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20-40-60 Etiquette---The in-laws are coming!

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: October 15, 2012


By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: I am a newlywed. My in-laws are coming from out of town and will be our houseguests. Are there rules that I should know about entertaining houseguests? Should I provide them my car to drive while they are in town? Should I plan a list of activities for them? How about meals?


CALLIE’S ANSWER: What I am getting from the questions you’re asking is that you aren’t close with your in-laws. If they have never visited Oklahoma, I would make plans for them to explore the city. Also, I would make dinner plans with them if they do not have prior engagements. While, they are in town, I would definitely be “on call” for them. Good luck!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: The “Golden Rule” applies here — think how you would want to be treated if you visited people in another city and approach their visit from that perspective. Then use this time as a way to open up communication with your new in-laws.

Ask them if they will need transportation and then help them arrange it, unless you have an extra car that you don’t need. Plan a few activities to do with them and a list of things they might want to do when you can’t be there. Let them know in advance what your schedule is so they know what to expect; include them in your plans if you can. It’s always fun to meet friends of friends (or relatives) in other cities.

Enjoy meals together — save money by cooking in. I am assuming that they are coming to see you and your spouse, so make sure you plan to spend time with them. We visited two families of dear friends in Washington, D.C., over the summer and enjoyed their company immensely. At night, we cooked in and visited with our friends; during the day, we toured the city on our own while they went to work and school. They dropped us off at the Metro station in the mornings. They were gracious hosts, and we were thankful to see them.

HELEN’S ANSWER: This is really a great chance to get to know your in-laws and you should probably take your clues from them. Ask them if they would like to see the city. Ask them if they need a car or need you to take them somewhere. If you and your spouse both work all day, then it might be nice to take a few days off to spend time with them.

The nicest time I ever had with in-laws was a long weekend with them. They took us to a European Christmas Market which was unique for their city. It was so much fun! They took us to their favorite German restaurant. It was delightful!

They also prepared the best gourmet dinner I have ever had — Beef Wellington. And they took time to see that it was prepared perfectly. They certainly won me over with such loving attention and I have never forgotten it.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Kathy Walker, local volunteer and community leader: It can be a wonderful feeling to know that your new in-laws will be arriving for a visit. Planning for their visit can make a tremendous difference in the outcome!

Depending on the duration of the visit and the age and physical abilities of the relatives, whether it is a weekend visit or a visit for two weeks, and whether children are involved, parameters can be set and met by both parties.

As far as meals are concerned, breakfast is easy; lunch could be a picnic on one day and another at a museum during a visit to an exhibition. One dinner could be a family cook-off and another dinner could include your inviting friends or other relatives to be at the table.

A daily itinerary would be a good way to offer a plan with options. It would be kind of you to take your in-laws in your car to planned outings. However, if your in-laws are visiting for more than three days, perhaps they could arrange for their own rental car or hire a car service. Also, remember that much can be accomplished on foot, particularly if one lives in or near a city.

Otherwise, what about taking your in-laws on a long walk after your breakfast, lunch or dinner? Nothing could be better for the soul or for conversation.

Callie Gordon is 20-something; Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s; and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.  To ask an etiquette question, email

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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