When a couple gets married, some of the most important guests in attendance are the people who have been there for them since the beginning. While friends play a major role in their love story, it's the parents that are truly the highest guests of honor, and thus, it's vital that they're properly dressed. However, in order to ensure their looks are spot on, you might be wondering who decides their attire. Can a bride pick the mother of the bride or the mother of the groom’s dress?
“The mother of the bride (MOB) and mother of the groom (MOG) dress selection is normally a very collaborative effort—it should be something the mother and daughter both love,” explains Ranu Coleman, the chief marketing officer of Azazie. “Oftentimes the MOB and MOG will coordinate their outfits together as well, so they complement each other.”
Meet the Expert
- Ranu Coleman is the CMO of Azazie, an online boutique specializing in wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, and mother-of-the-bride attire.
- Carolyn Powery is a certified etiquette coach, image consultant, and the president of Prestige Etiquette & Image Consulting LLC.
While many brides would probably prefer to pick out their parents' outfits themselves, it doesn’t always work out like that. Whether your mom is all about selecting her own look or you can’t seem to get both mothers on the same page, here’s what the experts suggest to keep in mind when trying to land on a mother-of-the-groom or bride style.
Can a Bride Choose a Wedding Outfit for the Mother of the Bride or Groom?
Even though you may be eager to select exactly what the parents will wear to your wedding, Coleman says, in general, the mother of the bride and groom should be able to select their own dresses to ensure they wear a style they’re comfortable and confident in. “This is a special day for them in addition to the bride, so you want her to feel good about how she looks.”
Ideally, the moms will agree to select a gown that the bride approves, or they’ll let the bride give the final “okay” on the look. Outside of that, certified etiquette coach and image consultant Carolyn Powery explains that choosing the exact style you want can come across as controlling or micro-managing. “The best gift the bride can give the mother is the opportunity to select her own dress for the wedding,” she says.
How Do You Respectfully Choose an Outfit for the Mother of the Bride or Groom?
Since choosing the exact style you want for your mother or partner's mother to wear is probably out (unless they requested you to make that selection), you’re likely wondering how to go about selecting day-of looks together. It’s a good idea to give everyone general guidelines to help narrow down their own choices, and guide them in a direction cohesive with the wedding vision.
Give Her Options
Powery says it’s perfectly appropriate to offer suggestions and options when guiding these fashion selections. Start the conversation by giving her a list of styles you’d prefer, such as a long gown or a more casual sundress. “If you have a certain look in mind for them, let them know. But [reiterate that] you want them to feel comfortable throughout the night,” suggests Coleman.
Pick a Color Scheme
One aspect of the mother of the bride and groom dresses that a bride is entitled to help guide is the color. Most mothers will be receptive to this because they want to wear a hue that’s appropriate for the occasion. Powery says that while the mothers don’t need to wear matching colors, it’s a good idea for their gowns’ hues to compliment the wedding palette. “It's best to stay away from colors such as white or ivory so they don’t take away from the bride, but in general, the MOB/MOG doesn’t need to match the bridesmaid dress colors,” notes Coleman. Options work best here, so give the moms a few different ideas, and maybe even swatches, to guide their gown selections.
Use a Mood Board
Sometimes the easiest way to explain the aesthetic you envision is with a helpful visual. “A Pinterest board with a selection of mother-of-the-bride dresses will be perfect to help in this process,” explains Powery. “As a guide, the Pinterest mood board can include various styles of dresses that would compliment their body types and personalities, plus ideal dress lengths and complementary colors.”
As you’re building out your board, it’s also a good idea to include examples of shoes, purses, and accessories that would pair well with your mother of the bride and groom vision. While you’ll want to make your wedding dress code very clear with all photos, be sure to include as many acceptable options and variations as possible. The more choices she has, the easier it'll be for her to select a look that appeases everyone.
Enlist a Stylist
A tactful way for the bride to ensure the mother of the bride or groom's dress is appropriate is to enlist someone to specifically help with the task. Powery says you can hire a stylist or image coach who is professionally trained in finding flattering and venue-acceptable attire. Another option is connecting the moms with a shopper at a department store who can assist in selecting a gown that works for the day-of vision. Lastly, you can solicit a bridesmaid or maid of honor to help with the task.
Even though you can likely relay the same information as any of the above helpers, it's sometimes better for the information to come from another source to really click. If you’re butting heads with a choosy mother, going this route can help ease tensions and get everyone on the same page without feeling confrontational.
The most important tool to utilize when helping your parents select a wedding day look is open dialog. “To ensure a smooth transition, communication is vital,” explains Powery. “It is up to the bride to set the tone and give clear, precise directions for the type of wedding she’s planning.”
Traditionally, the mother of the bride selects her dress first, then communicates the details to the groom's mom. Since that’s not always the case nowadays, keeping the lines of communication clear is a must. While Coleman says it’s perfectly acceptable to help guide their looks with notes on the colors, silhouettes, formality, and seasonality, your best bet is to express your thoughts clearly while respecting hers. Including her in the decision-making process will make her feel more involved and less like she’s being told what to do.
What to Do If the Mother of the Bride or Groom Wants to Choose Their Own Look
Ultimately, if your mom wants to flat-out pick her own dress, both experts agree that you should let her. “The formality and attire protocol for the wedding starts with the bride,” Powery explains. “As we all know, everyone is not fashion conscious, and everyone’s perception of what cocktail, black tie, and casual attire varies when it comes to weddings.” Make sure the mothers are very clear on the event's formality and offer to help with their search instead of trying to manage it.
As the mother of the bride or groom embarks on her dress hunt, get her excited! Suggest a fun day at the boutiques where she gets to try on dresses to make her feel special (and to have the salesperson back up your vision). Ideally, you should be there when she says “yes” to her dress. If you’re not, ask to see photos as soon as she picks out a few options, then sandwich your suggestions with compliments. A good example is:
- “[Compliment] I love the color you chose—it’ll really bring out your eyes! [Suggestion] Do they have a similar style with a higher neckline? The venue is expected to be chilly, and it might make you more comfortable. [Compliment] We just want to make sure we keep that silhouette because your figure is amazing in it!”
Luckily, mother-of-the-bride-and-groom fashion has evolved leaps and bounds over the past decade, so there’s a good chance the moms in your life will pick something flattering and appropriate. “Styles used to be very conservative but now moms have so many more options,” Coleman says. “I recommend the bride keeps in mind that this is a special day for the moms too, and they should work together to find a style they both love!”