A Style Guide for Mothers of the Bride

A Style Guide for Mothers of the Bride

On the day of the wedding, the spotlight is on the bride — and rightly so! But that doesn’t mean the mother of the bride needs to look drab. You are an important part of the wedding party, and mother of the bride and mother of the groom dresses should reflect that status.

There are three major considerations when choosing a mother of the bride or groom dress: wedding etiquette, color, and style.


First and foremost, the bride should be consulted before either mother decides on a dress. She may have something specific in mind, so it’s always best to ask first.

Follow the bride’s cues about style, color, and degree of formality. Mother of the bride dresses should complement the bride’s choices for herself and the wedding party, both in color and in formality.

Traditionally, the bride’s mother has the honor of choosing her outfit first, both out of respect for the bride, and as a way of setting the tone for what the mother of the groom will wear. However, this is a loose guideline and it’s certainly not out of place for the mother of the groom to go ahead and choose her outfit, so long as both women are comfortable and don’t clash.

Speaking of clashing, moms also want to be careful they don’t end up looking too matchy-matchy! You

should have a conversation to get a sense of what the other is wearing. If you both end up wanting to wear the same color, choose different shades to make sure you stand apart from one another (unless the bride requests matching colors, of course).

Allow plenty of time for special orders and alterations – mothers are notorious for putting themselves last! This is an important event, and mother of the bride and groom dresses require special attention, too, so start the dress search no later than three months before the wedding (six months is ideal).


The biggest no-no, of course, is choosing a color that is the same as the bride’s dress: white, cream, and champagne are out. Likewise, black is generally not worn as it is associatedwith mourning (an exception would be if the bridal party is wearing black). Additionally, avoid red or especially bright, flashy colors that take attention away from the bride. Trends are changing, however, and the style of your dress can have an effect on the way the color is received. Remember: when in doubt, check with the bride.

It’s OK to wear a color in the same palette as the bridal party, but it should be a different shade so that you stand out. If there are two or more colors in the wedding theme, ask the bride for some options so you moms can select one that matches your skin tone and personal taste. Metallics, navy, blush, chocolate brown and jewel tones are all beautiful and safe bets.


These days, almost anything goes so long as it’s appropriate for the event. Just as with the bride’s gown, logistics such as the time of day, the setting, and the season will dictate the right type of dress to wear. Religious and cultural customs may dictate a certain dress code for the ceremony or reception too, so you should be prepared to cover up if required (a jacket, cardigan or chic shawl should do the trick).

When choosing a dress style, personality is sometimes more of a consideration than aiming for “age appropriate.” From a classic suit or a chic sheath to a cocktail dress or formal gown, there are lots of options available that will give you a glamorous look without being over-the-top. A mother of the bride dress should reflect your spirit, not your age. Simple alterations like sheer sleeves or a little lace to make for a more discreet décolletage still allow you to choose a flattering style without upstaging the bride or showing off too much.

Do consider choosing a dress that can be worn for other occasions. Investing in a quality dress that makes you look and feel great will reward you with an outfit that will work for cocktail parties, other weddings, or a special dinner. Again, with simple alterations, such as shortening a long suit or gown, or adding (or removing) sleeves, sashes, or other embellishments means you can wear your dress again and again.

The Bottom Line

Communicate with the bride and take her requests to heart, but choose a dress that makes you feel great. If it’s elegant, understated, and appropriate, you can’t go wrong.

Promises Bridal has just as many options for mothers of the bride as they do the brides, and we can get your dress fitted and altered, too!

Photos feature dresses by designers carried at Promises Bridal.

About Betsy Padilla

Betsy is the blog post editor/contributor
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