The modern guide to being mother of the bride

Katie Byrne

If your child is preparing to say “I do”, get inspired with these tips for being a thoroughly 21st century mother of the bride

Listen up, ladies. Whilst being mother of the bride (or groom, for that matter) once meant your role in your child’s wedding day was limited largely to wearing a fancy hat, times have changed. There’s never been a better time to be involved in your child's wedding as much—or as little—as both you and they are happy to permit. 

“These days, mothers of the bride and groom are younger than ever before,” explains bridal couturier Ian Stuart (who also designs fabulous occasion wear), “in both age and spirit”. Whether you walk her down the aisle, or simply put in a show of Doria Ragland-inspired solo composure, there’s a role for you in the celebration that extends far beyond wearing a feathered fascinator, if you so wish. Promise!

 

The planning

Take it upon yourself to help your daughter keep her bridal cool intact in the run-up to the wedding: check in regularly and enquire (if you have the time) if there’s anything you can do to help. 

One wedmin (that’s “wedding-admin” to the uninitiated) field the parents classically influence is the guest list, suggesting missing names to be added-on and invited to the celebration. The reality of this is that it can bump up both stress and costs of the occasion, with many couples resenting forking out extra for people they wouldn’t miss at the celebration.  

“Don’t expect your daughter and her partner to invite people they’ve never met or don’t know,” advises wedding planner Kate Park. Kate also recommends keeping her firmly clear of any of the tricky family politics that planning a wedding can awaken, such as contact with estranged relations. 

“Every family thinks they’re the only ones to have issues,” she muses. “The reality is, the majority struggle to plan a wedding that will please everyone. As mother of the bride, you should work on keeping these dramas as far removed from your daughter as possible.” 

The goal? A blissfully happy bride-to-be, who’s unaware of the strife Uncle Colin is causing behind the scenes about the table plan. That said, don’t be afraid to politely put your point across, whether on the subject of invites, details or budget. If you think she and her partner are spending a ridiculous amount of money on flowers, for example, tell her—but don’t be offended if she doesn’t take your opinion on-board.

 

What will you wear?

The modern mother of the bride is no longer on the prowl for “the typical uniform of a dress and bolero jacket” says Ian. Instead, they’re opting for more flattering outfits: “something that covers the areas they don’t want to show (usually the arms) and highlights their best features, which are normally the shoulders and décolletage,” he explains. 

Ian advises that popular colours include neutral shades of grey and café latte, as well as timeless pastels. “The most popular accessory is the matching hat,” he adds. “For example, we customise our hats by adding an element of decoration that matches the dress—be it fabric, lace or beading—into the hat, which makes for a complete look.”

Whilst looking great is key, equally as important is comfort. After all, it’s going to be a long day, filled with food, drink and emotion, so a skin-tight outfit that makes your feel self-conscious after your main course or a pair of sensational but blister-inducing heels are a categorical “I don’t”. 

Minimise your own stress by beginning the search for your outfit ASAP, be it a casual online browse or a specific day of shop-til-your-drop fun with your daughter. Let her guide you in terms of the colours and styles you should be looking out for; equally, find out what her partner’s mother and the bridesmaids are wearing, too, just to avoid any matching or clashing. 

If you don’t already have it, make a Pinterest account and create a mood board of looks you love. Also consider your make-up and hair for the day—will you have it done professionally or will you DIY?

 

Money talk

According to recent research, the average UK wedding costs upwards of £30k. Whilst tradition might dictate the parents of the bride pay for a hefty chunk of her wedding, the modern reality is a little different.

Couples are increasingly paying for their own nuptials, although independence isn’t the only motivator for this; put bluntly, parents sometimes can’t or just don’t wish to make a financial contribution. In short, it’s not expected in the way it once was, so don’t apply pressure on yourself if you’re worrying about footing the bill. 

“I would say half of the weddings I plan receive fiscal contribution from the parents,” says Kate. “No parent should feel obliged to contribute and I believe they should only offer to do so if they actually want to.”

In short, the rules are there are no rules. Whether you want to make a contribution—be it a cheque, or paying for a specific part of the celebration—or not, be upfront with your child ASAP to avoid expectation or confusion. 

 

On the big day

Whilst tradition dictates it’s the father of the bride who takes on the most responsibility on his daughter’s wedding day, it’s more of an equal playing field now, with couples including both parents within the celebration itself. 

For example, your daughter might ask you to walk her down the aisle and give her away; she might ask you to join her on the dancefloor for a mother-daughter twirl; she might even ask you to deliver a speech or a reading. If there’s anything you would particularly like to do, let her know; equally, if she suggests something that you’re not completely comfortable with, be upfront with her.

It’s worth noting that the current legal system means that marriage certificates only list details of the fathers: there’s no mention of either mother, even for people who have been singularly raised by their mums. (Hopefully this should be changing soon). 

One way to counter this is if your daughter asks you to be a witness—you might not quite get the same amount of space or acknowledgement on the marriage certificate, but at least your name and signature will be on there.

And above all else: have fun. After all, it’s not every day you get to see your child wed the love of their life, so enjoy every single moment of the process, as it will all be over before you know it.