Mother of the Bride vs. Mother of the Groom dresses

Choosing what to wear for your child's wedding can be a hard task to master. By pointing out the similarities and differences between dressing as the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom, we hope to make this process a easier.
Mother of the Bride vs. Mother of the Groom dresses

Whether you are the mother of the bride or mother of the groom, dressing for your child's wedding can be a very difficult task. We are here to help, by pointing out those few differences between the way in which the mother and the bride and mother and the groom outfits are expected to differ. Suggesting ways to handle those differences, and offering some dress suggestions.

white table with flowers

Although there are many similarities for the suggested styles of dress of both mothers, we will begin by pointing out the etiquette expectations for the mother of the groom. To help you have a seamless and stress-free dress picking experience.  

We hope to help both the mother of the bride and groom to help find a dress that pleases the newlyweds and their families while ensuring that both mothers feel and look their best.  

The mother of the bride sets the tone. 

bride with hair up, hands ribbon

Amy Hoover describes this expectation: ‘Traditional mother of the bride dress etiquette says that she should select her dress first, then inform the mother of the groom what she chose in order for them to complement one another.’ 

This custom is to allow the bride's mother to decide what she will be wearing first. She is then expected to inform you about her decision six months before the wedding. But, if she doesn't, experts say that it is perfectly okay to 'ring her up and have a casual conversation about it.' 

We know, this expectation of allowing the bride's mother to choose first seems 'admittedly oldfashioned'. In some cases, isn't very practical, we do believe that there is something to be said about being courteous if you can. There is really no harm in sticking to this, especially if it is going to aid in the process of forming new familial ties right? It is always better to be safe than sorry. 

groom in white shirt with pink tie

We don't only suggest this to keep an open and warm line of communication between you and your son's new parents in law. But, also because it can often help the mother often groom, and sometimes the mother of the bride, on keeping a cohesive theme for their outfits. 

As the mother of the groom, it can often be easier to simply take inspiration from, and find an outfit that compliments the mother of the brides. Rather than trying to work out the best option for the dress code alone.

Opting for a comparable style that compliments hers. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to look clone-ish in your clothing choices, rather, take inspiration, and use this to help you. 

chair with flowers on the back of it

To master the level to which you are expected to 'match' consider this statement: 'Some people will tell you to match the length of her outfit. If she wears a long dress, you do the same, for instance. It’s not bad advice, but I think you can be more flexible as long as formality is a match.'

As Joyce Beverly says ‘The formality of the ceremony, what the bride and bridesmaids are wearing, time of day and the setting are all factors she should be considering in her own decision. By following her lead, you’ll be reflecting those parameters as well.' 

Picking a colour, how both mothers want to find something that compliments the wedding party. 

Bride and bridesmaids standing in a line holding flowers

Martha Stuart weddings gives the advice ‘because the mother of the groom isn't part of the bridal party, she should avoid choosing a dress in the same colour as the bridesmaids' attire, the mother of the bride's dress, or the wedding gown. Instead, she should pick a shade that both flatters her and won't clash with the other women's clothing in the photographs.’ 

As the above statement describes, being the mother of the bride or groom puts you in a tricky position. As you aren't an official member of the wedding party, but you still are a very important part of this special day. Expected to be in photographs, but to choose your own outfit. All of these mean that deciding what colour would be best is a hard task. 

Especially as traditional expectations no longer apply. As described in more detail here, there was once a time when the newlywed's mothers would wear a uniform of pastel colours to the special day. 

Now, the mother of the bride or groom dresses in 2019 can come in any colour, from bright reds and blues to black! The extent of this choice available can be great, as you are really able to find a shade that flatters you, but can often make the question of what to go for, much more overwhelming. 

To narrow down, and perfect your colour choice, we advise you to use a similar technique that we recommended for the mother of the bride in this article. The process entails choosing your colour in its relation to the wedding party. So either you choose an opposing colour, one directly contrasts, for example in they are in lavender you wear emerald, such as the one pictured below.

Bryony Sleeveless Pencil Dress in emerald green

Or you dress tonally, which means choosing a shade that is in the same colour family as the bridesmaid's dresses. If they are dressed in pink, your dress could be wine, the one below is the Jemima pencil dress.

 Jemima Pencil Dress in wine red

Again, as we discussed in this article, in addition to finding the best colour match for the wedding party you can opt for something that compliments your colouring too. Look at the article to find out to find what colours work best for you. 


To pattern or not too pattern, that is the question. 

Another way in which your position, as not an official member of the wedding party, while still holding a very large role. Is if you should wear a patterned dress or a more simple option. A difficult decision as both the mother of the bride and even more for the mother of the groom. 

The first question to ask is, are you going to be wearing flowers in the photographs? As this article describes, some brides ask the women in the wedding pictures to hold small bouquet or wrist corsages.

As these are often designed to match the groom’s buttonhole the chances of you being asked to model such a garment are quite high. It is something to think about, as if you are looking at a particular patterned dress, the chances of it clashing with the bouquet are quite high.

 bride and groom standing close together, groom with buttonhole flowers in jacket

If it is the case that you are expected to hold flowers but have your heart set on a floral or patterned dress, then go for something from subdued, as it is less likely to clash with the wedding flowers and the theme. We also suggest that you use the same tools as we recommend in the section above, for choosing the colours of your patterned dress. 

Another thing to think about, when considering a patterned dress, is the photographs themselves. If you are the only member dressed such a style, especially if that style is bold, then it is quite likely you are going to stand out in the pictures. And as we know too well, the bride may not wish her mother in law to be the focal point of her wedding pictures. So be mindful of this.

girls sitting in a row holding flowers

We think that unless you have fallen in love with a patterned dress it would probably be best to opt for one without such a design. Although it is a safer choice, as you are less likely to upset either the bride or her mother, this does not mean that you are going for the boring or less exciting option.

With single coloured dresses very much in fashion, there are many places for you to find a beautiful array of options, try this dress for exceptional monotone dresses.

Especially when considering that you are, even more than the mother of the bride, meant to take other people’s outfits into account. You are expected to consider the bride, her mother, her bridesmaids, and the wedding aesthetic in general when choosing a dress. And we think that to find a dress that fits in with all of these restitutions can often be made much harder if you are hoping to find this in a patterned form.


What fabrics of dress are best?

pink flowers on top of pink fabric

As we mentioned earlier when discussing colour choices, gone are the days of the expected mother of the bride uniform. Traditionally you would expect to see the newlywed's mothers in rather matronly attire. Commonly, boxy jackets, knee-length skirts and so on.  

Mothers of the bride and groom in 2019 have much more freedom with their outfit choices. You are able to find something that really helps you look and feel your best on this special day.

But we know that with all of these options the choice can be quite overwhelming. Check out this article to really work to narrow down what style of dress is best, to help you feel comfortable, elegant and stylish for your child’s wedding.

Stretch fabric dresses are, we believe, the perfect options for mothers of the bride and groom. This is because, as we discussed in this article they have elastane qualities that help ‘smooth’ any unwanted lumps and bumps. Such as this beautiful dress below. 


Temple Pencil Dress

They also make the perfect winter choice due to their ability to be breathable while retaining warmth. This is because a quality stretch fabric is able to offer you a layer of insulation, as the quality that enables it to smooth you and enhance your curves in comfort comes from the thickness of the stretch fabric itself.

While it’s figure-hugging qualities means that it lies close to your skin, which ensures warmth. While the breathability of the fabric means that you won’t risk getting overheated, which is often the case with synthetic fabrics.


What shapes/styles are best?

For both the mother of the bride and mother of the groom dresses we recommend a pencil style dress. This is because of the style's versatility, especially when it is composed of a stretch fabric. Many options regarding the necessary coverage of the top and bust, such as this one pictured below.

Bradbury Pencil Dress in blue

Gives you the ability to have your décolletage covered if you are going to a countryside church wedding. Or the long sleeves on this dress.

purple pencil dress

Give you the ability to maintain modesty, while the beautiful silhouette created by the stretch fabric is enticing enough to ensure your look could never fall into the matronly category.

Or for a wedding in a more urban setting why not try this beautiful cold shoulder option

Cloud Luxury Moss Crepe Dress

Another reason we believe the pencil dress to be the perfect option is due to its ability to be in keeping with the formality of such a wide variety of events. Depending on the colour you can look more informal or you can shine in a formal setting – without the stuffiness of a ball gown or cocktail dress.

Really the only type of wedding we wouldn’t advise a pencil dress for it a beach wedding, as that can really be on the far end of the informal range.

Consult with the bride and her mother.  

An impression that we are sure that you have gathered from many of the above advice, but it is one that we can’t stress enough, is to talk to the mother of the bride and the bride herself.

As described in here ‘Nearly every question a mother of the groom has can be answered with this counsel: ask your future daughter-in-law what she prefers. This is particularly true when you are deciding what to wear. And, while you’re having that heart-to-heart, ask what she objects to as well. There are at least a couple of good reasons for this.’

woman tying the back of wedding dress

They continue to further outline the positives of such communication: First of all, the question demonstrates your respect. I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t respond positively to genuine respect.

Secondly, you’ll know what not to do. The definitive answer to whether it's okay to wear white or black is here. If the bride is okay with it, you can be too, although I can’t promise you Aunt Ethel won’t chastise you for it.

If you hear, “whatever you feel beautiful in,” as the luckiest mothers do, you’ll know the years ahead will be beautiful too.

A little advice for stepmothers of the groom 

As this article outlines: try and avoid disagreements, don’t upstage the mother of the groom. The day might well be one where tensions run high and you want to try to make sure you keep the atmosphere as good as possible.

two cakes on two plates

If you are comfortable enough then ask their advice, or ask your step-son to find out what his mother is wearing. 

The last and most important advice we can give, be yourself

Be sure you feel good in what you’re wearing, and that what you’re wearing is right for you. If there were ever a time to love yourself the way you are, to celebrate the mom and the woman you are, this is it. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.