Lauren Conrad's advice on how to make the holidays successful with your family and your loved one's

Thanksgiving is only three weeks away! For many of us, that means the start of recipe testing and the countdown toward lots of quality time spent with family. But for others, these weeks leading up to Turkey Day are also prime time for family drama. Especially if you’re newly married or in a serious relationship for the first time, it can be hard to navigate how you split your time or merge your two families. I just received a question to my inbox about this very topic, so I wanted to share my advice on the matter…

Dear Lauren,

I just got engaged in August, and our families were so excited for us. But when I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to spend some time this holiday season at my fiancé’s family’s house, it was the start of a huge fight. I am always home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I told her that I won’t be able to spend every holiday with them now that I’m getting married. I think she understands that, but was upset that I sprung it on her so early when we aren’t even married yet. How can I make everyone happy (including me and my fiancé)?

Thank you for your advice!


First off, let me say that I know how hard this can be. It definitely took a couple years for William and I to come up with a plan that everyone was happy with. Plus, every family dynamic is different, so what works for us may or may not work for you. No matter how you end up deciding to split your time, the first thing you can do is be open with everyone about it. Have an honest conversation with your immediate families about it, and do this sooner rather than later. Even if it’s an awkward conversation to have, it’s definitely better than waiting until the last minute to tell your mom you won’t be making it home for Thanksgiving after all. And as far as how you do decide to split your time, you have a couple of options…

Option 1: Attend Multiple Celebrations 

If you’re lucky enough to hail from the same hometown as your partner, you can please everyone by stopping by both houses. It won’t exactly make for a relaxing holiday on your part, but it will allow you to divide your time between everyone. For example, we spend Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with William’s. Thanksgiving is a little harder, but you can always spend the morning with one family and the evening with the other, or celebrate the holiday on both Thursday and Friday.

Option 2: Switch Off

If your families live in two different cities, this might be your best option. Plan to switch off who you spend the holidays with every other year, or give one family Thanksgiving and the other Christmas/Hanukkah. Switching off every other year is a fair solution that no one can really argue with.

Option 3: Make Your Own Plans and Include Everyone

If deciding whose house to go to is just too stressful, you can always offer to host and invite everyone from both families. I’m not going to pretend that this always goes over as smoothly as it sounds. If your mother-in-law has been hosting Thanksgiving at her house for 20 years, she may not be quite as amenable to this plan as you had hoped. But this way you are making a fair decision, sticking by it, and placing the ball in everyone else’s court.

Well, I hope that helps! At the end of the day, deciding to combine your life with someone else’s brings its share of compromise. It’s important to remember that while you have family traditions, so does your new partner. There might be an adjustment period, but remember that holidays are about spending time with the people you love, and now you get to make some new traditions.

If you’re in a relationship, how do you choose where to spend the holidays?

Share your own experiences in the comments.

XO Lauren

Photos: @LaurenConrad via Instagram
  • Helen Harm

    This can be so difficult! My husband and I lucked out that both sets of parents were understand that we may not get to be at every holiday.

    XO Helen |

  • This always causes arguments, as one family never share when you alternate

  • Well My boyfriend is danish and I am from EastEurope( prefer not to mention the country) so we have such different rituals for holidays. We barely have the same holidays.( except for Christmas and Easter) I hosted Thanksgiving last year for the first time in my life because I really like it when I see it in U.S.A. . It was super nice ..I invited lots of friends over and we made a big turkey and in the end we all said what we are thankful for.
    I would like one day to be part of a thanksgiving dinner in USA the way you guys celebrate it. 🙂

  • Janay Brazier

    My partner and I have been together for 7 years and a couple of years in we started to alternate Christmases between my family and his. We got married last month and have decided that this year we’re going to spend Christmas just the two of us. Thanksgiving is always at my house with my family as it’s only us who celebrate it (we’re in the UK)

  • Kimberley Clark

    I have been with my husband for 10 years and we decided early on that Christmas Day was just going to be spent enjoying each other’s company. We met at university and lived close to his parents, but I didn’t want to spend Christmas there as I felt I was betraying my parents. So once we had our own place, 8 years ago we have had Christmas there. We moved closer to my parents a few years ago and we stuck with our own plans, although they do come for Christmas lunch now. It works for us but I know married couples who spend Christmas separately as neither want to spend it with their new in laws. (I live in the U.K. so we don’t have thanksgiving)

  • Laerke

    My partner and I have been together for nearly nine years, and we alternate between our respective families every other year. We’ve coordinated so that my brother and I spend Christmas with my family the same year (and my boyfriend and his brother do the same) so that we both get to spend the day with our respective siblings when we’re home for Christmas.

  • Laura

    My fiancé and I alternate houses for Thanksgiving, spend Christmas Eve in DC with my family, drive to Charlotte Christmas morning, and spend the afternoon with his family. This works for us right now, but who knows who this will change when we have kids!

  • Lauren

    I’m having problems with this too. I got married in June and my mother in law says when a women “leaves her family” to be married she has to start celebrating with her husband’s family. She’s an old southern woman, so she’s set in her ways. We are doing the switching off and doing Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with them and she is really mad, but at this point I don’t even care if I make her happy anymore.

  • Brittany Henley

    Same problem here, made only more difficult with our baby just turning one. We basically have 3 diffident families to make happy, my side, and then my husbands mom’s side and dad’s side. His dad’s side “always does thanksgiving”, “it will never be an option NOT to go”. Well his mom is recently remarried, so she wants to do her own thing, and of course, Thanksgiving is my mom’s jam. It’s stressful to say the least, because everyone wants the baby at their place. Oy!

  • Taylor Kim

    Thank you for sharing these different ideas to compromise between the families! This year for Christmas we are bringing the families together since my boyfriend’s parents decided to fly out to visit. Do you have any tips for including everyone and having both families meet for the first time? Thanks! 🙂

    xo, Taylor

  • Julie

    This is especially tough for me because my boyfriends uncle’s are also his bosses. He see’s every holiday as a business day and it doesn’t help that his mom hosts Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Also, there’s always a Christmas party with my boyfriends paternal side of the family typically a week before Christmas. We’ve been together for 3 years and have not quite found the plan to make us both happy. Hoping to find the compromise we are all happy with. It’s making me start to dread the holiday season.

  • Bilingual Girl

    This is easy for me since my fiancee and I are from different countries, and in my home country we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so I think I’ll suggest him that we do Thanksgiving in America with his family, and Christmas in Argentina with mine. Christmas is sooo important in Argentina since most people are Catholics, so I’m sure my parents will really appreciate this deal 🙂

  • Wish my family wasn’t on the opposite side of the country, and they were able to afford the travel, but I love these tips. Maybe one year we’ll get the time off and money to do a little joined holiday.

    – Jennifer


    #WordsofWomen –
    Art vs. the Artist –
    MORE: The Golden Days –

  • erin l

    Thanksgiving, we spend it with our friends because the cost to travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas is ridiculous. We live 2,000 miles away. Then Christmas, my husband’s family and my mom’s side live about 2 hours apart so we do the Christmas tradition with my family not on Christmas day and then another Christmas tradition with his family on Christmas day. As for my dad who lives an addition 2,000 miles away- we visit them in the summer. It works for us all!

  • Elisabeth

    We spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family every year since they are only an hour away and then we fly to my parents on the east coast for Christmas every year. I don’t think my mother-in-law will ever be truly happy with the arrangement but its what works best for our family (my husband, daughter and I)

  • Emma Lenhart

    I agree that switching off families is a great idea. My family has been doing that for years!

    XO, Emma