a restaurant, café or bar where you can focus on simply learning more about each other in convivial surroundings. If your daughter can stand the strain she and her fiancé can cook for you where she or they live. But as they will also be nervous about this first meeting they may not be up for hosting.
- Make the venue fun not formal
Whilst choosing a swish restaurant might be your first thought if you wish to impress your new in-laws this is not the perfect venue unless you are sure the other set of parents will not feel over-awed. It’s much nicer to choose a mid-price place with a menu likely to appeal to most people and an ambiance that puts you all in a good mood. Don’t make this a dressy affair. This is about two sets of proud parents sharing in the happiness of their children.
Music is great for putting people into the right mood just make sure it is not going to be too loud to chat easily. The same goes for busy venues where there’s a lot of chatter. You don’t want to find yourself shouting out details of your daughter’s childhood as your in-laws cup their hand to their ear to catch these priceless gems.
- Sort out who pays before you meet
Nothing kills mood like money. And nothing ends a meeting on the wrong note more than spending ten minutes carefully splitting the bill into six. Get your daughter to tell the groom’s parents that each couple will pay for themselves and get separate bills. This way the drinkers don’t need to settle for a single glass of wine because the other couple prefer water. And you can always agree to pay for your daughter and her partner if you’d like to do that, but later, not in the restaurant.
- Get useful background information to avoid a faux pas
Before the meeting you will need to grill the happy couple a little. Are there topics to be avoided? Religion? Politics? Brexit? Trump? Deceased children? Divorce? Age? You don’t want to find you’ve been chatting all evening about life in retirement only to realise later that they are only 50 years old. Or to realise that all those enthusiastic questions you had about their eldest son were a nightmare for them as he was back in rehab.
Let your daughter know that you would like her fiancé to prep his parents in the same way. If you really don’t want to go into details about that business of yours that failed or your famous ex and his interesting life just mention that to her. She’ll be relieved you can be upfront about such things.
- Find out enough about them to make it easy to chat
The second part of the grilling is to find out bits and pieces of their life and the groom’s life to make conversation simple. You can sort out a few questions to get things going based on this. It will save the dreaded ‘Where did you park?’ type questions that lead to boring chit chat when what you really want to do is relax and laugh and feel good together.
- Keep things upbeat and positive
It’s easy, especially after a drink, to find that your common ground is based on complaining about the world. The extravagance of the wedding compared to when you were married. How short the engagement was. How unprepared for the trials of parenthood the couple are. And so on. These thoughts are no doubt in everyone’s minds, but now is not the time to share them. Keep the conversation upbeat and positive. Your daughter certainly doesn’t want to feel you are all ganging up on her and her partner. And when you leave you want to remember the evening as being happy.
- Don’t show it if you’re not too happy with your daughter’s choice of partner
What parent feels their child has picked just the right partner? We all have worries and misgivings. But nothing could be more destructive than to even hint at such things when meeting your future in-laws. It’s the quickest way to start an argument and both parties may harbour grudges at what they take to be a slight. These grudges can last years. This meeting is to be the basis for many years of joy for all of you so don’t ruin it by being too candid. Besides, you may well change your mind about her husband-to-be.
- Get to know about their lives to understand their values
Marriages are contracts between individuals and families. This first meeting with his family will help you to understand his background. As you ask more about their lives you will gain insights into what is important to them. This will aid you in understanding what he feels about family, home and work. There may be rocky days ahead when this understanding will be useful. One thing’s for sure – he won’t do things the way you do them or think they should be done. Our family and upbringing have an enormous influence on our lives and the way we bring up our own children and treat our partner.
- Find at least one shared interest before you leave
Throughout the meeting keep in mind that before you leave you intend to have found at least one interest that you share. It might be a TV programme, or a sport, or sewing or travel or anything at all. The important thing is that you now have something to talk about in depth next time you meet without always having to talk about the kids.
This first meeting can be the start of an independent relationship between you and the groom’s parents that might, if you are lucky, be the start of a real friendship. And nothing could help your daughter more than knowing that her parents and in-laws all get on well.
And such alliances can be welcome support as the years go by.