If, like one of my mother of the groom friends, you bust out crying at the site of beige dresses, you’ll be glad to know you probably won’t have to wear one to your son’s wedding. There are six things to do, plus one “don’t”, when solving the highly-Googled dilemma of what to wear as mother of the groom.
Consult with the bride
Nearly every question a mother of the groom has can be answered with this counsel: ask your future daughter-in-law what she prefers. This is particularly true when you are deciding what to wear. And, while you’re having that heart-to-heart, ask what she objects to as well. There are at least a couple of good reasons for this.
First of all, the question demonstrates your respect. I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t respond positively to genuine respect.
Secondly, you’ll know what not to do. The definitive answer to whether it’s okay to wear white or black is here. If the bride is okay with it, you can be too, although I can’t promise you Aunt Ethel won’t chastise you for it.
If you hear, “whatever you feel beautiful in,” as the luckiest mothers do, you’ll know the years ahead will be beautiful too.
Defer to her mother
The custom is to allow the bride’s mother to decide what she will be wearing before you make your own choice. She should inform you of her decision six months before the wedding, the experts say, but if she does not do that, it’s perfectly okay to ring her up and have a casual conversation about it.
This dance of etiquette is admittedly old-fashioned, and you’ll find plenty of experts who tell you it isn’t necessary anymore. I agree. It isn’t necessary, and in many cases, it isn’t practical. When possible, though, is courtesy ever a bad idea? If you do this, the bride’s mother receives the same message you gave your daughter-in-law in asking her preference. Each will know you respect her role in the wedding and in the future of your family.
Once you know what the bride’s mother is wearing, choose your own outfit in a complimentary style and color. If she’s wearing a more formal outfit, you should follow suit. If she’s more relaxed, you can be as well. The formality of the ceremony, what the bride and bridesmaids are wearing, time of day and the setting are all factors she should be considering in her own decision. By following her lead, you’ll be reflecting those parameters as well.
Some people will tell you to match the length of her outfit. If she wears a long dress, you do the same, for instance. It’s not bad advice, but I think you can be more flexible as long as formality is a match.
Generally, choose an outfit that complements the bridesmaids dresses as well as the colors of the wedding. Remember, you’ll be photographed with many of the people in the wedding party. Ideally, the resulting color palette will be pleasing. If not, who do you want to see standing in the wrong spot on the color wheel? Not you, right?
Wear something that fits. Obviously, it’s hard to enjoy yourself when something is too tight or too loose. It is hard to dance or even smile when your feet hurt.
Reluctantly, and at my husband’s insistence, I bought the same outfit in two sizes so that I could wear either one, or mix and match components, on the big day. I was really glad I did this. The peace of mind it gave me was priceless.
Some mothers have two different outfits, one for the ceremony and one for the reception. My daughter-in-law’s mother did this and had a great time dancing with everyone in a more comfortable outfit.
Having a backup also protects you against spills or last minute misfortunes, like uncooperative irons. Some people, during the shopping stage, bring home multiple outfits and then narrow it down before the big day. If you have the time and money to do this, and you’re okay with all the extra work involved in returning the rejects, it makes a lot of sense to me.
Be sure you feel good in what you’re wearing, and that what you’re wearing is right for you. If there were ever a time to love yourself the way you are, to celebrate the mom and the woman you are, this is it.
It may relieve you to know you’re not the only person who has struggled with this decision. In 2013, more than 70,000 people searched the Internet monthly for “mother of the groom dresses”, or some variation of that query.
For me, it was “mother of the groom pant suit.” I knew I wanted to wear a pant suit, preferably with a long jacket to elongate, minimize, slim and otherwise work some magic on a frame that celebrates being a mom with an extra pound per kid per year.
When I think back on it, I realize I spent a lot of time — a whole lot — on this decision. The bride’s mother and I talked about it many times. She was in a quandry too. It was a challenge to find something that didn’t feel too old or too young, too churchy or too bar-scene, too fat or out of season. The good news is there are many, many ways and places for you to look for the perfect mother of the groom outfit. I like the Internet, at least for research purposes. Other experienced mothers of the groom recommend bridal stores or high-end department stores for the best selection.
Don’t overlook your own closet. If you have something you felt beautiful in before, and it still fits, it may be exactly what you want. Why not save that money for something else for the occasion? It won’t be hard to find another opportunity to spend it, trust me.
However you shop, or not, enjoy the process. Include friends, family, even the bride if it’s feasible and group shopping is your cup of tea. This is just one part of a season that will become a memory at about the same rate your son went from fifth grade to the altar. Don’t blink.
This article assumes you are dealing with a rational, courteous and tasteful bride and mother of the bride. I hope this is the case, but it is not always true. If chaos is reigning on the wedding planning stage, never throw your own good judgment out the window. You are old enough to trust yourself. Make the best decision you can with the knowledge and circumstances you have. Do yourself and everyone else the favor of being the voice of calm at a party of crazy.