Mother of the Bride – What to Wear?

posted on 17 April 2012 by The Tie The Knot Team
posted to Wedding Etiquette, Wedding Tips & Advice


There are a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts when it comes to mothers’ of the bride, and the mother of the groom for that matter. Protocol and etiquette dictate quite a number of guidelines that go something like this:

Etiquette schmettiquette

  • The mother of the bride’s dress colour should be one of the wedding palette
  • The mother of the bride should choose her dress before the mother of the groom
  • The mother of the bride / groom should never wear the exact same colour as the bridesmaids
  • The mother of the bride and mother of the groom’s colours should co-ordinate (the mother of the bride should send a swatch of her material to the mother of the groom)
  • If the wedding is formal, the mother of the bride should wear tea-length dresses (floor length)
  • If one is going to wear a hat, both should
  • A day time wedding dictates a short dress
  • Flashy, gaudy colours are considered in bad taste
  • Traditionally avoid dresses in white, ivory or champagne, and black or red

Whether or not you hold any of these rather old-fashioned ideas dear is up to the bride really, and what she wants from her day. If you’re doing the formal thing and want to stick to protocol, then the above guidelines become rather important.

But for most modern brides, a lot of these ideas are for the birds and considered a thing of the past. One could stand in your mother’s shoes for a minute though and remember that, despite it’s being unquestionably your day, the mother of the bride has a rather big dilemma when choosing what to wear, and needs all the guidance and help she can get.

The reason is that despite its being irrefutably your day, the woman people are going to look after you is your mother. They’re going to want to see what you’ll look like in a couple of decades and how well she’s stood the test of time.

So, in a more modern context: yes, black is out. Unless the bride is wearing white and the bridesmaids red, and mother of the bride’s obvious choice of colour is then – you got it – black.

Bottom line is: if the bride has very clear guidelines for both mothers, it helps sets their minds at ease and gives them an idea of what is expected of them.

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What Do You Think?

  1. 13 Jan 2013
    Emily Coetzer says

    Hi my daughter getting married in three weeks. Colour of wedding purple and silver. The father and step mother are wearing purple and the dad a black suit and silver tie. I am still looking. Not much out there in a size 20. What colour should I wear? Will probably have to have one made. Thanks

  2. 4 Nov 2012
    Greta says

    Hi, i went shopping with my daughter and my sister for the bridesmaids dress for my daughters wedding. (unfortunately the bridesmaid could not attend due to distance). We found a dress first for the bridemaid in cobalt blue which is a strapless floor length chiffon style. When we went shopping for my dress we found one i liked in black and champagne. Both my sister and daughter liked it but decided we needed to continue shopping in case we found something else. In another store we found another dress which is peplan style, knee length with cap sleeve but it is also in cobalt blue. My daughter insisted i buy this dress as this was her favourite one so far and this is the one she wanted me to wear. Well i bought the dress but i feel a bit uncomfortable about wearing this as its exactly the same colour as the bridesmaid (she is only having one). So the question is, do i buy the dress i first wanted or wear the dress my daughter likes. As she said, it is her wedding and she wants me to wear it but??? In my country it is not considered correct to wear the same as the bridesmaid. I am really torn between making my daughter happy and having all the guests looking at me askanse. Can someone advise?

  3. 25 Oct 2012
    JC says

    Hi..I am mom of the bride and am looking for help to find a dressmaker in Johburg who can help make my dress. Wedding is March 2013, but because of Christmas I dont want to leave things too late…
    Please help

  4. 24 Oct 2012
    Dianne Nelson says

    Hi, my step-daughter is getting married soon (8 Dec 2012) Color Palette is Black / white and silver. Hubby will be walking her down the isle and her mom wil be present as well. I have already told her that I am there for support only but her mom and hubby must enjoy the honor on/of the day. So, my main question is, is it appropriate to deviate from the bridal colors? I was thinking of a lovely pastel color dress?

    • 25 Oct 2012
      The Tie The Knot Team says

      Hi Dianne. Yes I think you are able to deviate from the colour palette. Pastel colours are a great option! Good luck and we hope you all have a wonderful day.

  5. 23 Apr 2012
    The Tie The Knot Team says

    Hi Johannette, first off congratulations on the upcoming wedding! Your wedding palette sounds simply stunning! We’d suggest keeping your mother’s outfit in similar colours to your palette however the key is ensuring your mom feels comfortable in what she is in. So if she is more comfortable wearing a full length skirt then she should go with that option, otherwise a knee length skirt is absolutely fine. Your mother should feel comfortable and confident in what she is wearing, find a style that you and your mom are comfortable with and work from that (take a peak in her clothing cupboard for ideas). Also if she’s nervous about walking in heels there are plenty of stunning shoes styles that have very low or no heels. Enjoy the special moment of walking down the isle with your mother. x

  6. 23 Apr 2012
    Johannette van Coller says

    Hi, i am getting married the 15th of December. My dad past away when i was 16. So i asked my mom to walk me down the aisle. My colour palette for wedding is pink, light green (protea colours) bridesmaids are wearing gray. What should my mother wear? a long dress? This is difficult because she is walking me down the aisle, couple of ideas???