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bride and mother of the bride

Mother of the Bride Dress Etiquette

A Q&A Guide to Selecting the Perfect Dress for Mom

Mother of the Bride dress etiquette is incredibly important to keep in mind when picking a dress that makes her feel beautiful and elegant. Certain factors need to be considered such as the wedding setting, theme, and coordination with both the bridesmaids and the other mother(s) in the bridal party. As the creator of the blog Fabulous After 40, and a certified personal image and style consultant, Deborah Boland knows a thing or two about dressing stylish and age-appropriate for all kinds of events and occasions. Below she addresses a few common questions when it comes to dresses for the Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom (stepmothers too!).

bride and mob

Style WGIN5063

The Mother of the Bride’s dress should coordinate with the bridesmaids.

Q: How much input does the bride have in the Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom’s attire?

A: It’s the bride’s day and you want to make it perfect, so it’s important to consult her before heading out to buy your dress. There may be a certain color she has in mind that coordinates with the bridesmaids, or she may prefer that you stay away from certain colors. It is important to talk to the bride and ask for her opinion, as well as maintain a flexible mindset. You may have to compromise a little bit, but in the end, you should both be happy with the dress you choose.

Q: Should the Mother of the Bride match the bridesmaid dresses?

A: The Mother of the Bride is special. She needs to stand out a bit from the bridesmaids, so her dress should complement rather than match the bridesmaid’s dresses. For example, the MOB could wear a dress in a similar color to the bridesmaids but in a deeper shade. She could also wear a contrasting color or a color in the same seasonal family as the bridesmaid’s dresses.

Q: Can the Mother of the Bride (or Groom) wear black? Are there any colors to avoid?

A: Wearing black to a wedding can be a chic, modern option. However, there are some brides who may feel differently. It’s very important to talk to the bride about this. White should be reserved for the bride, although cream could be an option as long as the bride isn’t wearing cream. Some bright reds can be rather loud for such a soft, romantic occasion. It all comes back to what the bride feels comfortable with.  Be sensitive to her wishes.

mother of the bride in blush pantsuit

Style WBM3301

Q: Should the Mother of the Groom coordinate her outfit with the Mother of the Bride?

A: Traditionally the Mother of the Bride chooses her dress first and notifies the Mother of the Groom so they can coordinate their outfits. You don’t want the mothers looking at odds with each other because one is dressed more formally or they’re wearing clashing colors. The dresses should fit well together and flatter one another.

bride and mother of the bride

Style WG4071 & WBM3288 

Q: What should the stepmother of the bride or groom wear? Does she need to “tone down” her attire at all?

A: This is tricky depending on how involved the stepmother has been in raising the bride or groom and the relationship the stepmom has with the mother. If the stepmother is close to the bride or groom and the bride or groom’s mother will not be offended, it is acceptable to dress in a gown similar to what the mother of the bride/groom is wearing. If anyone feels uncomfortable, the stepmother should wear what the guests are wearing. Remember, this is not a competition and the stepmother should not try to upstage the mother or the bride.

Q:  Should the Mother of the Bride/Groom choose a dress with some coverage?

A: Weddings are elegant affairs with all eyes on the bride. Do not wear a Mother of the Bride dress that is skimpy, see-through, has a deep plunging neckline, or open back. The dress should never take the focus away from the bride.

mother of the bride walking - mother of the bride dress etiquette

Style WGIN5188D

An example of an on-trend yet elegant dress for the Mother of the Bride or Mother of the Groom.

Q:  Can the Mother of the Bride/Groom wear a print?

A: Yes, an elegant print is fine. Florals, for example, are classic and very appropriate for a wedding. Steer clear of exceptionally loud, busy prints or trendy patterns that can look overpowering in family wedding photos. You also don’t want anything that will look outdated in photos years down the road.

Q: Should the Mother of the Bride/Groom wear a long or short dress? Are pants okay?

A: The Mother of the Bride needs to coordinate with the Mother of the Groom and decide whether they will be wearing long or short dresses, but both are acceptable. A matched pantsuit in a soft, silky, flowy fabric can work too. The most appropriate pantsuits have wide-leg palazzo pants that make it look like you are wearing a long skirt.

For more mother-of-the-bride dress etiquette, check out our 3 tips for choosing a Mother of the Bride dress then explore color ideas for mom.

Deborah Boland is the creator of Fabulous After 40, the go-to place for practical fashion and beauty advice to help you look Age-Amazing! Follow her @fabulousafter40

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