Mother of the Bride Attire Etiquette 101: Everything You Need to Know

Read on for expert tips for Mom.
Monica Mercuri - The Knot Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
Monica Mercuri
Monica Mercuri - The Knot Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
Monica Mercuri
Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
  • Monica writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in fashion commerce content
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Monica was an assistant style and market editor at House Beautiful
  • Monica holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs
Updated Feb 23, 2023

Mother of the bride attire etiquette can be confusing at first, especially since it's different for each wedding and couple. You probably have questions like: What color should the mother of the bride wear? And who picks the mother of the bride outfit? As with bridal fashion, mother of the bride attire doesn't have too many steadfast rules. There are a few considerations to take into account, including the wedding party gowns, the mother of the groom's dress and most importantly, the couple's preference.

In general, the mother of the bride is encouraged to wear something she and her daughter both love. We've answered the most common mother of the bride attire questions to make it easier for you to shop (so you can focus on the other glamorous parts of the getting-ready process, like choosing your accessories and perfecting your MOB hairstyle).

In this article:

What Does the Mother of the Bride Wear?

Mother of the bride attire etiquette is constantly evolving. In the past, mother of the bride dresses had a reputation for being matronly or overly conservative—but that's hardly the case anymore. (Psst: The same goes for grandmother of the bride dresses, too.) Moms are encouraged to wear an outfit that they love (with the bride's approval, of course). Sleek evening gowns, trendy midis, maxi dresses, dressy jumpsuits and chic pantsuits are all excellent options for the mother of the bride.

There are a few factors that can influence mother of the bride attire. "No matter what outfit we're looking for, for a wedding, we really take into account the venue, the date and the seasonality," says Julie Sabatino, bridal stylist and founder of The Stylish Bride. You'll also want to consider the wedding dress code and what styles make Mom truly feel great. For example, the mother of the bride may not want to wear a long, heavy skirt or lace sleeves in the middle of summer, and she may prefer to cover up with a wrap or shawl for a winter wedding.

As we mentioned earlier, the wedding venue can also help determine what the mother of the bride wears. A formal setting calls for a more upscale ensemble, while a casual wedding outfit is appropriate for laid-back celebrations. Take inspiration from the wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses, as these can help influence what the mother of the bride should wear. Luckily, we've done all the shopping for you (and created curated roundups for spring, summer, fall and winter, below).

Shop Mother of the Bride Dresses by Season

What Color Does the Mother of the Bride Wear?

There's not one specific color the mother of the bride should wear. But unless you've received approval from the couple, it's best to steer clear from white, ivory or champagne hues as not to take attention away from the bride. Additionally, the bridesmaid dresses and wedding color scheme can both influence mother of the bride attire. If the bridal party has mismatched dresses, the mother of the bride can easily find a look that complements the rest of the wedding party. Ultimately, the MOB should defer to the couple regarding what colors are appropriate for their ceremony.

Does the Bride Pick the Mother of the Bride Dress?

Choosing the mother of the bride's dress should be a collaborative effort. "In an ideal scenario, they would both fall in love with it. I'd say that doesn't always happen," explains Sabatino. "You want the bride's blessing, if that's possible, and make sure you are both on the same page."

The couple will likely have ideas and opinions on what her Mom should wear, but Mom should get a say as well. As a general rule, it's best to ask for the bride's thoughts on color and style before starting the shopping process. This is especially important if Mom is considering a look that's similar to the dress of the bride, the bridesmaids or the mother of the groom.

Does the Mother of the Bride Dress Need to Match Bridesmaids?

No, the mother of the bride doesn't need to match the bridesmaids or the wedding party in general. The bride may prefer to have corresponding colors for a cohesive look, but it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Instead of matching colors, consider looking for a mother of the bride dress in a similar hue that complements the bridesmaids. A consultant at your local bridal salon can help with color matching if that's what the bride wants.

It's also fine for the mother of the bride to wear an outfit that doesn't match the bridesmaids or the wedding color scheme. Some brides may not have a preference for what Mom wears. If that's the case, any appropriate look will do.

Should Mothers of the Bride and Groom Match?

It's not necessary for the mothers of the bride and groom to match. The couple may prefer to have their moms wear complementary colors, though, in which case both are advised to discuss outfit ideas. "Etiquette says that the mother of the bride picks their dress and color first," adds Sabatino. "You don't want to match, but you do want to coordinate so that you're not totally out of scope."

The couple can offer suggestions for colors, styles and levels of formality to help their moms choose wedding day outfits. While not necessarily required, having the mothers of the bride and groom collaborate on their attire will make for a smoother process and eliminate any style mishaps. (Read about mother of the groom dress etiquette to learn more.)

Are There Different Rules for Stepmother of the Bride Attire?

What about stepmother of the bride attire? Do the same rules apply? The answer depends on your relationship with your stepchild and what the couple wants on their wedding day.

For example, if the stepmother has played a crucial role in the bride's upbringing, the couple might want them to wear a traditional MOB or MOG outfit. But if wearing a similar outfit to the mother of the bride or groom causes issues, it might be best for the stepmother to dress similarly to the other guests attending the wedding. Ultimately, what the stepmother of the bride wears depends on the family relationship and what the couple is comfortable with.

Sarah Hanlon contributed to the reporting of this article.

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