Congratulations! Your daughter is engaged. Now it's time to start planning the big event. The Mother of the Bride Guide: A Modern Mom's Guide to Wedding Planning covers everything you need to make sure your daughter has the perfect — and stress-free — day of her dreams. Here, author and wedding planner Kate Martin shares her dress shopping tips for moms.
Dresses for weddings (including the bride’s dress, the attendants’ dresses, and the dresses for the moms) don’t change too drastically from one year to the next. You’ll want something that’s appropriate for the time of year. Unless you have to be on the cutting edge of what’s hot right now in the fashion world, a dress from last year will suit you fine, and you might even find yourself a real bargain. Allowing yourself plenty of time for this project also means that you’ll be able to check out dresses all over town, in bridal shops, department stores, and boutiques.
Another reason you should start looking for your dress as soon as the bride has set the wedding date is so you’ll have time to try different styles and colors and find out what looks best on you. If you put off finding your dress until a month before the wedding, you’ll choose whatever’s available — and not what flatters your shape and skin tone. You will be on display at the wedding, so you want to look your absolute best.
Photo Credit: Amy & Jordan Photography
Color Is Important
You’ll want to look for a dress that blends with the bride’s chosen colors. Most moms use the bridesmaids’ dresses as a palette. If their gowns are green, you shouldn’t choose a pink dress. A different shade of green or even a dress in a complementary shade of blue would be a better choice. You want to avoid white, ivory, black, red, anything too bright (like an electric-blue gown), and anything too overdone.
Although black is becoming more acceptable for MOBs and guests alike to wear to weddings, ask yourself whether you want to be under scrutiny for the color of your chic new dress (because no matter how progressive the fashion world is becoming, MOBs who wear black are always suspected of harboring some ill will toward the union) or would rather have guests compliment you for how you look in a more traditional dress.
Try to Make Shopping Fun
Go to lunch. Go to dinner. Make a day (or two) of it. If you’re hitting a lot of shops and you fear you won’t remember where you saw which dress, take a notebook along and write down a description of each dress alongside the name and address of the store. Knowing that you tried on the perfect dress somewhere — but can’t remember where — is enough to make you decide to wear shorts and flip-flops to the reception.
If you know anyone who has recently played the role of MOB, ask her about her dress-shopping experience. She might be able to steer you in the right direction — or away from a less-than-terrific shop — and save you some time in the process.
Take a friend along for the ride so that you can also get an honest assessment of how the dress looks on you from someone who doesn’t stand to make a commission from the sale. You’ll want someone to tell you if the dress you love from the front is less than flattering from the rear, and you’ll also want a truthful opinion of the style and color, so make sure your shopping companion is an honest woman.
Set a Dress Budget
Maybe you walk into the first dress shop on your list and you find it — the dress, the one you were imagining, the one that makes you look twenty pounds slimmer and ten years younger. One problem: it costs twice as much as you wanted to spend. Oh, but it’s worth it, isn’t it? You are the MOB, and you do have to look your best.
This is very true, but you don’t have to spend way too much to look great. Know what you’re willing to spend before you walk through the door of a dress shop, and stick with that figure. Spending a little more when you find the perfect dress is all right, but blowing your budget entirely isn’t wise, unless it’s a dress that you really, truly can wear again and again and again. But before you make yourself that promise (the same promise made by one-time dress-wearers all over the world, by the way), ask yourself where you’ll wear it.
If there’s another wedding coming up in your family, chances are you’ll end up buying a new dress for that event (because your kids don’t want you wearing the same dress to both weddings). If it’s a very formal dress, and you’re planning on wearing it to the many formal events you’ll be attending in the next year, make sure you won’t be seeing the same crowd at those gatherings, or they’ll wonder whether you wear that dress to bed, too.
If you’ll be attending several weddings and several formal events (and you’re 100 percent positive that this dress isn’t going to scream “mother of the bride approaching!” and you won’t be seeing the same people at each affair), then perhaps it’s wise to invest a little more in a dress. Otherwise, resign yourself to the fact that you will most likely wear this dress once, and don’t go completely overboard price-wise.
Seamstresses versus Bridal Shops
If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a shop, or if you have found exactly what you want but you’re not willing to pay the bridal shop’s prices, you might look into hiring a seamstress to create your one-of-a-kind MOB dress. Still unsure about handing over the duties to one woman? The dress shop at least has other dresses on the premises in case disaster strikes. Is dealing with one safer than the other? Not really. There are pros and cons to seamstresses and dress shops.
Ask anyone who knows a great seamstress: She’s worth every cent she’ll charge you for her labor if you just can’t buy clothes off the rack or if you can’t find anything suitable — as long as the two of you can communicate effectively. This means that you have to be willing to spell out exactly what you want without being overly demanding and unrealistic. She’ll tell you if she’s not capable of producing the dress you’re asking for in the time frame you’re giving her, but it may well be that no one (at least no human) can whip up a hand-beaded, full-length gown in a week’s time.
A good seamstress usually has her hands full — you’re probably not her one and only client — and she only has the one set of hands and a given number of hours in any one day to work with. Give your seamstress a call at least six to eight months prior to the wedding, or even sooner if you know she’s in high demand.
The advantage to patronizing a dress shop, of course, is that you can try on the dresses and get an idea of how each one looks before you buy one (no such luck with a seamstress). Most bridal shops and high-end dress shops have tailors who will make sure that your dress fits as it should. You’ll pay extra for this service, of course. The disadvantage of buying off the rack is that the dresses in these shops can be very expensive, and you’re limited to their selection.
Keep the MOG in the Loop
You’re supposed to call the groom’s mom and let her in on all of the exciting news of your dress-shopping extravaganza so that she can choose her dress...and so that she doesn’t choose the same dress. (Horrors!) This is another good reason for you to get started early, because tradition states that the groom’s mother has to wait for you to make your selection before she can make hers. She’ll start getting pretty irritated if you’ve put off the dress shopping until three weeks before the wedding. That irritation might just spill over into an ugly MOB-versus-MOG confrontation, which can be avoided altogether if you simply get on the ball and pick out your dress at least two months prior to the ceremony.
Excerpted from The Mother of the Bride Guide by Katie Martin. Copyright © 2016 F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.