How to Celebrate Your First Holiday Season as Newlyweds

It's your first holiday season as newlyweds. Here's how to create new traditions, maintain the old ones, and figure out holiday travel and coordination.

By Elizabeth Blasi

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Photo by Zola

The holidays are for spending time with loved ones and celebrating traditions—and those traditions started somewhere. If you’re newly married and celebrating the holidays together for the first time as a married couple, this is your time to lean into old traditions and also start some of your own. Whether it’s cooking comfort food and staying indoors, throwing a party, or setting up a gift exchange, there’s no limit on how to celebrate the holidays as newlyweds.

Decide where to celebrate.

This probably isn’t the first round of holidays that you’re spending together as a couple. Now that you’re married, though, you need to figure out how to either split your time between both family sides or bring everyone together in one larger celebration. There are few ways to navigate this:

  • Arrange holiday time with both families. Fortunately, the holiday season is focused on one specific day—there are a few times during this period to gather together as family. If you need to split your time, consider spending one weekend with your partner’s family and another holiday weekend with your family.
  • Keep the dialogue open. Oftentimes, your family will understand where you’re coming from when explaining your holiday plans as newlyweds (they’ve likely been in a similar situations themselves). Be clear about your plans as soon as you can so everyone can make the proper arrangements.
  • Host the holiday together. If you and your partner would prefer to bring both of your families together to celebrate, consider hosting the gathering (space pending). For newlyweds, this is a great opportunity for the two sides of the family (and friends) to get to know each other even better.
  • Go away for the holiday. If you’re newly married, you probably spent a good chunk of this year with your extended family on both sides. So, if you want to spend the holidays with your partner, do that. Book a getaway and use any time off work to enjoy each other’s company.
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Make the appropriate time-off requests.

You likely had to request time off from work for your wedding and maybe your honeymoon, too. So, when the holidays roll around, you need to double-check what days you can and can’t be out of the office.

Plan out which days you want to request off (to possibly match your partner’s schedule) in advance. Consider any travel time, too, and cushion your holidays with travel days as needed.

If your schedules are typically rigid during the holidays, make the appropriate changes to your holiday plans. For example, if your partner has work during/around the holidays, it might be smart to host a celebration. This cuts out travel time and won’t require more days off from work.

Start some traditions.

You got the days off, you know where you’re celebrating, now it’s time to plan your new traditions or activities.

Decide how to give gifts.

If you’re the type to exchange gifts during the holidays, now’s a good time to establish how you want to approach gift-giving each year. Some married couples join finances, while others keep things separate. Here are some things to consider:

  • Are you holiday card people? Many couples and families opt to send a holiday card to their close loved ones and extended network. It’s a nice practice and an easy way to share well wishes (and maybe any life updates) with your friends and family. Plus, with all those wedding and engagement photos, it's easy to create a really personal moment to send.
  • What’s the gift budget? With split finances, or building savings (i.e. trying to budget for a house, or future children), you and your partner may want to put a spending cap on your gifts to one another (and maybe others). This can be adjusted year to year, depending on income, circumstances, etc.
  • Do you want to go in on a joint gift? If you and your partner are both eyeing something in particular (new TV, a soundbar, a grill, etc.), use your gift money and purchase it together. Ideally, this item is something that sparks joy.
  • Who will you send gifts to? If you’re together with your families, you’ll probably come bearing some physical gifts. If there are family members or friends that you’re not able to be with for the holidays, decide if you’ll send gifts or figure something else out. A classic white elephant gift exchange is ideal for friend groups with busy schedules. You can get together before or after the holidays to swap.
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Establish a menu.

Sure, the holidays are about friends and family and traditions and all that. Really, though, they’re about food—a lot of it. Fortunately, there aren’t any rules around what kind of foods qualify as holiday staples so you can feel free to make whatever you want.

Whether you do a holiday cookie swap, recreate your family’s beloved recipes, order Chinese, or go completely rogue, it’s your holiday tradition to create. This can be your menu every year or you can switch up.

Decorate your space.

From stringing lights on the roof to hanging ornaments to lighting the menorah, there’s no shortage of holiday decor to brighten up your space. Setting time to add a touch of holiday spirit to your space can serve as a great tradition that you come back to every year.

Stick to what you know from growing up or strike out on your own with a new color palette. Whether you decide to incorporate elements from your upbringing or start from scratch, holiday decorating is something that can be habitual and set the tone for the following years (as you store holiday decorations for each upcoming year). Liven up the festivities with themed music, appetizers, or cocktails.

Regardless of whether or not you and your partner decide to partake in all (or one) of the traditional holiday festivities, it’s important to note that this time of year is a personal experience between the two of you. Enjoy this time, and build lasting memories that are curtailed to your preferences—and not those of others.

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