The mother of the bride may help her daughter in many different aspects of planning, such as scouting out venues, managing the guest list, and finding the perfect dress. She traditionally has the honor of choosing her outfit before the groom's mother. She attends the bridal shower, rehearsal dinner and typically heads up the receiving line at the reception.
While she may assist with many of the arrangements, the mother of the bride is not technically a member of the wedding party unless her daughter asks her to be. More and more, the role of the mother of the bride is to work alongside the bride to help plan the wedding and, on the day of, a professional coordinator comes in and sees to it that those plans are properly executed. The mother of the bride should be able to actually enjoy her daughter's wedding day!
Though the bride's mother attends the bridal shower, she should not be the host, lest it appear she is soliciting gifts for her daughter; however, she could help out with some of the planning.
Then there is that magical shopping trip when the mother of the bride accompanies her daughter to find a wedding gown! She may even offer the bride the dress from her own nuptials if they have similar styles or the bride may choose to use her mother's gown as a "get-away dress" toward the end of the reception and before the grand exit. As far as what she'll wear herself, she typically chooses her outfit first, then tells the groom's mother about the color and style of her ensemble so that the moms won't clash.
Traditionally, on wedding day, the mother of the bride takes her seat to the left of the ceremony aisle in the first row. After the ceremony, the bride's mother stands first in the receiving line. At the reception, she sits at the parents' table with the groom's father to her right, the officiant to her left, and the bride's father directly across from her. (If the bride's parents are divorced, they may sit at different tables, perhaps with relatives.) Finally, she takes to the floor for a special dance with her husband or new son-in-law during the reception.
Four general principles to guide a mother of the bride through the wedding planning process:
- Follow the lead of the bride and groom. No matter how many good ideas you're brimming with (or how many you are contributing to financially) this wedding day belongs to the engaged couple. When you offer suggestions, do so with a light touch, and give way gracefully if your suggestion is overruled.
- The mother of the groom should defer to the mother of the bride. In general, the bride's parents lead the way for all of the parents and other relatives. With the exception of the rehearsal dinner, the parents of the bride are almost always the official hosts of the ceremony and reception, as well as the major events leading up to the big day. If you want to throw a party, send out announcements, or contribute to the wedding in some way, always discuss your plans with the parents of the bride first -- then adhere to their wishes.
- Keep backup copies of all key information and stay in the loop with the wedding planner/coordinator. Even if the couple is doing a superb job of planning, you'll stand ready to be a hero whenever a glitch occurs.
- Communicate on a regular basis. Regular chats -- whether conducted online or verbally -- allow you to address problems as soon as they arise and also give you an opportunity to provide ongoing emotional support to the bride and groom.
Mother's Etiquette Alert:
Think before speaking. Your child may want to tell certain friends and family members about the impending nuptials personally, so be sure to coordinate sharing the news with the couple before you begin telling one and all. Also, be careful that in the excitement of the moment you don't mislead those you tell into thinking they're going to be invited to the wedding when this hasn't yet been determined. People will invariably ask for details about the upcoming nuptials. If the person doing the asking is on your 'maybe' invitation list -- or isn't on the list at all -- simply reply that the wedding plans haven't been drawn up yet or prepare your questioner for a non-invitation by saying something like, "It looks like we will be having a fairly small wedding ..." Vagueness is always a far better approach than making a misleading comment and causing hurt feelings. "I hope you'll be able to come to the wedding!" should be reserved strictly for people you're absolutely certain you'll be inviting.
Photo via Crystal Littrell Photography from Amanda + Tim's Wedding.