Mother-of-the-Groom Etiquette You Need to Know Before the Big Day

Mind your wedding etiquette P's and Q's with these expert tips.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate 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 07, 2022

You're starting the wedding-planning process with your son and want to ensure everything goes according to plan (or as well as it can, at least). One of the best ways to start making sure this happens is by knowing the mother-of-the-groom etiquette rules. If you're not sure if separate wedding showers are allowed, when the mother-son dance is, if you have to give a mother-of-the-groom speech and other miscellaneous mother-of-the-groom mysteries, don't fret—you're in the right place. Here are answers to all the common questions about wedding rules for the mother of the groom that you'll need before the big day to pull off your role perfectly.

Prewedding Mother-of-the-Groom Etiquette

As the mother of the groom, you must be cognizant of the dos and don'ts of wedding planning since you're most likely a part of the planning process. Depending on the family and budgets, there are certain responsibilities that you will need to take on as the mother of the groom. Here are the wedding rules for the mother of the groom you need to keep in mind for the prewedding events.

Can the groom's parents host the engagement party?

Anyone can host the engagement party, but tradition for bride and groom couples dictates that the bride's parents have first dibs on the soirée. If you're looking for a nontraditional option, Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol, says whichever side of the family lives closest to the couple can host the engagement party. "It is possible for the groom's family to host that engagement party, especially if they're in closer proximity to the bride and groom. Our world has shifted and changed, gone are the days of everybody living in the same town," Swann says.

You may have noticed that traditional wedding norms and behaviors surrounding wedding budgets have changed over the years, which impacts who traditionally pays for certain parts of the wedding. "It's really a lot of fun to honor the traditions of all the events around the wedding, but a more modern approach is to make a clear determination as to who is going to pay for what based upon the dynamics of the entire family unit, and that includes the bride and the groom," Swann says. So when you and your partner are sitting with your families discussing the wedding budget, figure out who pays for what based on personal finances, not tradition.

Can I host a separate wedding shower with only the groom's loved ones?

It's tradition to have one wedding shower, but this can be hosted by either side of the family and should include both sides on the guest list. Many couples have several showers—one at work, one with friends and one with family. There are a lot of showers being thrown, so you might think that hosting your own shower with only the groom's side of the family would be a good idea. We only approve of this idea if there's a big distance between the future child-in-law's loved ones and the groom's, resulting in it being a hassle to coordinate the wedding shower. We advise you to first discuss it with your future child-in-law's family before planning the party. Remember, the point of a shower is for all the couple's loved ones to come together for a few hours of gift giving, good food and bonding. If the two camps aren't able to mingle, everyone should try to keep the couple's interests at heart and go from there.

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Do I get a say on who's on the wedding guest list?

If you're helping plan or pay for the wedding, you should get a say on the wedding guest list. That doesn't mean you can say who can or can't come because that's up to the couple. The wedding protocol for the mother of the groom during guest-list planning is to politely ask how many guests she's permitted to invite. According to Swann, it's important that the mother of the groom is allowed a voice in the wedding guest list discussion because a wedding is about two families coming together. "I think it is important to include [the immediate] family and the extended family," Swann says. "The mother of the groom should just ask, 'What's my total? What's my limit?'" So during this planning process, remember to be fair and that the wedding guests want to celebrate both the to-be-weds.

Is the mother of the groom invited to the bach party?

When it comes to bach party invites, there's no official mother-of-the-groom etiquette, but a no-parents rule is usually a good call. "We have to keep in mind that a bachelorette party is more geared for the bride and her close group of friends or family members, and not really a parental type of a party," Swann explains. However, some couples are close to their future in-laws and don't think twice about inviting them to their bach parties. No matter what the to-be-weds decide to do, don't take it personally if you're not invited. Maybe invite your future child-in-law out for your own night on the town for some bonding time.

Why are the groom's parents responsible for hosting the rehearsal dinner?

In the past, the bride's family was solely responsible for hosting the engagement party and wedding, so to help alleviate some of the financial burden and wedding planning stress, the groom's family would host the rehearsal dinner. Now things are starting to change where, as Swann says, some "brides and grooms have their own money and are paying for everything themselves." If the couple is a part of the LGBTQ+ community, who's responsible for the rehearsal dinner will depend on which family can afford to host the event instead of gender-based wedding traditions. Regardless of the couple's situation, Swann recommends the families and the couple "sit down and figure out who's going to pay for what and always do that before they start planning [the event]. It doesn't matter what the dynamics of your coupledom are because that conversation is absolutely necessary."

When you're in the process of planning the rehearsal dinner, confer with the couple to devise a game plan that you, as host, will eventually carry out. For example, they'll provide you with a guest list, and you'll be the one to send out invitations. Get a sense of what they're looking for (a casual backyard BBQ or a four-course meal at a country club) and then offer to make the necessary arrangements and reservations. Of course, negotiating who's invited and where to eat may be necessary if you're working with a tight budget. Try your best to compromise while keeping the couple's wishes at heart.

Mother of the groom and groom hugging each other.

Mother-of-the-Groom Etiquette for the Wedding Day

Our mother-of-the-groom etiquette advice doesn't stop at the prewedding planning and events. Here are some helpful tips on how to go about the big day.

What's the mother-of-the-groom wedding-day dress code?

The mother-of-the-groom wedding-day outfit should match the formality of the wedding and the wedding theme. Per traditional wedding-outfit etiquette, the mother of the bride buys her wedding-day outfit first, then notifies the mother of the groom about the color, length and formality of her choice. But if the groom's mom doesn't get word by the four-month mark, she should ask the bride-to-be about what to do. For families that don't fit that traditional mother-of-the-groom etiquette rule, talk with the couple and wedding party members about how you can coordinate with their outfits and when you should start shopping for your wedding attire. Have more questions about mother-of-the-groom attire etiquette? We've answered every question there is about mother-of-the-groom attire.

Is the mother-son dance required?

The mother-son dance isn't required, but it's a touching tradition and a wonderful way for the groom to honor his mom. The mother-son and father-daughter dances usually take place toward the end of the reception, before the cake-cutting ceremony. To ensure you and your son get some bonding time together before the wedding, decide on a mother-son dance song together or take mother-son dancing classes. Swann suggests connecting with your son by preparing a conversation to have with him during the dance, which also helps take away any awkwardness. "Because there you are dancing, and everyone else is looking along. And it fills in the space and the time and takes away that awkward moment where the mom is just there dancing and giggling," Swann says. She also believes the mother-son dance is the perfect time for you to share additional thoughts or well wishes. "Talk about whatever you're proud of or bring up some fond memories of when he was younger. [The dance] allows you to really get into a very intimate and loving space with your son before he continues with his new life," Swann says.

Does the mother of the groom have to stand in the receiving line?

If the couple is having a receiving line, the mother of the groom should definitely be in attendance. Traditionally, the wedding hosts are at the start of the receiving line, then the newlyweds and other parents. The lineup order can depend on if there are stepparents and divorced parents present too. Most likely, the couple will talk to you about where you'll be standing before the wedding, but if not, our mother-of-the-groom etiquette advice is to ask them about it during the rehearsal dinner if you're nervous about standing in the "wrong" spot.

Does the mother of the groom give a speech?

Yes, there's typically a mother-of-the-groom speech in the wedding schedule. It's tradition for the speech to be given at the rehearsal dinner. But there isn't any wedding protocol for the mother of the groom that advises against her performing her speech at the wedding reception. If you're feeling nervous about public speaking, ask your son if you can deliver your speech during the rehearsal dinner, so it's in front of a smaller crowd.

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