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MOB Dress Etiquette

Mother of the Bride Dress Etiquette

A Q&A guide to selecting a dress for Mom

Mother of the Bride dress etiquette can be a challenge. Mom wants to feel beautiful and elegant but she also must take into account the wedding setting, theme, and coordination with 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!).

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

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

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 like black. Flexibility is the key. Talk to the bride and ask her what she thinks. 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.

Full Bridal Party

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

A: Black used to be a no-no at weddings but it is now 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.

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Deborah Boland from the blog Fabulous After 40 in a David’s Bridal Mother of the Bride/Groom dress. Photo: Ray C Photography

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.

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

A: This is a tricky one 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.

Mother of the Bride Dress Etiquette

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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, 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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