Six Tips for Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom

I had a year and 11 months between when our daughter got engaged on our patio — with both families peering out the sunroom windows — and the beautiful May afternoon she married. 

Plenty of time, I thought, to lose my pandemic poundage (and then some), find the perfect Mother of the Bride (MOB) dress, decide whether I would continue coloring my hair or go full-on gray, and all the other choices that would culminate in a joyous and relaxed celebration of our younger child’s wedding.

But while it was a generous amount of prep time, I still overlooked some crucial details. None of them overshadowed our family’s most fantastic day in years, but I wish I’d known about them before being escorted down the aisle on my future son-in-law’s arm. I’m sharing them to save another MOB — or MOG — from my mistakes.

I have some tips for the mother of the bride or groom. (Credit: Elaine Johnson)

Advice for the mother of the bride and groom

1. The Dress: Don’t Be Afraid to Look Outside the Box

I did all my wedding shopping online partly because I don’t enjoy perusing racks or wiggling into gowns under fluorescent dressing room lights; for months, boxes arrived from retailers large and small. And for months, I shipped their shimmering contents right back.

I started the process by poring over my social media feeds to see what friends wore to their kids’ weddings. Then I sent the photos to my daughter to get her likes and dislikes. Thankfully, she was an easy bride. She preferred full-length, which pleased me as it allowed for more comfortable shoes and didn’t require me to address the hose-or-no-hose question that bedevils me every time I dress up.

And while she would have preferred me in a floaty pastel that would best complement the dove gray bridesmaid gowns, she quickly acquiesced to my unwavering commitment to navy. Perhaps because she, too, realized I might back into someone holding a glass of red wine as soon as the reception began.

After rejecting a few dozen dresses, I narrowed my search to less likely sources and ended up at eBay, where I found a half-price Teri Jon gown with attached tags. It was slightly big, but at 5-foot-4, I knew I’d need at least the hem altered (and budgeted for it). Of all the dresses I tried, this one felt the most like me. Not only was the color perfect, but the fabric was impervious to wrinkles and had a comfortable amount of stretch. Sold.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to shop the scratch-and-dent department for your MOB dress. Just get a good seamstress who can make it fit like it was made for you.

2. The Undergarments: Practice, Practice, Practice

I’ve worn shape wear occasionally, but never under a formal gown with a long, sleek skirt. It was immediately apparent that I would need a seamless undergarment that wouldn’t announce itself with every step down the aisle.

After sorting through a dozen shapewear options for the one magic garment that could best smooth my resistant flab, I was set. Please take my advice; the shapewear you choose is essential, and practicing hoisting your dress up while adjusting your shapewear is also important. 

Lesson learned: Practice makes perfect, especially in shapewear.

3. The Shoes: Take Nothing for Granted

Relieved that my full-length dress would allow cover for more comfortable shoes, I quickly ruled out high-heeled sandals as too unstable and uncomfortable for my old-lady bunions. Instead, I settled on a pair of simple pumps for the ceremony. Then to be safe, I also ordered a pair of stylish navy flats in case my feet started screaming before the first dance. 

Both pairs were comfortable out of the box, and I thought I was covered. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

My feet rebelled against both the heels and the flats only an hour into the reception, and I was in agony. Fortunately, one of the bridesmaids graciously offered me her sneakers. Unfortunately, they looked like two white bricks peering under my elegant, deep blue dress. Not a great look, but comfort is king.

Lesson learned: Practice wearing your wedding shoes for at least a day to ensure they’ll comfortably see you through the Big Day (and night). And just in case, pack ballet flats or sneakers that match your dress.

4. The Hair: Stick with What Suits You

Like many women who have become weary of the constant battle against gray roots, I seriously considered embracing my natural color (whatever that was). As the pre-wedding months passed, I worked with my hairdresser to avoid a skunk-like demarcation as I grew out my hair, figuring I could always revert to my brunette color as the big day approached.

And revert I did. 

Lesson learned: Restoring hair to its natural state after years of coloring isn’t for the faint of heart. Wedding photos are forever, and you may decide that drastically changing your look can wait until after the ceremony. 

5. The Makeup: Worth Every Penny

I’d never had my makeup professionally done and saw no immediate reason to deviate from that practice. Instead, I studied YouTube videos and ordered whatever new makeup products appeared on my Instagram feed. When the results were so-so, I finally understood why makeup artists and hair stylists are now considered an essential part of the wedding-day prep. 

I welcomed their services, even if I did balk at getting my hair and makeup done five hours before the wedding. “If you go to bed in this makeup, it will still look fresh tomorrow morning,” the makeup artist assured me. And come 3 a.m., when I finally got around to washing my face, I realized she was right.

Lesson learned: If you’re ever going to splurge on hair and makeup, this is the day.

6. The Photos: Leave Nothing to Chance

I am not a member of the selfie generation. I’ve never learned how to pose gracefully for the camera. I shudder when someone turns a lens on me. Such is the plight of the chronically unphotogenic.

So, I was relieved that my daughter and her fiancé selected and managed the photographer. And I was okay with standing wherever the pro behind the camera put me. However, posing for photos taken by family and friends was another matter. 

Once the photos started posting to the bridal QR code, I was sorry I hadn’t discussed them with my daughter to ensure that certain professional shots were included. And I desperately wished I had put my sneaker-clad foot down when being ushered into a lineup by anyone with an iPhone.

No mother of the bride/groom should be crouching in the front row of a group photo, especially when she’s already the shortest person there. And no wedding party member should count on an amateur photog to ensure their hair is good and they have only one chin on display.

Lesson learned: Practice posing in advance for a family member or friend. Get a feel for your best angles, how to hold your head, and how to maintain good posture. And whatever you do, never allow a well-intended friend or family member to talk you into a pose that is uncomfortable or undignified. 

Now, nearly a year after my daughter’s wedding, I continue to rue those appalling white tennis shoes, and there are specific photos I’d still like to burn. But in the end, I was satisfied to feel comfortable in my dress and my skin while never forgetting that it was her day, not mine. I wanted our darling girl to shine bright, as she did in her glittering gown with her handsome new husband at her side and family and friends surrounding them with love and good wishes. 

It was a magical day. And when my son gets married, it will be another magical day — one where I won’t be flashing white tennis shoes or gracelessly hunched over in a once-in-a-lifetime family portrait.

More Great Reading:

Dear Daughter-In-Law-To-Be, I Promise You This

About Elaine Johnson

Elaine Johnson was a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Kansas City Star, freelanced for Cosmopolitan and Modern Bride, and worked as a digital editor and content writer. Now semi-retired, she is looking forward to writing more essays and maybe even attempting a memoir. You can find her on: Facebook: Elaine Johnson Twitter: @byelainejohnson Instagram: @byelainejohnson.

Read more posts by Elaine

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