Wedding Planning Guide

mother of the bride etiquette & duties

A step-by-step guide to what's expected of the mother of the bride.

mother of the bride and bride smiling

Photo: Paige Jones

Now that you’ve shared in the joy of your daughter’s engagement, it’s time to start preparing for her big day. Not sure what responsibilities come with being the mother of the bride? This comprehensive guide to mother-of-the-bride etiquette and duties outlines your key role in the wedding, from how to lend your daughter a hand before the wedding to what you should expect on the wedding day.

Before the Wedding

  • Meeting the Family

    After your daughter and future son- or daughter-in-law are officially engaged, it’s time to get to know their family, if you haven’t met them already. Traditionally, the groom’s parents set up a meeting with the bride’s parents; however, these days it’s fine for either side to initiate.

  • Wedding Planning

    The role you play in the wedding-planning process depends on several variables, including how involved you’d like to be, the bride’s wishes, and whether there will be a wedding planner. The mother of the bride might help put together the guest list, research potential venue locations, and track RSVPs as they come in. Your daughter might also appreciate your help scouting potential venues and vendors, especially if she lives far from the wedding site. Another thing she might like help with: coming up with cultural or family traditions to incorporate into the celebration. Whatever responsibilities you decide to take on, your daughter will surely appreciate your help and be glad to know you’re there for her.

  • Wedding Dress Shopping

    Shopping for a wedding dress can be one of the most memorable moments in the wedding-planning process. Depending on the bride’s wishes, she may ask you to accompany her on dress-shopping appointments to help narrow down the choices until she finds that one perfect gown.

  • Attending the Bridal Shower

    Traditionally, the mother of the bride doesn’t host the bridal shower (the maid of honor typically assumes the chief shower-planning role); however, your daughter will likely want you to be a part of the celebration. You can offer to help with menu planning, decorations, or contribute to the shower without being named on the bridal-shower invitation.

  • Mother-of-the-Bride Dress Shopping

    Then, of course, you’ll have to figure out what you’ll wear yourself. The goal is to find a dress or outfit you love and feel comfortable in, that also matches your daughter’s vision for the wedding. If the bridesmaids’ dresses have been chosen, think about picking a dress in a complementary color to tie in with the wedding party’s look. Keep in mind you’ll be in lots of photos, so choose an outfit that will stand the test of time and avoid any overly trendy patterns. Our advice: Start shopping early to give yourself plenty of time to find just the right dress.

    Once you’ve chosen your attire, it’s a customary courtesy to share your outfit choice with the groom’s mother. Coordinating with the mother of the groom ensures your dresses are the same level of formality and look great together in photos.

On the Wedding Day

On the day of the wedding, the mother of the bride should be prepared to help the bride with whatever she might need. This might include playing hostess, helping guide out-of-town guests, or being ready with a tissue box!

  • Before the Ceremony

    Your daughter might like you to be there as she gets ready the morning of the wedding day, assisting with anything from helping her into her dress and placing the veil.

  • During the Ceremony

    In a Christian wedding, the mother of the bride's entrance signals that the processional is about to begin; she is often escorted by a son or another male relative but may also be escorted by the father of the bride, who returns to the ceremony venue entrance to escort his daughter down the aisle. Once you’ve reached the end of the aisle, you’ll take a seat to the left of the aisle in the front row. In Jewish ceremonies, the bride’s mother and father escort her down the aisle together; seating-wise, it’s the opposite: the bride’s side is seated on the right, while the groom’s side is on the left. These days, it's also common among non-Jewish ceremonies for the bride to be escorted by both parents.

  • During the Reception

    The mother of the bride plays the role of hostess, meaning you should spend some time greeting guests during the reception. Although there are exceptions, other wedding-day duties may include sitting at the parents’ table and dancing with the father of the bride to help warm up the dance floor.

    Finally, don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate this special moment with your daughter. From taking photos together to incorporating meaningful family traditions into the wedding day, you’ll cherish the memories of this special occasion.