How to Make the Best First Impression When Meeting the Parents

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Meeting your partner's parents for the first time can feel like a high-stakes job interview.

There's so much pressure to make a good impression because you know that this could significantly impact your future relationship with your partner's family.

From my first experience meeting my then girlfriend's parents (now wife), here are nine tips I wish I had known to make the first meeting stress-free and successful.

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Margot Bean, LCSW

Margot Bean, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Randal Thomas, SWC

Randal Thomas, SWC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342

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1). Dress Appropriately

First impressions matter, and your appearance is the first thing your partner's parents will notice.

  • Wear something comfortable yet respectful
  • Avoid overly casual or too formal attire
  • Consider the setting (e.g., family dinner vs. casual outing)
What to Wear (Men) What It Says What to Wear (Women) What It Says
Collared Shirt Shows respect and effort to make a great first impression. Blouse or Sweater Demonstrates thoughtfulness and a desire to present yourself well.
Clean Jeans or Chinos Casual but neat, indicating a balance between comfort and effort. Dress Pants or Skirt Professional and polished, showing you value the meeting.
Casual Blazer Adds a touch of formality without being over the top. Cardigan or Light Jacket Practical yet stylish, suitable for different settings.
Loafers or Clean Sneakers Comfortable yet refined footwear choice. Flats or Low Heels Comfortable, appropriate, and practical for various activities.
Simple Accessories Less is more; shows attention to detail without stealing the spotlight. Minimal Jewelry Elegant and understated, focusing on conversation rather than appearance.

When meeting parents, it's crucial to dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable while also showing respect. Steer clear of overly casual or flashy outfits to avoid doing the wrong thing. Dressing appropriately can help foster a positive relationship and set the stage for meaningful conversation.

2). Bring a Small Gift

A small gesture can go a long way in making a good impression.

  • Flowers or a bottle of wine are always safe choices
  • Homemade treats can show effort and thoughtfulness
  • Ask your partner if their parents have any specific likes
Gift Idea What It Says Gift Idea What It Says
Nice Bottle of Wine Shows sophistication and thoughtfulness, making a good first impression. Bouquet of Flowers A classic gesture that conveys warmth and appreciation.
Gourmet Chocolates Indicates consideration for their tastes and preferences. Homemade Treats Shows effort and personal touch, making the meet up memorable.
Coffee or Tea Set Practical and thoughtful, showing you care about their daily lives. Scented Candles Creates a cozy atmosphere and shows attention to detail.
Cookbook Great for food-loving parents, indicating shared interests. Artisanal Cheese Demonstrates a refined taste and willingness to share unique experiences.
Local Specialty Foods Shows you are thinking about their local culture and traditions. Handmade Soap Personal and luxurious, indicating attention to their well-being.

When meeting your partner's parents for the first time, bringing a small gift can make a great first impression. Whether it's a nice bottle of wine or a bouquet of flowers, such gestures show thoughtfulness and consideration. Always ask your partner if their parents have any specific likes to avoid giving the wrong thing at the wrong time, ensuring the parents feel appreciated and valued during your first introduction.

3). Be on the Same Page with Your Partner

Ensure you and your partner are united and prepared for possible questions or topics.

  • Discuss topics that might come up during the meeting
  • Decide on any sensitive subjects to avoid
  • Plan a subtle signal if either of you needs a conversation break

4). Show Genuine Interest

Actively listening and showing interest in your partner's family members can help build rapport.

  • Ask about their interests or hobbies
  • Inquire about family traditions or history
  • Compliment their home or cooking if appropriate

5). Remain Polite and Respectful

Good manners can leave a lasting positive impression.

  • Use "please" and "thank you" generously
  • Avoid interrupting; wait for your turn to speak
  • Maintain a warm smile and eye contact

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6). Actively Listen

Listening shows that you value what they have to say and are genuinely interested in getting to know them.

  • Nod and give verbal acknowledgments ("I see," "That's interesting")
  • Ask follow-up questions to show you're engaged
  • Avoid looking at your phone or getting distracted

7). Mind Your Table Manners

If the first meeting involves a meal, proper etiquette is crucial.

  • Follow the lead of others at the table
  • Wait until everyone is served before starting to eat
  • Mention any dietary restrictions to your partner beforehand, so they can inform their parents

8). Find Common Ground

Connecting over shared interests or experiences can ease the tension.

  • Talk about favorite travel destinations, books, or movies
  • Share funny anecdotes from your life or past experiences
  • Show appreciation for activities or interests that align with their own

9). Stay Calm and Take Deep Breaths

It's natural to feel nervous, but staying calm will help you act naturally.

  • Take a deep breath before entering their home
  • Keep reminding yourself that they want to see their child happy
  • Focus on enjoying the experience rather than worrying about the outcome

Conclusion

Meeting your partner's parents is an important milestone in any relationship, and it can be a nerve-wracking experience (especially if they might be future in laws).

Knowing the right or wrong time to say or do something can make a big deal of a difference.

Preparing ahead and being confident can help you put your best foot forward, whether your partner introduces you at their house or another setting.

This significant event can impact your future relationship with your families, making it key to approach it thoughtfully.

If you need help or guidance in your journey as a couple or possible future spouse in Colorado, then Colorado Springs Couples Counseling with Overcomers Counseling is here to help.

Their support can provide you with the tools and confidence to navigate these important milestones in your partner's life, setting a positive example for your relationship. 

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July 14th, 2024

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