Surviving Your First (or 50th) Married Christmas


The Holiday Season is known for being “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, and trust me, I truly believe that it is. However, when marriage collides two families’ traditions, this wonderful time can turn into the most stressful time if you don’t plan ahead.

Especially when you are newly married, it can be difficult to set boundaries and to say “no” for the fear of disappointing people. But remember, if you say that you will be at every event and you know that things are going to overlap, chaos is sure to ensue. I made this mistake my first year of marriage and quickly learned that I had completely set myself up for failure.

On Christmas Eve, I committed to an afternoon church service in Oklahoma City, two Christmas Eve dinners an hour away in our hometown, and two gift exchanges. To add to the five events in a 10 hour time frame, my husband had just surprised me with a puppy that we added to the madness. We spent the majority of the evening in the car driving the three mile stretch in between our parents’ houses. After the church service we weren’t on time to anything the remainder of the evening, and I was completely stressed because I felt like I was disappointing our families by being late.

Christmas Day – Jesus’s Birthday & Party – arrives. I will spare you the details, but I again committed to five events (one of them two hours away). The tears are making an appearance every time we are in the car. I am stressed, again feeling like I am disappointing people (late again), and my husband spends the day trying to console me. Not exactly how I envisioned our day, and I had no one to blame but myself.

For those of you who spent your dating holidays with your spouse’s family, you might just have dodged a bullet. No one wants to ruin traditions, but you can’t be in three places at the same time.  Figuring out the logistics will be difficult, but there are steps you can take keep your sanity and the peace.

These three tips helped me in year #2. I really encourage you to find what works for you and your spouse and remember the reason for the season (& avoid crying all day).

1. Set time boundaries.

Decide how to divide your time before committing to anything. We decided to spend one full day with my family and one full day with my husband’s family. So last year we spent Christmas Eve with my husband’s family and Christmas Day with mine. This year we will alternate.

2. Give your family some input.

Ask your family and in-laws what is most important to them that you need to be in attendance for. Some families put more of an emphasis on Christmas Eve while some only celebrate on Christmas Day. Best case scenario – one always celebrates on Christmas Eve and one always on Christmas Day. If this is your situation, I envy you.  For most of us that is not the case, and you will probably disappoint someone at some point. However, discussing it with your families in advance allows you to show that you really do want to make whatever is important to them happen, but it might have to wait until next year.

3. Remember to set aside time to celebrate with your family (husband + kids + fur babes)

I think this is so important, and if you don’t have kids, it can save you when you do. Make new traditions with your new family. It might not be on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but by prioritizing your marriage during this beautiful season, you will not only grow closer to your husband but you will have fun traditions to carry on with your children in the future.


  • Go look at Christmas lights on the 23rd.
  • Drink hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie at home.
  • Bake holiday cookies together.
  • Have a coffee date and exchange small, meaningful gifts with each other.

With all of that being said, Nick and I are more than blessed with two families that are understanding and givers of grace. My “people-pleasing” personality has been my main source of stress.

I pray that you have the most fun, memorable, and Christ honoring holiday season. Learn from my mistakes and don’t stress (or cry). Remember the grace that Jesus gave to us, and share it with your family and yourself!

Do you have any holiday tips? What are your plans this year?

There are 2 comments

By Shaila | December 14, 2016 at 9:05 am

My husband and I are about to celebrate our third Christmas as a married couple. Unfortunately, we live in one state, my family lives in another state, and my in-laws live in yet another state–and none of these states even border each other. Since we’ve been married, we’ve spent one Christmas just the two of us, one with my in-laws, and we’re getting ready to spend it with my side of the family. The year it was just the two of us, we had recently moved to a new state where we didn’t know many people very well yet, and we didn’t have much money which is why we didn’t travel. We made the most of our time, but we were sad to be away from everyone, and we got a bit stir crazy (we both work for a school, so we had three weeks at home by ourselves to stay entertained only with free activities). When we’ve traveled, we’ve had some fun, but it’s also been very stressful to travel so far during the holidays, and when we arrive, we’re at the mercy of whatever our family has planned for us. We definitely have to learn to speak up for ourselves and set boundaries as you’ve mentioned. Now we have a baby in the mix as well, so we’re especially wanting to start our own family traditions soon (she’s too young to know what’s going on this year), but that is going to mean spending holidays with our extended family even less often. Trying to navigate the balance is certainly a challenge!

By Blakely Berry | December 14, 2016 at 6:19 pm

Hi Shaila!
Wow, sounds like you have had a lot of very busy holiday seasons! Balance is key, and at the end of the day, it’s always such a blessing to spend time with loved ones!
Have a VERY Merry Christmas!

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