The Mother-of-the-Groom Dress Etiquette Moms Need to Read

From who picks the outfit to which colors are best.
chapelle johnson the knot assistant editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot assistant editor
Chapelle Johnson
Assistant Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Sep 09, 2022

As the mother of the groom, in addition to helping the couple with select planning tasks, you'll have an important role in the wedding party on the big day. Because of this, you'll need a special outfit for the nuptials. And lucky for you, mother-of-the-groom dress etiquette has evolved over the years. In the past, moms of both the bride and groom traditionally wore matronly dresses—but that's hardly the case anymore. Now, moms are encouraged to wear a look that makes them feel fashionable and confident (with the couple's approval, of course).

Before you start shopping for mother-of-the-groom attire, there are some important considerations to take into account. Here, we'll break down mother-of-the-groom dress etiquette, like what the mother of the groom should wear and even what color should the mother of the groom wear. Read our expert fashion advice so you're well equipped to find a stunning outfit for the big day.

Mother-of-the-Groom Dress Etiquette

The best practice as the mother of the groom is to keep the lines of communication open between you and the to-be-weds. This applies to all aspects of the wedding, including your wedding outfit. So make sure to speak with the couple and your future child-in-law's parent(s) about coordinating attire, the formality of the wedding and when you should purchase your outfit.

FAQs About Mother-of-the-Groom Wedding Attire

There are a lot of mother-of-the-groom dress etiquette rules that many mothers have followed, but every wedding and couple is different, so that doesn't mean you have to follow them too. Read below for expert answers to all your mother-of-the-groom wedding attire-related questions to help guide you before the big day.

What does the mother of the groom wear?

Mother-of-the-groom dress etiquette isn't complicated. Like the bride's mom, the mother of the groom should wear an outfit that fits the wedding theme. The season and venue can both help determine what sort of outfit the mother of the groom wears. Elegant evening gowns, lace midi dresses and chic jumpsuits are all appropriate options for moms. The mother of the groom dress should also follow the wedding dress code. Formal weddings require an upscale dress or pantsuit, while the outfit can be more relaxed for a casual wedding. In general, the mother of the groom should wear something comfortable and flattering. Go for a look that shows off your style—there's no reason you can't wear an of-the-moment trend or your go-to silhouette.

Who picks out the mother-of-the-groom dress?

You're responsible for picking your wedding day outfit—you'll be the one wearing it, after all. Despite this, the mother of the groom is still encouraged to talk about potential wedding outfits with the child-in-law's parent(s) and the couple. Even though it's not a mother-of-the-groom dress rule, Julie Sabatino, bridal stylist and founder of The Stylish Bride, thinks that having a conversation with the couple about what you should wear before shopping is key. "I've seen brides give a lot of pretty strict guidelines. And I've seen some brides say, 'I don't care if you wear white. It doesn't even matter to me.' So no matter who the bride is, it's important to play within that. But in general, I would say that you want the bride's blessing for your dress," Sabatino says. Having an open discussion from the start will ensure everyone is on the same page for the wedding day fashion.

Who pays for the mother-of-the-groom dress?

Just like the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom is responsible for paying for her own attire. Depending on the couple's wedding budget, they may offer to pay for your wedding outfit, but unless they tell you this directly, you're expected to cover your mother-of-the-groom outfit costs. Before shopping for your wedding outfit, set a budget so you don't overspend. While shopping, we suggest you take photos of yourself wearing your top three outfit options. Send the photos to the couple for their approval if you're nervous that your selections might clash with the wedding theme or the wedding party's attire. This way you and the couple are happy and confident about the final decision.

What color should the mother of the groom wear?

The mother of the groom should wear colors that look nice on her and complement the wedding colors. That doesn't mean you're supposed to wear the wedding theme colors––you want to stand out at the wedding, not blend in with the backdrop. If you're unsure where to start with finding the right color for you and your event, don't worry. Nayri, a wedding fashion expert and representative for Lovella Bridal, says her favorite colors for moms are "navy blue, burgundy, champagne, gray, blush pink and pastel blue." She adds, "there are some really pretty fabrics in nice metallic brown colors too."

The couple might want family members to coordinate colors with the wedding party. Work with the to-be-weds to determine a few colors that would complement their preferred palette. "I've seen couples have all the important guests wear the same color, which looks lovely and helps make everyone look cohesive," Nayri says. Have this conversation before shopping so the process is easier for everyone involved. (Plus, it'll narrow down dress options for you too.)

  • Is it okay for the mother of the groom to wear black?

Depending on the wedding theme and dress code, wearing black is totally okay. For example, if the couple has decided on a black-tie wedding dress code, wearing black fits perfectly. "I have a lot of Southern clients who say they would never wear black to a wedding. They look at it as a morbid color for a wedding, but a lot of my clients from elsewhere don't mind. It depends on the wedding," Sabatino says.

NO....but in all seriousness, mother-of-the-groom dress etiquette encourages mothers to steer clear of wearing white or neutral hues, unless specifically approved by the bride, since they can look white on camera. These shades may look similar to the bride's wedding dress, so it's best to wear different colors to avoid any color mishaps. However, some couples may want an all-white wedding party—if that's the case, wearing a frosty hue is perfectly okay.

Do the mother of the bride and groom match?

The mothers of the bride and groom don't need to match on the wedding day. Both are encouraged to wear outfits that represent their personal style. If the couple does prefer to have the moms wear complementary outfits, try to find colors or silhouettes that look great together. (For example, outfits with bold patterns or bright colors may clash in photos.) By coordinating outfits, the mothers of the bride and groom will avoid mismatched colors or levels of formality. If the moms do end up with very similar gowns, they can differentiate their looks with accessories like jewelry or hair pieces.

Nayri reminds mothers to not get discouraged while shopping for their wedding outfits. "The mother-of-the-bride and mother-of-the-groom dresses are often the most challenging to shop for. Primarily because of the inventory and options available. So, try not to put too much emphasis on matching a theme or style. It's okay for things to be different and complement one another," Nayri says.

Does the mother of the groom get ready with the bride?

Even though the mother of the groom and the bride typically don't get ready together, no mother-of-the-groom dress rule advises against it. This means the decision depends on the relationship you and the bride have with one another. "The bride has to do what feels right to her, but I am of the opinion that she should be more inclusive than not because these are going to be her in-laws for a long time," Sabatino says. If getting ready with the bride isn't in the cards, arrive already dressed and seek the bride out to give well wishes before the wedding ceremony.

What does the mother of the groom wear to the rehearsal dinner?

Similar to the groom's mother's dress etiquette for the wedding, you should follow whatever theme and dress code are in place for the rehearsal dinner. Most likely, the couple will put the attire-related information on their rehearsal dinner invitation or their wedding website, so check those two places before contacting the couple about what you should wear. For example, if the invitation says the dress code is semi-formal or dressy formal attire, then you should wear a mid-length dress or classy jumpsuit.

Three Mother-of-the-Groom & Mother-of-the-Bride Dress Differences

We've answered the most common mother-of-the-groom dress etiquette questions, now it's time to learn the major differences between a mother-of-the-groom and mother-of-the-bride outfit. Make sure you follow these tips to avoid stepping on any toes.

How the gowns are selected.

Traditionally, the mother of the bride selects her dress first and then tells the mother of the groom what style of dress she chose so the mother of the groom can pick accordingly. So, if you're thinking, 'What does the mother of the groom wear?' Remember you should find a dress that works in harmony with the mother of the bride's dress. But even though the mother of the bride typically chooses her dress first, that doesn't mean you and her can't go dress shopping together. Think of the shopping process as a perfect opportunity to bond with one another before the big day. Going wedding outfit shopping together also decreases the likelihood of you and the mother of the bride clashing.

When the gowns are bought.

The to-be-weds get their wedding outfits early in the planning process (ideally a year to nine months before the wedding date), and moms should plan to find their looks shortly after. This ensures that everyone has plenty of stress-free time to get alterations if necessary. Even though shopping far ahead of time for your outfit is always a good idea, Sabatino says you may want to consider what season the wedding is in before buying your attire. "If you have a bride getting married next summer, those summer outfits aren't going to be in the stores until next spring. So unless you want something like a navy-colored dress that doesn't relate to any particular season, you can start shopping. Otherwise might not find what you're looking for. You have to figure out when it makes the most sense to shop based on a timing and seasonality perspective," Sabatino explains. So despite traditional mother-of-the-groom dress etiquette saying the mother of the bride should buy her outfit first, have open communication with the mother of the bride before you shop, so both of you can work on a timeline that best fits everyone's needs.

The color of the gowns.

The mother of the bride doesn't need to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Instead, she can be influenced by the colors of their dresses. Depending on the couple's preference, the mother of the bride can even choose the same color as the bridesmaids or one that's in the same vein. For mothers of the groom wondering what color should the mother of the groom wear, they should choose a color that coordinates more with the wedding color scheme rather than the wedding party––unless told otherwise by the couple.

There are a lot of mother-of-the-groom dress rules, but keep in mind that these aren't steadfast rules. Going shopping by yourself or with loved ones for the wedding should be an enjoyable experience, so try not to let the weight of tradition overwhelm you. "Don't overthink it! Have some fun and enjoy the process. Turn your stress and anxiety about shopping into action to reduce your stress," Nayri advises.

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