Mother of the Groom: Basic Etiquette Q&A

Here's an etiquette survival guide for the groom's mom.
Groom hugs his mother
Photo by Leigh Miller Photography

Wondering about separate bridal showers, the mother/son dance, the rehearsal dinner, and other miscellaneous mother-of-the groom mysteries? Here's an etiquette roundup with the solutions you need to pull off your role perfectly.

Q. Can the groom's parents host the engagement party?

A. Anyone can host the engagement party, but tradition dictates that the bride's parents have first dibs on the soiree. The groom's parents can then throw their own party, or both sets of parents can come together to host the fete jointly. Keep in mind that the rehearsal dinner is the domain of the groom's parents.

Q. My husband and I heard that it's good form to invite the bride's parents over for cocktails once the engagement has been announced. Is this true?

A. Traditionally, yes -- the groom's parents call on the bride's parents after their son tells them he's getting hitched. That means they either drop them a nice note or make a phone call to make plans to get together. Getting together can mean dinner or drinks at their home, dinner and drinks out, a weekend trip to the town where they live, whatever. But it's also totally okay for the bride's parents to make the first move, or for the couple to get everyone together to get acquainted.

Q. As the MOG, is there some sort of dress code I need to be following?

A. Per general etiquette, the MOB is to buy her wedding-day frock first, and then notify the MOG in a friendly, non-threatening format. The phone call is meant to subtly clue in the MOG to color, length, and overall formality. But if you don't get word by the 4-month mark, touch base with your daughter-in-law-to-be about what to do.

Q. What duties fall under the MOG's jurisdiction?

A. Typically, the bride is in charge of assigning tasks, and the degree of mom-involvement should be left to her discretion. You can take over any of the wedding-planning responsibilities, once you get the go-ahead from the bride.

For an overview of your traditional duties, see Mother of the Groom: Your Duties in Detail.

Q. What is the father of the groom supposed to be doing?

A. The father of the groom can perform many tasks -- include him in any of the to-dos you plan on tackling yourself. Go ahead and point him in the right direction.

Q. Can the MOG host a separate shower for the bride, inviting only the groom's family and some of her dear friends and neighbors, if they live far away from the bride's friends and relatives?

A. It's most traditional to have just one shower, hosted by the bride's attendants (or her family), with the MOG and other groom family members included on the guest list. Even so, many brides will have a several showers -- one at work, one at a spa with friends, one back home at her mom's. So it's actually okay (and pretty common) for a bride to be feted by the groom's family in addition to the "original" shower. Just make sure to touch base with the bride's maid of honor (or whoever is hosting the other shower) to let her know that your decision to throw a separate shower is because of the distance. Also, to avoid stepping on any toes, host your shower after the fact, not before. Remember, the point of a shower is for all of the women close to the bride to come together for a few hours of gift-giving, good eats, and female bonding. If the two camps aren't able to mingle, everyone should try to keep the bride's interests at heart and go from there.

Q. Is the MOG invited to the bachelorette party?

A. When it comes to bachelor and bachelorette parties, usually a no parents rule is a good call. In some circles, however, you will find the bride's and groom's dads whooping it up at the bachelor party. So it's perfectly logical to assume you'd be invited to the bachelorette bash. But think about it: If you were the bride, would you want your future mother-in-law to be along for the ride as you cackle, flirt with random guys, and otherwise embarrass yourself? Don't take not being invited personally -- consider it good judgment. Maybe invite the bride out for your own night on the town (albeit more low-key) for some old-school female bonding.

Q. Does the groom's family just pay for the rehearsal dinner or must they be in charge of planning it, too? Who makes up the guest list?

A. Confer with the bride and groom to devise a game plan that you and the groom's dad, as hosts, will eventually carry out. For example, they'll provide you with a guest list (usually the wedding party, parents, grandparents, and close out-of-town relatives), and you'll be the one to send out invitations. Get a sense of what they're looking for (a pizza party, a backyard picnic, a four-course meal at the 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 money is an issue. Try your best to compromise, while keeping the wishes of the bride and groom at heart.

Q. Does the MOG have to stand in the receiving line?

A. Having a receiving line is optional, but they are a staple at traditional weddings. So you can probably expect to assume the position after the ceremony; traditionally, the groom's parents and bride's parents will flank the newly married couple in line. Are you concerned about small talk? Keep in the mind that the receiving line is quick and painless. Guests will simply shake your hand and offer warm but succinct congratulations to you and your husband. There will be no time for chatting with people you don't know (or like).

Also, keep in mind that some couples have their wedding party (parents included) formally announced upon arrival at the reception. This reception ritual can function in lieu of or in addition to a receiving line. Here, you and your escort have only to walk into the reception when your name is called, while guests applaud. This is also quick and painless. Your son and future daughter-in-law just want to spotlight you and give you proper recognition. Why not indulge them?

Q. What can I expect from the mother/son dance?

A. The mother/son dance is an especially touching tradition and a wonderful way for the groom to honor his mom. Both the mother/son and father/daughter dances usually take place towards the end of the reception, before cake-cutting time. Some grooms and their moms decide on a song together; some grooms leave the tune entirely up to mom. What will happen: The DJ or banquet manager will announce that it's time for the father/daughter and mother/son dances. Often the groom and his mom are up first. At that time, you'll join each other in the spotlight, cut the rug with your baby boy when the music begins, and bask in your son's happiness.

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