Wediquette Wednesday: How can we politely opt out of family holiday traditions to create our own?

Each Wednesday, we tackle wedding etiquette. At times, it’s a reader question or one from a colleague, friend or family member and other times we’ll cover a popular issue. (Note: Questions may be edited for clarity and brevity.)

Question: This Thanksgiving, my fiancé and I decided to do our own thing instead of traveling to our hometown to celebrate with family. We live about five hours away from our hometown. We got tons of pressure from both sides to come home, but we stuck to our guns, because we are trying to find ways to celebrate holidays as a couple, especially since this time next year we’ll be married. Now everyone is mad at us, and they are giving us all kinds of grief about coming home for Christmas. It feels like we botched this thing. We want to get it right but can’t seem to make ourselves happy and everyone else as well. In the future, how can we politely opt out of family holiday traditions to create our own?

Answer: It’s great that you are working toward making the holidays your own as a family unit, which is important whether or not you have children. Having special traditions as a couple helps cement your bond. I’m sorry to hear that your loved ones aren’t as understanding as you’d like, but it sounds like they miss you both and want to spend time with you, which is a great thing. One solution is to plan ahead to spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas together as a couple. Then do the family thing for whichever one you don’t do alone as a couple. Inform your family in advance that, for example, Thanksgiving is going to be your couple celebration and you’ll see them at Christmas. It’s a compromise but knowing when they will see you can help cushion the blow. You can also alternate each year and do Thanksgiving with family one year and Christmas the next or vice versa. If you decide to do both holidays alone as a couple, offer advance notice and stick to your boundaries. If it makes sense for your schedule and budget, you could also lay out the plans for when you will be home for visits. Again, this is so that they know while you won’t be home at Christmas, you’ll be there for New Year’s Eve or what have you. Or it could be planned for some other “lesser” holiday, like Fourth of July weekend or in the fall surrounding Halloween. That’s up to you. These types of changes and transitions can be challenging but lead with compassion and love. Eventually your loved ones will get used to the new way you are doing things as a marital unit. Facetiming on the holidays where you don’t come home is also highly recommended.

Do you have a solution to share or a wedding etiquette question? Respond in the comments or email

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