Selecting a suitable mother-of-the-bride or groom outfit is one of the biggest personal considerations you have to make regarding your child's wedding day. While you've likely helped with a few planning details, finalizing your own ensemble is essential; and if the dress code is on the formal side, you might be wondering what sort of outfits are appropriate. The good news, though, is that if you ever wanted to dress to the nines, this is the time to break out your finest fashions. In fact, formal mother-of-the-bride dresses are some of the best pieces to shop for since they can really showcase your personal style.
However, before listing out our favorite fancy mother-of-the-bride or groom looks, it's important to highlight what "formal" actually means. This isn't just a code word for "nice-looking," as "formal" is a legitimate dress code that falls between black tie and cocktail. For formal weddings, think of long gowns in luxe fabrics, or high-end midi dresses with embellishments and special detailing.
It's also a good idea to check in with the couple of honor before buying your day-of look, in order to see if they have any preferences by way of color or style. Even though this is your outfit, you want to be sure your look doesn't clash with the bridal party or detract from the celebration.
To help narrow down your options, we've rounded up the best formal mother-of-the-bride or groom dresses that will dazzle and delight as you watch your child say "I do,"
Galina Signature Strapless Corset Gown with Tulle Trumpet Skirt
Size: 2-24 | Materials: Lace, tulle | Length: Floor-length
Formal weddings are the perfect opportunity to don a gown straight out of your fairytale dreams. This tulle and lace corset number from Galina Signature has the ideal amount of structure and sparkle to support and shine all night long.
For a Boho Wedding
Revelry Amelia Chiffon Dress
Size: 0-32 | Materials: Chiffon | Length: Floor-length
Coming in over 40 different hues, Revelry's Amelia dress is made from the softest chiffon and is perfect for outdoor, desert, or bohemian celebrations. Flutter sleeves, ruffled tiers, and a modest V-neckline exude romance for any special occasion.
Pryce Off-the-Shoulder Column Dress
Size: 0-16 | Materials: Polyester | Length: Floor-length
It doesn't get more elegant than Amsale's silky Pryce dress, which comes in navy, green, and natural hues. Between the asymmetrical, off-the-shoulder neckline and flattering column silhouette, this pristine style is suitable for the most distinguished of occasions.
Tadashi Shoji Odette Sequin Dress
Size: 0-18 | Materials: Sequin, lace | Length: Floor-length
Whether you select the Odette dress in silver or gold, Tadashi Shoji's spectacular sequin and lace gown was made for vintage lovers. It features a bateau neckline and an all-over floral pattern, both of which stand out as stunning formalwear details. The best part? You can keep jewelry simple to really let this beauty shine.
Alex Evenings Short Shift Dress
Size: 4-18 | Materials: Crepe | Length: Knee-length
When you need a dress, and you need it fast, Amazon is always the answer. With 13 color options that vary slightly in design, not to mention free returns, this crepe cocktail dress from Alex Evenings is an easy choice for rehearsal dinners and weddings alike.
Theia Edna Twist Shawl Column Gown
Size: 0-16 | Materials: Nylon | Length: Floor-length
With long sleeves and a square neckline, this column gown from Theia is unassuming in design but stunning in execution. The twist drape bodice frames the décolletage, and the slight glimmer of the knit fabric gives the overall design an added touch of splendor.
For a Summer Wedding
Ulla Johnson Avery Midi Dress
Size: 0-12 | Materials: Cotton-poplin | Length: Midi length
Finding a mother-of-the-bride or groom dress for the summer is no easy feat, but this seasonal tiered frock from Ulla Johnson checks off all the boxes. The empire waistline flatters, the cotton-poplin fabric keeps you cool, and the sleeveless design can easily be dressed up or down with heels and accessories.
Best Off-the-Shoulder Style
Revelry Court Dress
Size: 0-32 | Materials: Velvet | Length: Floor-length
Something about an off-the-shoulder neckline and rich velvet material feels utterly glam, which is why Revelry's Court dress is a favorite for everyone from moms to brides and bridesmaids. No matter which of the 25 color options you select, you'll be sure to collect major compliments on the big day.
For a Spring Wedding
Needle & Thread Enchanted Meadow Gown
Size: 0-14 | Materials: Lace, sequins, polyester | Length: Floor-length
Springtime celebrations and flower-filled affairs call for an equally enchanting wedding look, which is why we adore this lace design from Needle & Thread. From the scattered sequins, floral design, and intricate frills, this is one gown that seamlessly exemplifies the season.
For a Winter Wedding
Amsale Draped Long Sleeve Gown
Size: 00-28 | Materials: Satin | Length: Floor-length
Luxe fabrics and long sleeves are must-haves for winter weddings, and this draped Amsale design is a dress to buy for the cooler months. Wear your hair up and throw on some dangling earrings to compliment the high neckline and sleek A-line cut.
For a Daytime Wedding
Azazie Sanna Dress
Size: 0-30, custom sizing | Materials: Lace | Length: Tea-length
With 18 color options—each as beautiful as the last—this lace tea-length dress from Azazie is an easy fit for any formal daytime wedding. The shorter hemline is ideal for afternoon "I dos," while the bateau neckline, cap sleeves, and removable belt nod to the elegance of the occasion.
Jenny Yoo Maxine Dress
Size: 0-18 | Materials: Satin | Length: Floor-length
Slip dresses always hint at sultry sophistication, but Jenny Yoo's Maxine dress elevates the classic design with a flattering scoop neck, built-in cups, and a bias-cut skirt. Our favorite aspect is the burnout pattern which adds extra texture to the sleek silhouette.
Mac Duggal Faux Wrap Long Sleeve Tiered Gown
Size: 2-18 | Materials: Polyester | Length: Floor-length
Whether worn in the sage or mocha hue, this fluffy, floaty, tiered gown from Mac Duggal is full of whimsy and wonder. Long sheer sleeves, a pleated bodice, and a flowing tiered skirt make this faux wrap design a magical mother-of-the-bride choice.
For a Beach Wedding
Adrianna Papell Floral-Print Gown
Size: 0-20 | Materials: Polyester | Length: Floor-length
Balancing formalwear with a beachy vibe can be tricky, but this breezy faux wrap gown marries the two aesthetics perfectly. The V-neckline, pleated details, and floor-length hemline adhere to the dress code, while the mermaid slit skirt and flutter sleeves look organic on sandy shores.
Best Ball Gown
Amsale Metallic Ball Gown
Size: 00-28 | Materials: Metallic cloqué | Length: Floor-length
There are few opportunities in life to wear a ball gown, and your son or daughter's formal wedding is definitely one of them! This exquisite strapless design from Amsale is hard to top, especially with the metallic floral detailing that trickles from bodice to skirt. Pair the look with the matching shaw for added style and coverage.
Revelry Gwen Sequin Dress
Size: 0-32 | Materials: Chiffon | Length: Floor-length
Sequins are a favorite for formal weddings, and Revelry's Gwen dress offers something truly special with its twisted front detail and graceful flutter sleeves. Coming in sizes 0 to 32, this flattering design is also made in velvet, chiffon, and satin.
Azazie Ines Dress
Size: 0-30, custom sizing | Materials: Mesh | Length: Floor-length
Minimalist in design and subtly sexy, Azazie's Ines dress features a fitted mermaid silhouette that hugs your curves without feeling too clingy. The best part is the convertible cowl neckline, which can be adjusted depending on your day-of vision.
For a Fall Wedding
Adrianna Papell Long Floral Beaded Gown with Flutter Sleeves in Moonscape
Size: 0-26 | Materials: Polyester | Length: Floor-length
Moody hues take center stage at fall weddings, but this formal Adrianna Papell gown feels unique with its moonscape coloring of dusty purple, black, and silver. It's the hand-beaded floral pattern and godets along the mermaid skirt, though, that truly sets this style apart.
Best Floral Print
Theia Jada Wrap Draped Gown
Size: 0-16 | Materials: Organza | Length: Floor-length
While many floral print mother-of-the-bride dresses feature light pastels, this Theia draped gown boasts bold-colored blooms that nod to the formality and luxury of the day. With its asymmetrical bodice, A-line silhouette, and crushed organza skirt, this dreamy design balances the delicate with the dramatic.
Ralph Lauren Collection Long Sleeve Evening Dress
Size: XXS-XXL | Materials: Viscose, nylon, elastane | Length: Floor-length
Black gowns are forever a formal wedding staple, and this debonair column design from Ralph Lauren Collection feels both stately and special for the big day. We love how the long mesh sleeves provide coverage while the keyhole back detail shows an unexpected touch of skin.
For a Holiday Wedding
Needle & Thread Alina Gown
Size: 0-14 | Materials: Sequin, tulle, polyester | Length: Ankle-length
There's something truly special about a holiday wedding, and as the mother of the bride or groom, your dress helps set the stage for the big event. This 1940s-style sequin ankle gown from Needle & Thread—which also comes in green, white, and pink—pairs perfectly with hot cocoa bars and snow-filled photo ops.
Azazie Dion Dress
Size: 0-30, custom sizing | Materials: Chiffon, crepe | Length: Floor-length
A favorite for mothers of the bride or groom, this crepe sheath gown from Azazie is complete with a chiffon overlay that can be worn tied or as a loose train down the back. Select the style in one of 20+ colors for a look that's sure to wow at any formal wedding.
What to Look for in a Formal Mother-of-the-Bride or Groom Dress
When searching for a formal mother-of-the-bride or groom dress, you want to first consider the dress code. Even though you're a VIP, that doesn't mean you can ignore the couple's chosen attire preferences. "Formal" means you should ideally wear a floor-length gown, but a fancy midi or cocktail dress could work as long as it's more elegant than your standard little black dress.
Fabric-wise, think of luxe options such as crepe, chiffon, and satin, all while paying attention to the season. For example, while velvet leans more formal, it's also a heavy material so it could get too hot at spring or summer events. The same concept goes for selecting sleeve lengths, too. That said, it's always a good idea to bring along a jacket or shawl if your dress has shorter sleeves, regardless of the season, just in case the venue gets chilly or if you want more coverage.
Can I wear a short dress to a formal wedding?
While formal attire typically calls for floor-length gowns, fancy cocktail and midi dresses can work if they're elevated or if the event is taking place during the daytime (since evening events are generally more formal than midday ones).
Are formal mother-of-the-bride or groom dresses expensive?
Formal mother-of-the-bride or groom dresses can vary greatly in price depending on the fabric, embellishments, and designer. There are, however, plenty of budget-friendly options to be found at Azazie, Revelry, and even your local department store.
Should the mother of the bride or groom match the bridal party?
While matching the bridal party isn't necessary, there's a chance you may be asked to wear a color that complements the wedding's theme. Always check in with the couple before selecting your gown's hue to ensure it doesn't clash in photos or against the wedding color palette.
Why Trust Us
Contributing expert writer Rachel Varina is a full-time freelancer with over 10 years of editorial experience and seven years of experience in the wedding industry. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Elite Daily, Betches, Zola, and more.