It seems like yesterday, but 6 years ago Alec & I were prepping for our first married Christmas. We were so young and excited! It felt like a dream that we were finally experiencing the magic of the holidays as a married couple. As much as we prepared ourselves for it, we still didn’t know what to expect.
If it’s your first married Christmas, we know it can be a very exciting and stressful time all at once. It’s important that you don’t go into it to nieve. The holidays can easily be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared.
Who will you celebrate with and when? How will you handle your finances and gift buying? How will you make all these decisions?
Thankfully, Alec & I had taken a phenomenal pre-marital course over several months that prepared us for this. They talked with us all about handling in-laws, making decisions, and how to be prepared to tackle the holidays as a team. Today, we want to pass on that wisdom with you and share some of our own tips! We hope these will bless you and help you make the most of your first married Christmas.
Decide How Much You Can Handle
Before you agree to any holiday celebrations as a couple it’s important you figure out how much you can both take. For our first married Christmas, we ignored this suggestion and did 4 Christmas celebrations in 4 days and drove over 16 hours in those 4 days. It was overwhelming and honestly not healthy. While we wanted to see everyone, we knew we were taking on too much. Though it was driven out of love we decided that after that we can only do 2 celebrations right around Christmas.
The holidays are already an emotional time, as even good emotions are just that, emotions. That means it can be fun but draining, and no one is functioning at their best when they’re drained. Consider how much of a toll traveling will take. Sit down together and decide how much travel you’re willing to do, how many celebrations you can handle, and how you can spread them out.
Set a Realistic Budget
When it comes to money, making joint decisions is key. Even if you have separate bank accounts, set a budget for gifting and who will buy what together. Make it a hard number, but remember if you don’t set it high enough to give yourself grace. We keep a “miscellaneous” section in our personal budget for moments like this. It catches where we fall short or where we didn’t set a realistic budget for something. This will help keep both of you on the same page, prevent over-spending, and also prevent fighting over money. It’s a well-documented fact that one of the number one causes of stress on marriage (and sadly even divorce) is money.
Even if it’s tough figuring out your first budget, or even if you don’t set it well enough making sure you work together will protect your marriage. Conflict can be a great tool to grow your relationship if you’re willing to see it as a positive force in your marriage. So, if it feels difficult setting a Christmas budget together, remember you’re learning and to have grace on your spouse and on yourself. No one goes into marriage with a perfect mindset or way of handling money that perfectly matches your spouse and that is okay.
Nothing is quite as stressful as last-minute holiday shopping. The crowds, the traffic, and now with covid it’s more dangerous. Do yourself, and your marriage, a favor, and plan ahead. Start shopping now if you haven’t already. Make a list and tackle your shopping together. Decide who will be in charge of actually shopping for what and make it happen. Buying gifts earlier will also allow you more time to wrap them!
This same principle should be applied to Christmas cards, holiday outfits, and thank you notes.
Talk to Your Own Parents & Take Responsibility
This is such a huge piece of advice that has blessed our marriage, and hopefully now yours, in so many ways. When it comes to anything family-related it is so important that bad news, criticism, etc. all be handled by you with your own family. So, in our case, Katie talks to her family when something serious comes up and Alec talks to his family. As much as your in-laws might love you, they’re more likely to handle difficult news from their own child.
This comes in handy if you decide to visit one family over the other for the holidays. If you can’t afford extravagant gifts or need to forgo them one year, this comes in handy too. Really, any news that could upset your in-laws needs to come from your spouse and vice-versa.
If something goes wrong the same principle applies. Take responsibility and never through your spouse under-the-bus, even if it is their fault. Again, your parents love you unconditionally and will forgive you easier than they would anyone else. This will preserve relationships and make family difficulties easier on your marriage. It’s a sacrificial act that protects your marriage and honors it.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
This is perhaps our most important piece of advice today. Expectations can make or break your holiday season. Going into it with a realistic idea of what it will look like and flexibility can save you stress and heartache. Nothing is perfect, and your first Christmas as a married couple won’t be either and that is 100% okay. That’s how life goes! You’ll enjoy it more though if you take the pressure for it to be perfect off of yourself and your spouse. Enjoy it no matter what it looks like or what hiccups come your way.
We hope and pray that this holiday season is amazing for you! Let yourselves really slow down and soak it all in because your first year of marriage flies by so quickly.
Katie & Alec