Mother of the Bride (and Mother of the Groom) Attire Etiquette

gray mother of the bride dress with sleevesA friend asked: What does a mother-of-the-bride wear to an outdoor August wedding?

It’s a much trickier question than it appears. My mother had a heck of a time finding a dress for my brother’s wedding — a casual, outdoor affair in July where the bride wore a cocktail dress. I had a heck of a time helping her. It’s a fine line that mothers of the bride and groom have to strike.

So the main rules are: Don’t wear white or the same color as the bridesmaids. If you’re the mother of the bride, avoid wearing the same color as the mother of the groom and vice versa. Personally, I’d avoid wearing black as well. You can probably get away with it for a formal evening wedding, but many people still view it as too somber for such a joyous occasion.

As if all that isn’t tricky enough, there are other nuances as well. The dressiness of the bride’s dress should be kept in mind. If she’s wearing a short dress, a mother of the bride/groom may not want to go long. There’s no set rule about this, but you could end up looking dressier than the bride. Also, if it’s important to the bride and groom for the family photos to look harmonious, it’s best to keep hemlines in the general ballpark of each other.

I recommend something conservatively cut as well. You don’t want to look like you’re trying to snag some of the bride’s attention if you wear a plunging neckline. Also, sedate prints can work, but I wouldn’t recommend anything too busy for the same reason. You don’t want your dress to be the first thing folks lay eyes on when they view your family photos.

MOBs (and MOGs) don’t have to match the color scheme of the wedding, but try not to clash with it. So if the bride is carrying a bouquet of pale pink and yellow flowers, for example, I wouldn’t recommend wearing brick red. Various greens, on the other hand, could work fine, as might paler or brighter shades of the wedding colors.

Also, consider the fabric and the time of day. So if it’s an afternoon wedding, I wouldn’t wear a dress in a heavier, dressy fabric like satin. That fabric is a better fit for an evening wedding.

I recently started a Mother of the Bride Pinterest board that you can check out for more ideas, or search for a local mother-of-the-bride or groom dress here.

pale pink mother of the bride summer dress

Photo 1: Adrianna Papell Flutter Sleeve Tiered Dress from Nordstrom

Photo 2: Cameron Blake Dress from RK Bridal

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