What Does the Grandmother of the Bride Wear to a Wedding?

Her look should be a combination of both style and comfort.

bride, mother of the bride, and grandmother of the bride

Photo by Adriana Rivera

Watching a granddaughter get married is every grandmother’s dream, but one thing that she may not consider is what to wear to the wedding. As one of the most important members of the family and guests of honor, a grandmother's attire is of the utmost importance and one that should be highly considered for the special occasion. But, depending on how fashionable your grandmother is, she may need a little support when shopping for a look.

Ahead, with the advice of Leena Alsulaiman, a fashion stylist and former wedding planner, we highlight everything you need to know when it comes to your grandmother's wedding day outfit. Whether she’s ultra-fashionable or rarely dresses up, here are the top expert-approved styling tips to help grandma feel and look her best once it's time for you to say "I do."

Meet the Expert

Leena Alsulaiman is a creative mentor, strategist, stylist, and style coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What Does the Grandmother of the Bride Wear?

Grandmothers of the bride should abide by the dress code, which typically entails wearing a semi-formal or formal dress. Some couples may also want to ask their grandmas to wear an ensemble that complements the wedding's color scheme, but whatever hue she chooses, her dress should be comfortable, flattering, and make her feel important.

“The grandmother is the most special guest of honor, so she can wear pretty much what she wants!” says Alsulaiman. “She should not look like a wedding guest.” For some, this might mean wearing a dress with a beaded or sequined jacket, or wearing a look that's elegant and classic, accessorizing with fine jewelry, gloves, or even a hat. Two-piece sets and tea-length dresses are popular styles that retain a timeless quality and are comfortable, to boot. “Wearing a longer-style formal gown in a soft or classical color is encouraged so as not to upstage the bride,” Alsulaiman adds.

If the dress doesn’t come with a jacket, make sure to pick one up before the wedding in case the ceremony and reception rooms are chilly. For instance, a shawl or cardigan are always great options.

What Should the Grandmother Avoid Wearing?

Grandmothers are typically the last people you have to worry about when it comes to breaking the dress code, but the standard wedding rules still apply; nothing white, short, or overly distracting. “Grandmothers in the wedding party should avoid wearing dresses with too short hemlines or too revealing,” says Alsulaiman. “Also, anything that will interfere with her comfort (too tight) and mobility (having to wear too high heels, for example) should be avoided.”

To prevent any dress code missteps, the grandmother should communicate with the bride (or mother of the bride) to make sure that her outfit is appropriate and does not clash with other members of the bridal party. Additionally, one way to ensure you’re both happy with her dress selection is to go shopping together. Some grandmothers need support when trying on multiple gowns, and it’s a great bonding experience to share ahead of the big day.

Shopping Recommendations

Grandmas can find plenty of formal gowns to choose from at department stores like Dillard’s, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s, but Alsulaiman says not to discount bridal salons, either. “She can shop in bridal gown stores, but stores with many evening and formal styles and brands, like BHLDN or Anthropologie, are places with great finds.”

If going into a store is too much, though, your grandmother may appreciate ordering a few dresses online to try out at home. She can then keep the one she likes the most and return the rest.  

Grandmother of the Bride Attire Tips

Like Alsulaiman said before, the grandmother of the bride is not just any guest at a wedding. She is the head matriarch of a family, and thus, making her feel comfortable and important when shopping should be a top priority. Therefore, we provided a few tips below on how to make her dress experience a memorable one.

Grandmother Knows Best

When determining what to wear, she should consider her personal style, as well as the dress code, and wear something she can move around comfortably in. “In many weddings, the bride's grandmother and the grandfather are the first to walk down the aisle, followed by the groom's parents,” Alsulaiman notes. “So she should be in a dress in which the style, cut, and color make her feel beautiful."

Don’t Forget the Accessories

Finding the right dress is only half the battle. You can’t forget about accessories like jewelry, shoes, and outerwear, if necessary. Again, take her input on what she’s comfortable wearing and how she wants to look on the big day. “Listen to her thoughts and concern when shopping, and allow her to make the dress, and its details and accessories, feel unique and special to her.”

Bring a Change of Shoes

It doesn’t matter how old you are, heels are always uncomfortable. Some brides choose to bring a change of shoes to wear to the reception for this very reason, but brides aren’t the only ones who deserve to ditch their footwear. “Make sure to have an extra pair of comfortable shoes for her to change into later,” advises Alsulaiman. A pair of neutral-toned sandals or even cozy sneakers can help your grandmother be more present at the reception, eliminating any discomfort that may come with dancing the night away.

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