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A Style Guide for Mothers of the Bride and Groom

By Rebecca Padgett Frett

Once upon a time, the mother of the bride (or groom) was expected to dress in a matronly fashion. That day is done, but there are still some conventions moms should observe.

Follow the Dress Code

 Match the degree of formality of the event. Bridal parties select their attire months in advance. Align your style with theirs.

Don’t outshine the couple. If the bride’s dress is more understated, avoid sequins and sparkles. If you think an outfit is too much or not enough, listen to that instinct. If in doubt, consult the couple by sending photos. Even better, you might go shopping together.

As you shop, be aware of what you’re comfortable in whether that be a long-sleeve dress, strapless ballgown, trendy jumpsuit or timeless pantsuit. As a rule of thumb, an A-line dress or tailored pantsuit looks good on most all body types. If you’re a bold fashionista, lean into that. If your style is more conservative, stick with what you know and love. Eyes will be on you and photos are forever; wear something you feel comfortable, confident and beautiful in.

Sarah and Paul Photography

Consider Color

 A wedding color scheme sets the mood and is something the couple likely spent considerable time selecting. Ask the couple what their wedding colors and, if possible, have them provide examples, photos or swatches. Unless the bride instructs you to, it’s better to complement the bridesmaids’ dress colors rather than match them.

The hues should be harmonious. If the colors are deep jewel tones, you wouldn’t want to wear a blush pink dress. If pastels are preferred, a black or dark hued outfit will stand out in all the wrong ways. It goes without saying, don’t wear the same color as the bride. To be safe, avoid the entire color family she is wearing.

Alena Bakutis Photography


You should be outfit shopping no later than four to six months before the wedding date. This allows plenty of time to search, to order and to have any alterations made. Department stores are a go-to, but also consider bridal salons. Don’t limit yourself to the “mother-of-the-bride/groom” section. There are a multitude of options in formal wear.

Some believe that the mother of the bride should purchase her dress first and then fill in the mother of the groom on her selection. If you’re not close, have the couple be the go-between. If you are close, make a day of it and go shopping together. Regardless, you should communicate with one another to have dresses that complement one another in color, style and formality.


 Shoes, much like your outfit, should be something you are comfortable in. If you’re not used to heels, a wedding day is not the time to try out 4-inch platforms. Most opt for a low heel or fancy flat. Remember you will be walking down an aisle, taking a lot of photos and dancing the night away. A change of shoes may be something you thank yourself for later.

Treat yourself to a handbag that goes with your outfit. Not only will it be stylish, but it will hold your tissues for tears, lip-gloss/lipstick for touchups, money, ID, mints and any other necessary items.

 Keep the jewelry classic, simple and even sentimental. Think of how special it would be to wear something you also wore on your own wedding day. If your dress is simple, however, a statement necklace or earrings would add some pizzaz. If the bride gifts you with jewelry to wear at the wedding, be sure to switch it out for anything you might be wearing.

You should consider the weather and time of day to decide if you’ll need to add a matching shrug, shawl, pashmina or jacket.

Darla Winn Photography


You’re an important part of the day and deserve to feel glamorous. Get a manicure and pedicure beforehand whether accompanying the bride or going for solo pampering.

If the bride recommends her preferred professional services, take her up on the offer as the makeup artists will know the bridal color palette and style you to it. If you do select the services, be thoughtful and consider taking one of the later slots to give the bridal party priority.

If the bride wants to limit availability of services to her bridal party, respect those wishes. Instead, entrust a friend or professional. If you’re more comfortable doing your own makeup and hair, be cognizant of colors and styles that coordinate with your outfit.

Much like the theme and color palette, select colors that pair well — a bold dress and a bold lipstick or a pastel suit and light pink lipstick. Keep hair accessories to a minimum, unless provided by the bride. Most importantly, ensure you feel pretty and peaceful in the hair and makeup you decide on.

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