Mother of the Bride Dress Styling Tips & Etiquette

April 26th, 2018

The mother of the bride plays an incredibly special role for the bride throughout the wedding process and on the wedding day itself.

Because they play such an important role, it’s only fair that they’re dressed to the nine on the big day, too. Dress shopping for special events is a time consuming and overwhelming process. Luckily, there are ways to navigate the process without the stress, and keeping true to the couple’s vision for the big day.

We’ve crafted a handy list of tips and protocol for mothers of brides to help you pick the best outfit possible for the upcoming wedding. Skip the outdated, “matronly-looking” outfits and say hello to stunning and complementary attire perfect for your daughter’s big day.


Give Yourself Enough Time

Even for the experienced shopper, finding the perfect attire for a wedding is a daunting task, and especially so for the mother of the bride. There are many variables to consider, and chances are you’ll change your mind along the way. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to search, try things on, make returns or exchanges, and for fittings. We recommend starting 3-4 months before the wedding, at the very least.

Stop, Collaborate + Listen

Mothers of the bride should first and foremost take a pause before jumping into outfit shopping. Take time to talk overall wedding vision with the bride and groom to fully understand their aesthetic. What is their color theme? What is the wedding party wearing? Where is the venue? You’ll get a clear idea of how your attire can complement the wedding by narrowing down color and style options to guide your search.

The couple will surely appreciate that you’ve sought their input. It does not mean, however, that the engaged couple will dictate exactly what the mother of bride will wear. Don’t be afraid to be true to yourself when going forth and choosing your wedding attire.

Understand + Flaunt Your Figure

It’s one thing choosing casual-wear for everyday use. It’s a whole other ballgame choosing an elegant outfit at a heavily documented event. Start with the basics—know your measurements (especially if you’re shopping online), determine your body shape, and narrow down your search for outfits based on what you’re sure will look great on your figure.

Although it’s traditional for mothers of the bride to wear dresses or gowns, don’t feel limited to them. If you find a fabulous, and elegant pantsuit or separates (think Diane Keaton, Tilda Swinton, and Evan Rachel Wood) then go with it! Make it extra special and glam it up with fabulous jewelry pieces and shoes. Swoon!

Floral High/Low Skirt by Eliza J

Be Ready For The Flashing Lights

Mothers of the bride are a hugely important part of the wedding, and whether you like it or not you’ll be photographed. Probably a lot. Choose pieces that will photograph well and that won’t outshine the bride when you’re pictured next to her. We’re all for a bit of drama, but if your ball gown is bigger than the bride’s, then Houston, we have a problem.

The same concept holds for accessories, hair, and makeup. Keep the season and time of day in mind so you have an idea of what the lighting will be like. Dark and sultry makeup looks may not photograph well outside in the light of day, and overly bedazzled jewelry may be too distracting in a picture.

Beaded Mesh Dress by Pisarro Nights

Beaded Mesh Dress by Pisarro Nights

From Nordstrom

$94.49–$189.00

Take a Chance on a Trend

If there is one other person that should shine bright next to the bride on her wedding day (besides their partner, of course), it’s the mother of the bride. After you’ve consulted with the bride on her dress and overall wedding aesthetic, you can take what you’ve learned to a department store stylist.

Department store stylists are a great place to start when you’re looking for something on trend. Nordstrom, for example, has personal shoppers you can book that will help choose items for you and ease the stress of shopping for a big event—for free. Even if you end up leaving with nothing, you’ll have narrowed down some options for the next time.

Another fantastic option for mothers of the bride looking for something fashionable, elegant, and that won’t break the bank is Rent the Runway. There you can search designer labels for attire for all occasions, and Rent the Runway will send you your pick with a backup size just in case. If you know for a fact you’ll never wear your wedding outfit again, why spend all that money on something new? Bonus: you won’t find any boleros there (we checked).

Stay Away from All-White Attire

Unless exclusively requested by the couple, all guests—including the mother of the bride—should steer clear of all-white attire. Traditionally, white is reserved exclusively for the bride and showing up to a wedding in a white outfit without consulting the couple first is poor guest etiquette.

There are instances where the couple will want an all-white theme, or the bride will want her mother to match her on her big day. Modern weddings are often breaking molds, and that’s okay too.

Say ‘Hey!’ to Shapewear

Oh, how we love shapewear. People of every shape and size can use shapewear to smooth things out, accentuate your best assets, and give yourself a confidence boost. Modern shapewear is no longer an uncomfortable corset or bustier—there are so many comfortable options that you can rock the entire day. Check out Spanx and Yummie Tummie for some fantastic shapewear options for every body type and every outfit.

Share Your Ideas with the Engaged Couple

Once you’ve narrowed down a few options for attire, it’s always a great idea to share them with the bride and groom. More often than not they’ll be supportive of your choices, but some variables may have changed since your first discussion on the topic that could impact your outfit decision. What if the bride changed her accessories? What if the wedding color theme has changed? Or even the venue location? It’s always better to check in and be safe now than sorry later.


Final Thoughts

Weddings are occasions that will be remembered for a lifetime, and especially so for the mother of the bride. Look and feel your best on your daughter’s big day, but don’t forget to include the couple in your decisions. Being amenable, respectful, yet direct will help the couple’s wedding day go on without a hitch.

Do you have any dress and styling tips for mothers of the bride? Tell us all about them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!