What To Do When Your Mom Doesn't Like Your Wedding Dress

It's your big day, but don't ruin it for mom

Updated 09/21/17


Lots of brides have arguments with their mothers during the wedding planning process, but it seems as though disagreements about the wedding gown are some of the most volatile.

Most brides have a picture in their heads of how they want to look on their wedding day. Frequently, their mothers have been imagining a very different bridal look for much, much longer (ahem, since birth?), so achieving a compromise can be a very tricky business.

More conservative mothers may be uncomfortable with the trendy backless, strapless, almost fabric-less creations featured on the covers of glossy wedding magazines. Lots of brides complain that their mothers want them to buy dresses that hide their tattoos, when the brides are actually proud of their body art and fully plan to display it. Many moms picture their daughters in Cinderella-style ball gowns, while the brides are imagining something sleek and sexy.

It's hard to marry those two visions (pun intended har har), but it's important to try for a compromise. Whether it's the bride or the mother of the bride refusing to budge on the dress style, refusing to give an inch on the dress may mean putting up walls for all of the other wedding decisions yet to be made. Needless to say, it's a terrible way to start things out. And in the heat of the disagreement, more than one mom has threatened not to pay for a wedding dress she doesn't approve of, whether she intends to follow through on the threat or not.

Brides can be as obstinate as their moms (maybe that's where they get it) and more brides than you'd think will throw down and pay for their own "dress of their dreams" just to make a point in the heat of the argument at the bridal shop. Some end up regretting their impulsive decision later, after they've calmed down—one of my brides told me that when she went back and looked at the pics of herself in the dress the next day, she couldn't believe that she'd bought it on the spot like that. She wasn't able to get a refund, but they allowed her to put the deposit towards another dress from their bridal salon.

So what's a bride to do when she finds herself at war with her mom over one of the most important elements of her wedding? Try one of the three following compromises:

1. Do two different dresses

The thing is, if your mom is that freaked out about the dress, chances are she won't be the only person on your guest list who will react that way. And while it's your day, it's not a day to try to socially humiliate your grandmother at her country club by rocking a sexier look. Many churches do have some standards as to attire, and if it's your family's (or your fiancé's) home parish, you don't want to risk embarrassing anybody. Under those circumstances, consider an acceptable ceremony gown, and switch to a different dress when the party gets started at the reception.

2. Add fabric for the ceremony

If your mother thinks there's too much skin showing for your wedding ceremony in your favorite gown, consider adding some kind of topper for the actual ceremony. Depending on the time of year, it can be a stylist fashion statement—a winter bride can be stunning in a cropped fur coat, and there are some elegant lace shrugs that could be quite an accent for a strapless gown.

3. Alter your dream dress

Identify the biggest problem your mother has with the dress, and see if it's something you can slightly alter to make her happy. A good seamstress can tweak a gown, and sometimes even use the fabric she cut off when she hemmed it for you. More than one of my clients has added lace to the back of her gown to cover a lower back tattoo (in one case, the mother of the bride demanded her daughter's "tramp stamp" be covered if she was going to pay for the dress). She said she didn't want the tattoo to be visible in the ceremony photos. The bridal shop agreed to make the alteration. The bride agreed as long as the lace panel was removable, so she could show off her body art at the reception. In the end, everybody was satisfied, if not completely thrilled.

It's very important that every bride love her wedding gown, and feel good about the way she looks in it. But it doesn't hurt to keep in mind that your mother is emotionally invested in your wedding, too. And she means well, even if you are polar opposites. Maybe you'll never agree on the same "dream dress," but chances are you can find something that makes you feel beautiful, and won't make mom want to hide when you walk down the aisle.

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