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How to Handle Uncomfortable Holiday Dinner Conversations

Suggestions on keeping everyone calm and polite during the holidays.

Amber Harrison, the style and etiquette expert at The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly, has offered four tips on how to keep the peace.

Relationship Advice
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Photo: Asia Pimentel Photography

As an engaged couple, this may be the first holiday season where you and your beloved are playing host. While it’s lovely to say that spending time with family is a joyous occasion and the holidays are a great opportunity for you and your future spouse to blend each of your families in one household, we know that is not the case for everyone. With couples who come from different backgrounds, there can be a lot of clashing, especially during the current political climate.

how to handle family during awkward holiday dinner conversations
Photo by Michael Carr Photography; Planning & Design by Ann Whittington Events

Amber Harrison, the style and etiquette expert at The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly – shop their early Black Friday deals here, has offered four tips on how to keep the peace.

1. Give thanks. With mile-long to-do lists and the anxiety of entertaining houseguests, it can be easy to lose sight of what this holiday is all about. Take a step back and design your celebration to help guests (and yourself!) give thanks for all the good things in life. For example, send an email to guests ahead of time and ask them to come prepared to share something they are particularly thankful for or kick things off in a more impromptu way by sharing your own thoughts of gratitude.

2. Give back. Plan an hour or two to volunteer as a group in your community. Working together to serve others can give you a renewed sense of gratitude and common experience to focus on while enjoying your own Thanksgiving meal.

3. Be prepared. Think like a professional party planner and come up with a few activities that will engage your guests. Assign someone to bartend, host trivia games, have some kind of adult (or kids!) craft, have a cookie-decorating table complete with tins or cartons for guests to take home their creations. Keeping busy with a task at hand can help distract guests and keep moods light and festive.

4. Draw the line. If conversation turns to politics or other questionable territory, it’s okay to jump in before things get out of hand. Especially as the host, a simple and sensitive statement can help get things back on track quickly. In addition, have a variety of provoking conversation starters at the ready to help jump-start things when there is a lull or to help veer away from riskier topics. And if all else fails – make a toast! Asking everyone to raise their glass and toast to the family is a great way to remind everyone that family and friends are what really count.

Learn the etiquette rules for hosting a holiday wedding, discover ways to deal with poor guest behavior at your wedding, and see what to do to keep guests happy throughout your nuptials.