Expert advice for Mothers of the Bride and Groom

I was invited by Karen Cinnamon to write this blog post for Smashing the Glass as an expert with over 30 years experience dressing Mothers of the Bride and Groom.

The Engagement

Congratulations your darling son or daughter has announced that he/she is to get married to their soul mate. This is a joyous time, assuming that you approve of the new addition to your family, with all the excitement to come of planning a wedding.

Most mothers like to be involved but depending on the bride and groom your involvement can vary considerably. It can and should be a time of quality time for mother and daughter as you plan and discuss all the aspects of the wedding but it can also be a frustrating time with a lot of biting the tongue to avoid conflict!  Couples are now getting married older and tend to know their own minds and may not ask the opinions of parents. Sometimes this can be hurtful. When my own daughter got married I quickly learned that when she sought my opinion is was only OK when I happened to agree with hers. I learned to become very tactful!

We have been in business for over 30 years dressing Mothers of the Bride and Groom and Brides and we hear so many stories some very funny and others quite sad and we know it’s hard to please all of the people all of the time!

Outfit Planning

When it comes to Mum’s outfit what is the etiquette?  Let’s assume that the two mothers are speaking to each other and in communication!  It is widely accepted that the mother of the bride gets to choose her outfit first. She has first call on colour and style and after she has made her decision the mother of the groom can go out and choose her outfit.

This works well unless the MOB is very laid back and is in no hurry to find her outfit usually because she is trying to loose weight. This puts pressure on the MOG who may then get dispensation from MOB to choose her outfit first.

Given that the average bride and groom are likely to be in their late twenties or early thirties their mums are most probably in an over fifty age group. They may be in business or retired.

Choosing an outfit to wear to the wedding should be a pleasure, something to look forward to but very quickly it can turn into a pressure. It seems that as we get older many of us lose confidence. Mums tend to have been so busy looking after husbands, family and homes while running full time jobs that they very often don’t spend time on themselves. It’s only when a wedding is announced that suddenly the weight which has crept on over the years becomes a huge issue and for the first time for years many women look at themselves critically in the mirror and are unhappy with who is looking back.  Most of us in our fifties and sixties are not the size 8 we were when we were teenagers or the size we were when we got married. That’s life! This may strike a cord with some mothers but there are those too who have beautiful figures and lots of confidence and know exactly what will suit them and what they want to wear. Ironically there are many business women and medics at the top of their fields who in  their own environment are super confident but making decisions when dress shopping is just not their thing. Totally out of their comfort zone this group of mothers need a lot of experienced, honest advice and decisions may only be made after a few visits. Be kind on your self and choose a shop or designer who will understand you. We are all different but one thing we all have in common we want to look the very best we can and make our son or daughter proud.

Do your Homework

Before hitting the shops it is advisable, as with everything, to do some homework so that you don’t waste time or make a regrettable purchase. Ask for recommendations from friends who have been mothers of the bride of groom recently whose outfits you have admired. Spend some time on the internet on Pinterest to see what you admire on other people. If you are looking for a “dress and coat” type that in to Google. Be specific with your requests not too generic. Drill down to exactly what you have in mind. It may be “red lace coat with silk dress” and Google will deliver you the results. Of course you may not know what you are looking for and therefore just type in “mother off the bride outfits (and the area you are prepared to travel) and you will get a list of shops. It could be “designer outfits or bespoke or made to measure outfits for mothers of the bride or groom.”

Budget may or may not be important to you. If it is I would advise finding out typical prices before making an appointment.

Once you actually start shopping you need to know what colour you want to wear. Very often the bride has a colour theme for the wedding and you are expected to fit in to that. The wedding photographs look a lot better when the colours have been planned in advance and the colour scheme is harmonious.  However I would never advise to choose a colour because it tones in with the bridesmaids if it doesn’t suit you. The main thing is that your outfit suits YOU, compliments your skin tone and figure and makes you feel confident and amazing.  Most mother of the brides want the bride to be present or be available on FaceTime when finally choosing THE outfit. It helps to know you choice has been approved. Happy bride  = happy mother!  Occasionally we have to help the bride see why her mother should have a certain outfit because it suits her so much better and is more flattering than one that the bride might be leaning towards. Tact and diplomacy usually works and Mum gets what she wants. One strange misconception held by some brides which occasionally crops up (and really upsets me) is “You can’t have that Mum because it’s more expensive than my dress !”

“Dear Bride, Is this not the woman who brought you into the world, who changed your nappies who nursed you when you were sick, who has been there for you through thick and thin and who is probably contributing financially to your wedding? You would deny her the outfit that makes her look and feel amazing …….. Because it’s more expensive than your dress!”  Rant over. I rest my case.

Actually, while I’m on my high horse something else that irritates me is mothers saying that they can’t wear ivory because they might upstage the bride! I think this is delusional! You are not going to upstage the bride. Ivory can look beautiful in the right outfit and photos of bride and mum together look soft, romantic and coordinated. What I do believe is that you should ask the bride if she has any objections to you wearing ivory.  We have made a lot of outfits in ivory for mothers and usually the bride has asked her to wear it. I’m saying ivory and cream lots of people call everything between white and beige – White. There are so many different shades of ivory and cream but they are not WHITE!

We had a quite a bit of publicity in Hello magazine after Judy Murray wore one of our outfits in cream to Andy and Kim’s wedding. They called her coat white and suggested she was trying to upstage the bride this prompted a second  article “Designer says Judy’s coat is cream not white!  Anyway the bride had been consulted. Judy looked stunning but she certainly didn’t look like a bride.

Off the peg  v Bespoke

Off the peg

To choose an outfit from a retail shop I would advise starting early.  A misconception is to leave it till nearer the wedding in the expectation that you will have dropped a dress size or two. This can be stressful. The majority of weddings are still in the summer. The stock comes in February and as each month goes by, will become more limited in available sizes and colour. Therefore by the time you go out to look there may not be much choice left. The main labels for mother of the bride outfits are sold all over the country and are not exclusive. A customer can travel from Aberdeen to London to find something different but end up seeing exactly the same collections as in her local store. This is always a worry that a guest will turn up in the same outfit.

Fabric quality may feel different in reality to how it looks on the website pictures.

Colour choice is limited and standard sizes will need altered.

Prices however depending on manufacturer will be 3 figures rather than 4 and your outfit can be taken away on day of purchase.

Beware of staff on commission.


Again start early as the summer period is exceedingly busy and only a limited number of outfits can physically be made.  Having a dress or outfit individually made for you may cost a bit more but there are many advantages. Firstly fabric is better quality mostly pure silks. You are buying direct from the designer so there is no middle man therefore you are actually getting better value for money. Flexibility in style and choice of colour and fabric mean that as well as fitting you perfectly your outfit is unlikely to be the same as another as they are not mass produced. If it is important to you, an outfit that is bespoke will be made in the UK and not in China where most manufacturers’ designs are made.  When you order a made to measure or couture dress or outfit a pattern will be made individually for you and the first fitting will be in a toile. Second fitting is in your fabric and usually you can take the outfit away at your 3rd fitting. In our company we have an in house milliner and accessories. Other designers may offer the same service.

As you are not walking out with the outfit the full cost is split over the period of time that the outfit is being made. A deposit secures the order and the balance is paid on collection. Spreading the cost is usually more appealing to most people.

Does my bum look big in this ?

The first thing most of our clients say is I’m Mother of the Bride/Groom but I don’t want to look like a typical MOB/MOG. The image conjured up by “typical” seems to be of a taffeta clad lady squeezed into a ruched dress with bolero jacket and looking a bit formal and uncomfortable. My own design handwriting is understated and elegant, flattering fluid styles that skirt over the negatives and enhance the positives. Concentrate on and accentuate your good points and disguise the ones that you don’t want others focusing on. This is where made to measure comes into its own. However if you are not going down the bespoke route please remember that off the peg outfits will more than likely need altered. Most people are not a standard size. I have measured thousands of women over 26 years and it never fails to amaze me that we all buy our day clothes off the peg from retailers. No two people are exactly the same, we are so many different shapes and sizes. Mostly we compromise or wear separates very few can wear dresses without some major alteration.

Therefore remember that alterations will add to the cost of your outfit. Fitted styles tend to be smaller on the waist than real people therefore the size you to buy may be determined and limited by waist /tummy size. It could be that it’s hip size that is too small and therefore pushes you up a size or two requiring alterations  to the top half. Most mothers want to cover their arms and a lot of off the peg dresses are sleeveless. All things to be considered when deciding whether to buy from a retailer or designer.

On the subject of price I find that a lot of women will spend happily on children and grandchildren and other things but when it comes to spending money on themselves they have to “justify “ it. I hear it’s not that I can’t afford it but I can’t “justify” it.

Everyone has different priorities and different budgets but I do believe that mothers should give themselves a little more self love in the words of L’Oreal “because you’re worth it”.

On the Day

Finally the wedding  day has arrived. Time for the big reveal.  You should be feeling a million dollars in an outfit that gives you confidence. You should feel comfortable and look relaxed knowing that you look fabulous.

You shouldn’t need to fidget with anything just put your outfit on, know you look the part, and forget about it for the rest of the day. Be ready to enjoy every minute of a day that will go by all too quickly. Be prepared to accept all the compliments graciously.

Another bit of etiquette. If you are the bride’s mother remember you control when the hats come off. The guests don’t take their hats off until the Mother of the Bride removes her hat!

Have the most amazing day.  x

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Joyce’s Top Wedding Tips

Download Joyce’s suggestions gained over 30 years of personal experience to help you have the best day ever.

Body Measurement Size Chart

Product Measurements

How to Measure

Size guide

1. Bust
Measure around your back and the fullest part of your bust

2. Waist
Measure the slimmest part below your ribs and above your navel

3. Hips
Measure around the fullest part of your hips

4. Height
Get someone to help you with this and measure from head to toe