Tonight is the big night. You, your boyfriend and your parents, sitting around the restaurant table waiting for your entrees. Your boyfriend pulls at his tie. You clear your throat. Your dad looks at his watch. Your mom comments on the lovely tablecloth. Again. Painful and unnecessary? Yes. Skip the cliche and try something new.

Try a Tasting

Forget the pressure of the interrogation-style dinner and try a tasting instead. Many local bakeries offer tastings or little bites of their best desserts. Or try the tasting menu at that restaurant you've heard so much about. Think outside the box and go on a tasting spree at a nearby farmers' market or warehouse store. It doesn't matter what you taste, it is the variety of the evening that should reduce pressure and provide fun.

Party Time

A family party or barbecue may be the perfect opportunity to introduce your boyfriend to your parents. Hanging out with a crowd gives your boyfriend a chance to blend in and relax. Arrange games and activities during the party. This will give your boyfriend something to do while getting to know your family. Maybe he can engage your dad in a friendly game of touch football or volleyball. If your boyfriend already knows your siblings, he will have some friendly and familiar faces around to help him feel more comfortable.

Find a Common Interest

Are your parents and boyfriend avid sports fans? Bibliophiles? Or folk music fanatics? Excellent. Go to a ballgame, a book signing or a concert at that nearby coffeehouse. Find a shared interest. Your boyfriend and parents can revel in their commonalities and bond accordingly.

Try Something New

If your boyfriend and parents have absolutely nothing in common, try a completely new and novel activity -- go to the horse races, a roller derby, a comedy club, a monster truck show, classic film festival or Victorian doll expo -- anything to get the conversation flowing. And the great thing is, even if the event is a disaster, you can all share a laugh over the experience. Shared activities are the key to building relationships.

Game Night

If your idea of fun is low-key, try hosting a casual game night. Invite your parents, boyfriend and maybe a sibling or two. Throw together snacks and let the fun begin. Games allow people to get to know each other in an effortless manner. Find games that allow your boyfriend to put his best food forward. If he's a trivia buff, artist or spelling champ, you'll know which games to choose. Keep him in his comfort zone and show your parents why you chose this amazing guy.