How to dress when you are the mother of the bride (or groom)

by Sylvia

how to dress mother of the bride |

The wedding of your son or daughter will be one of the most memorable events in your lifetime so naturally you want to look amazing. So before I even go into detail on what best to wear, I want to emphasize one important thing.

It is ok (perhaps even mandatory) to splurge on your outfit!

Don’t economize on your clothes for such an important event, even when you think that you will wear the outfit only once.

Of course, you may want to try to get an outfit that you can wear for other occasions as well, but if those outfits don’t make you feel as special as you want to, then just accept that you will need a good budget.

Believe me, it’s worth it.

The memories of that day will stay with you forever and you will always remember what you wear.

And then, there are the numerous photos of course. I have personally made the mistake of sticking to a low budget for a high-profile occasion and I still regret it today! I can assure you that I will never make that mistake again.

Mother of the bride gown |

Embellished Mesh Gown

Ok, so now that I have this important point out of the way, let’s take a look at what you should wear.

What requirements does a mother of the bride / groom outfit have?

Although dressing rules at weddings vary by country, in general a mother of the bride dress should:

  • Not be the same colour as the wedding dress. So check with the bride! Also find out which colour the bridesmaids are wearing. You do not want to be mistaken for one!
  • Preferably not be all black as that may suggest mourning. Although this is not a strict rule, I would personally prefer you to choose another color since most women over 40 look much better in more colorful outfits. An alternative is to mix black with another color, which can look very chic. I also like the other black and grey combination I feature (above), because of the great drape of the dress and the chic combination with the jacket.
  • Avoid flashy shades like bright red, pink or yellow as the dress may stand out too much. If you like to wear color, go for something more subtle like the multi-colored dress (above) I featured with the very stylish long purple coat. This combination is especially great for summer weddings.
  • Not be overly sexy. Avoid too much cleavage and let the bride be the sexiest girl in the room.
  • Offer solutions for multiple locations. If the wedding includes a church service for example, make sure that you have an accompanying jacket with your dress. Most of the combinations I feature here come with great jackets.
  • Not be too fashionable. Remember, you will look at these photos in years to come. Opt for something current yet timeless with clean lines. The two looks below are good examples of timeless style.
  • Be made of a good quality fabric. Make sure it does not wrinkle too much and is appropriately warm or cold for the climate in which the wedding takes place.


Mother of the bride dress - crepe gown |

Off the Shoulder Crepe Gown


Other guidelines:

  • Talk to the bride and ask her about her preferences. If she is casual about your dress, then you can just select whatever you please. But if she is sensitive about certain colors or gives you some guidelines, you may want to stick to that. She may even want to coordinate the color of your dress with those of the bridesmaids (let’s hope not!)
  • Even though you may want to take the bride’s and groom’s wishes into account, make sure you select something that YOU love too.
  • Don’t leave shopping for your special dress to chance. Plan well in advance, so you will not get too stressed and can help either your son or daughter with the wedding preparations.
  • Stick to your style personality as much as you can. If you normally like clean, plain clothing, don’t go over the top with sequins and diamonds. On the other hand if you like to be hip and enjoy pattern you could consider the featured modern black and white outfit (above).
  • Although it’s perfectly fine to wear pants at the wedding, nothing says party like as a dress. However, if a dress is totally out of your comfort zone, then choose a great pants and blazer combination in a luxurious fabric. There are ideas here on how to wear pants for the mother of the bride.

Here are some ideas for your outfits

Please note that fashion items sell out quickly so these may no longer be available in stores. They can still serve as inspiration though.

However, because wedding outfits are more timeless than other fashion items, you may well find that your favorite piece is still available!

Many stores, including Nordstrom have a dedicated mother-of-the-bride section.

Knee Length

Alex Evenings - Two-Piece Tea Length Dress | fashion over 40 | style | fashion |

Two-Piece Tea Length Dress


Vince Camuto - Off the Shoulder Lace Sheath Dress | fashion over 40 | style | fashion |

Off the Shoulder Lace Sheath Dress


Long and elegant

Pisarro Nights - Beaded Longline Gown | fashion over 40 | style | fashion |

Beaded Longline Gown

JS Collections - Soutache Mesh Dress | fashion over 40 | style | fashion |

Soutache Mesh Dress

JS Collections - Soutache Mesh Dress (NavyNude) | fashion over 40 | style | fashion |

Soutache Mesh Dress (NavyNude)

Dress suit

dress suit for weddingDress suit for wedding

Getting away with black

black and white mother of the bride dressBlack and white festive dress for a wedding Black and white dress


A beach or garden wedding

Because beach and garden weddings tend to be less formal than weddings in other venues, you may want to take a look at florals or a happy print as an option for your dress.

Printed dress for summer wedding |

Flowy dress for summer wedding


For a great selection of Mother of the Bride (and Groom) dresses, we recommend the following online (and brick and mortar) destinations with dedicated Mother of the Bride sections:

If you’re in England, you can also visit the Riva online store.  They stock a wide variety of casual wear as well!

What do you think is the perfect mother of the bride outfit?

P.S. For more ideas on on how to dress when you are the mother of the bride please see our article on the best mother of the bride dresses. Below is a selection you can purchase right now.

Like this article on how to dress when you’re the mother of the bride? Save it on Pinterest!

how to dress when you are the mother of the bride |


1 Suzanne

Every one of these outfits is so beautiful – and appropriate. I have a “nest egg” tucked away to pay for my daughter’s wedding but, after looking at the Riva site, I think I need to start a second account for my outfit! You are so right – a wedding is one of the biggest milestones in your child’s life and the pictures last forever. Mothers deserve to spoil themselves and have a memorable outfit on such a special day. I am in love with the hats! I have no idea what type of ceremony my daughter will have but I would wear a hat if it was a daytime wedding. And when it is my son’s turn I will do whatever his bride asks me to do as I strongly believe it is truly the bride’s day.

2 Sylvia

It will still be many years away for me, so plenty of time to save!

3 Sophie

I hope your savings are going well for that special day! Thank you for visiting our site and if you ever need any further help please let us know. To help with the price of the garment you can sign up to RIVA’s site and receive 10% off which you can use on your wedding outfit purchase.

Kind Regards

Sophie Leary

4 ofelia

Fantastic tips and photos!
My daughter has a clear idea that I’m going to dress in color and in very comfortable shoes and I’ll be bringing many bags of tissues and my entire makeup bag since I probably be crying the entire event!

5 Sylvia

Great plan Ofelia!

6 Theresa

These are great examples, thank you. I will be facing this soon as my 21 year old daughter is starting to bring this subject up as a possibility in the next year or two.

Question I have is what to wear for different venues? Beach weddings, vineyard weddings and weddings preformed in the tall coastal redwoods are very popular around here. Can you give me some ideas for these along with shoe wear???

7 Sylvia

For a beach wedding I would wear something a bit more flowy like the flowery and ruffly dresses above. I think each of the above could work with vineyard weddings. For the redwood location, it would be great to wear something in natural colours like the 2 moss green outfits pictured.

8 Chicatanyage

Top right is very similar to the outfit I wore for my daughter’s wedding 3 years ago. The dress was a bit more A line. I still have it and may adapt the coat to wear with plain place trousers and a belt.

9 Sylvia

You must have looked absolutely amazing.! Yes definitely wear the coat with your trousers.

10 Marla

These are all lovely choices.

11 Sylvia

Which outfit would you choose?

12 Marla

I would probably pick the first outfit on the left with the long coat, minus the hat. I am definitely not a hat person. ha!

13 Marianne

I have 2 children who have certainly the age of getting maried 30 and 34. But they are in no hurry. I would love to get all dressed up for this event. Because you are so right. The photo’s of the wedding will last forever. My daughter dreams of a wedding on a beach in Bali, so where will that leave me I wonder. I love the fascinators.

14 Sylvia

In Holland you often have to wait a VERY long time as many will never marry at all. Let’s hope one of your’s does and will celebrate in Holland!

15 Greetje

All your advice is very sound advice. Even as a guest to a wedding I have made a few mistakes in the past. And indeed you never forget your embarrassment.
Being mother of the bride is rather impossible for me as I do not have children. LOL
I might play a role in my stepdaughter’s wedding or I might not. Totally up to her.
But I will not choose any of the outfits you have shown. Far too classic for me. Even though I am “classic with a modern twist”. Probably missing the modern twist. Not my cup of tea.

16 Sylvia

Weddings in The Netherlands tend not to be as formal as elsewhere, so can understand your desire to wear something more modern, although I think the top left outfit in a slightly brighter colour would look smashing on you!

17 Greetje

OK, I agree. Another colour and other shoes and I am game. Now where is the wedding?

18 Playing with Scarves

All these outfits are stunning. To me, a very sophisticated hat seems a must for the bride’s / groom’s mother. Yet, honestly speaking I am not in the hurry to be there……. LOL
Anne Touraine (Playing with Scarves)

19 Sylvia

Yes, I’m happy to wait for a very long time as well 🙂

20 Trina Grandinetti

This is a great article and very helpful advice. As a mother of a daughter who is already married, the shopping for both her dress and mine was one of the highlights of the wedding planning. The advice on planning VERY important, this should be the first on your list because it will probably take several trips. But, if I may add some personal advice, ENJOY the journey and process of it. If you plan early it will not be stressful. Besides, is there anything better than mother/daughter shopping? My other advice, be wise in your choice of shoes, remember you will be standing a great deal of the time, and possibly dancing.
Now, I just need to remember all this when my son gets married. (I don’t think he will enjoy the journey of shopping with me).

21 Sylvia

Great advice and feedback Trina. What a wonderful day it must have been for you!

22 Nancy

I am desperately looking for a dress/coat combination for my son’s 2013 summer wedding. Can anyone please tell me where in the US such a style is to be found? The only ones I can locate are Watters, Siri and Venus who sell MOB dresses BUT no one seems to stock the dresses to try on prior to ordering. I just cannot risk that much on a dress without knowing how it will look on me. Thanks for any suggestions/recommendations

23 Suzanne

I did a little more research. Talbots has a swatch book so you can view all of the colors and feel the fabric before ordering. Their phone number is 1-800-Talbots. They also have a Live Chat feature and if you send them your email address and the date of your event they will keep you updated on the newest styles/colors. I have not purchased anything from this line but saw a few of these pieces in a store and thought they were very simple and elegant. I hope this at least gives you somewhere to start. 🙂

24 Sylvia

Thank you for helping out Suzanne!
Nancy, Suzanne left another comment for you which you will only see if you return back to this page:

25 Suzanne

Try Talbots! They have a line called “Aisle Style Occasion Collection”. The designs come in a range of sizes from Petite to Woman and there are quite a few colors to choose from. You can go Online to ask which stores in your area carry this line in store so that you can try things on. Best of Luck!

26 carmen

where can i get the outfit that you call spotted pattern dress i would love have it

27 Sylvia

All these outfits were from the Riva online store. However, they may be sold out by now….

28 Victoria

my daughter-in-law wedding colors is candy apple red and black,I’m not sure what color would go with those colors that would look nice,also I don’t want to look old,I’m 40years oldand carry my weight in the middle,what advice can you give me please Ineed help!

29 Sylvia

Wow those are unusual colors! You could go for a nice dress with draping around the mid area in black and white print. That would go with everything. Cream is another option or skirt and top in a black and white combination. Good luck with finding the right outfit. For further advice you can also try the style forum.

30 Sue

My daughter is getting married in June and I am really struggling with what to wear. I am between a size 14 and 16 and have an hourglass shape. I am working really hard to get some weight off before the wedding so hopefully I can get down to a 14. :(. The attire is ‘cocktail’ but I would prefer a long dress to elongate because I am so ‘endowed’-haha. I believe in not wearing what is attractive or stylish, rather something to disguise my weight problem.
Any suggestions?
Thank you,

31 Sylvia

I think you should buy a dress for the size and weight you are right now. Start shopping so you have the time to find something fabuloous. Don’t add extra stress by trying to lose weight. Have a look at this article to see some tips on how best to dress for your body type. I actually think that a knee high dress would look nicer and slimmer than a long dress, so you should definitely consider it. Take inspiration from this lady She looks confident and beautiful despite her curvy figure. That is the most important thing you can do to look good. If you are trying to hide in your clothes, people will notice and concentrate on your weight. If you get a dress that flatters your body type, is in a great color and you wear it with confidence, noone will notice your weight. They will notice beautiful, confident you! Good luck.

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