Can My Mother Wear a Long Dress to My Wedding?

Our etiquette experts explain when a long mother-of-the-bride gown is appropriate

Updated 11/26/17

Photo by Ryan Ray Photography

Shopping for wedding attire is an anticipated part of planning your wedding—but it can also get pretty complicated. Once you’ve found your own perfect dress, you’ve got to dress your bridesmaids and mom, too! So what’s appropriate for the mother of the bride to wear to her daughter’s wedding? Our experts are here to answer all of your fashion-related questions.

How long should the mother of the bride’s dress be?

The length of the mother of the bride’s dress depends on the timing and formality of the wedding. For a daytime celebration, a dressy suit or cocktail dress is appropriate, with a skirt that goes to the knee. For a cocktail reception, a knee-length cocktail dress is the most common, though some calf- or floor-length dresses could work (particularly if they have fewer embellishments or are in a brighter color). A formal evening wedding (think black-tie optional or more) should see women in floor-length dresses made of more formal fabrics, such as taffeta or lace.

What kinds of details and embellishments are appropriate for the mother of the bride’s dress?

Your mom is one of the hosts of the evening, so she should dress up accordingly. For a daytime wedding, lace or rushing is a great embellishment option. For an evening wedding, she should look for details like sequins or beading, since sparkle adds to the formality of the attire. Lace is also a great option, especially if it has sparkling accents! You could also look for design elements that work well with your own dress, whether it’s lace detailing or a similar neckline. The details depend on what makes your mom comfortable. Some women prefer higher necklines or longer sleeves, while others love off-the-shoulder styles. Help your mom narrow down the details she loves best, then shop together for a dress that combines them all!

What color should the MOB wear?

The mother of the bride should wear a color that coordinates with the palette of the wedding. It helps tie everything together, and also makes sure her corsage or nosegay of flowers looks perfect with her outfit! Mothers of the bride are often seen in a metallic tone, like silver or gold, or one of the darker colors chosen for the wedding (think navy or plum). Of course, if your mom is into brighter colors, she can definitely wear berry or fuchsia—as long as it matches! It’s important, however, to keep the bridesmaids’ dresses in mind. If they’re wearing blush, the mother of the bride should opt for a deeper pink. Are they wearing eggplant? Put your mom in lavender instead. She should fit in seamlessly with the wedding party, but shouldn’t look like she’s pretending to be a bridesmaid.

What should the mother of the groom wear?

Once the mother of the bride has chosen her gown, the mother of the groom can head to the store. You will often see the mother of the groom wearing a dress in a similar color and style to the mother of the bride, though that’s not required. Her dress should, like the MOB, accent the wedding’s palette. She may opt for a color that matches the groom’s tie, for example, or another shade that coordinates with the mother of the bride and the bridesmaids’ dresses. She should also take her formality cue from the mother of the bride. If the MOB is wearing a floor-length dress, the MOG should do the same. The women don’t need to match exactly, but should be wearing dresses that work well together, enhancing the design of your wedding and fitting the dress code to a T.

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