Style Tips For How to Dress as a Modern Mother of the Bride

The challenge of dressing as the mother of the bride (MOTB) while looking modern and true to yourself is not to be underestimated. For many modern mums of the bride or groom, a fascinator with a shiny bolero and dress is no longer their outfit of choice when their child walks up the aisle. To be blunt, a lot of traditional MOTB outfits can be ageing, overpriced and not reflective of the way most women dress normally. As part of our wedding special in collaboration with the Irish Daily Mail’s You magazine, stylist and fashion journalist Rose Mary Roche, tackled the tricky style task of how to dress as a modern mother of the bride or groom and still look like yourself. Read on for her top outfit tips and savvy style insight…

Photo by Weddings by Kara via One Fab Day

With weddings more intimate post-pandemic, there is a mood for casual celebrations, while an awareness of sustainability has roused a desire to buy an outfit that can be worn again after the big day. Many weddings may now run over an entire weekend so can require multiple outfit changes. Garish polyester fabrics, ageing style tropes and the fact that spending so much money on an outfit designed to be worn once is not only unsustainable but also a very poor return for your cash, means the category is ripe for reinvention.

modern mother of the bride style

Photo by Photography by Ciara via One Fab Day

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Women come in all shapes and sizes with different tastes, yet many MOTB outfits are designed with a generic approach. Many options are created to fit a middle-aged body stereotype, when women today are maintaining their fitness, fashion sense and sexual attractiveness well into their later life. Traditional mother of the bride outfits can seem dull, demure and matronly to a modern woman in her 40s, 50s or 60s who is full of life, loves style and may be borrowing clothes from her daughter. Over coordinated outfits can also add years. No one wants to be a frump, especially on a day when being photographed extensively means there will be a lasting record of your outfit.

modern mother of the bride style

Photo by Samantha Quinn Photography via One Fab Day

Don’t Surrender to Stereotypes

There is a better way to choose your kit. Firstly, stick to your signature style and do not surrender to stereotypes. Instead choose beautiful classic styles that will enjoy a long lifespan and deliver value re cost per wear. Where possible, opt for natural fabrics that will adapt to fluctuations in body temperature and your environment, during what is an extremely long day. Being uncomfortable will spoil your enjoyment of the wedding and you’ll regret it. But here’s how you can ‘do you’ on the day…

modern mother of the bride style

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  • Opt for silhouettes, fabrics and brands that you know and whose fit suits you. Adhere to your own personal style be that understated, bohemian, minimalist or colourful. You don’t have to be conservative or matronly – defy conventions and dress to reflect your style personality.
  • Don’t be brow beaten into a colour theme or a hat that doesn’t suit you. While politely acknowledging the theme of the wedding, wear what makes you happy and you feel comfortable in.
  • If you dresses really aren’t your vibe then consider a beautifully tailored trouser suit or jumpsuit instead. Glenn Close wore trousers to her daughter’s wedding and looked fabulous.
  • It’s good manners to check with the other mum to ensure that your outfits won’t clash or be too alike.
  • While dressing in too revealing a style isn’t advisable for any guest, you can dress to emphasise your assets – a sleeveless dress to show toned arms, belts to highlight your waist or a shorter length for great legs.
  • Keep styling simple and avoid too much embellishment, which can look fussy in photos.

modern mother of the bride style

Photo by Michelle Prunty Photography via One Fab Day

Juliet Ledwidge of JuJu boutique in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, encourages women to be more open-minded and adventurous when dressing for a wedding. “Just because you are the mother of the bride or indeed the groom doesn’t limit you to traditional dress and coat ensembles,” she says. ‘The rules have changed. While we all love the chance to really dress up on special occasions, women are now looking for a slightly edgier look and definitely something that can be worn again. We always source some key pieces from core collections that make wonderful special event outfits.’

modern mother of the bride style

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She suggests something versatile like a silk Joseph dress that can be “glammed up with heels but likewise worn with boots or runners for a wear-anywhere vibe” afterwards. “Weddings have changed too and not all are church occasions followed by formal reception,” she says. “But whether it’s a traditional set-up or a beachside location, as mother of a significant player you want to look and feel fantastic, but also comfortable for the conditions and free to dance and move from dawn to dusk. Simple elegance that suits your shape will always be a winner.”

modern mother of the bride style

Photo by SOSAC Photography via One Fab Day

Out With the Old

Jane Power, a personal shopper at Arnotts, has also seen a change in the way women are shopping as modern mothers of the bride or groom. “We’ve seen mothers of the bride and groom moving away from the traditional two-piece outfits, in favour of a more contemporary look that can be worn again. An elegant well-cut dress with sleeves and minimal detail is the most requested look, with a great shoe and bag. Fascinators, wraps and cover-ups are not as popular in recent years, with a more pared-back look being key. Women in their 50s and 60s are now dressing in a more youthful way, and this is reflected in their occasionwear choices.”

modern mother of the bride style

Photo by 3 Cats Photo via One Fab Day

Think Outside the Box

MOTBs who have managed to look contemporary, stylish and individual have included Carol Middleton, Doria Ragland, Victoria Beckham, Tina Knowles and Susan Sarandon. While all wore very different outfits, all looked fabulous. They opted for what suited them and therefore looked radiant and relaxed. One of the best pieces of advice when shopping for a wedding look, is not to limit your search to special occasion boutiques or mother of the bride brands only. Don’t just Google mother of the bride outfit – it’s too limiting. Instead, think outside the box. Here are great places to start shopping for whatever your style or budget.

  • Widen your options and you have a better chance of finding a stylish solution to your search.
  • Look at independent boutiques, designers and brands who offer a modern slant on stylish special occasion dressing, including Irish brands Maire Forkin, Louise Kennedy, Niamh O’Neill, Heidi Higgins and Delphine Grandjouan.
  • International names including Max Mara, Victoria Beckham and Roland Mouret are excellent investment pieces.
  • You can also be a chic MOTB on a budget: there are less expensive yet equally stylish options from high street retailers including Reiss, LK Bennett, COS, ME+EM, Karen Millen, Coast, Jigsaw and Phase Eight.
  • If you are eclectic and love vintage style, you could explore the Cobbler’s Wardrobe, No 38 Dunville, and Siopaella for designer brands at lower prices.
  • Thrifty MOTBs can now rent their outfit for the wedding celebrations from Covet, Brown Thomas, the Designer Room or Happy Days. With some weddings now involving up to three events – rehearsal dinner, the nuptials and the next day – weddings can be very expensive. Choosing to rent all, or even one, of your outfits helps to reduce your outlay and is also more sustainable.

mum walking her daughter down the aisle

Photo by Wonder & Magic via One Fab Day

Underwear Matters

Don’t forget to put equal time and energy into sourcing good underwear. Carefully designed shapewear should be comfortable as well as streamlining. It is essential to the overall look of your outfit and being uncomfortable can really impact your enjoyment of the day. Expert advice on your underpinnings is available from retailers including Susan Hunter, Peaches & Cream, Brown Thomas and Arnotts.

groom dancing with his mum

Photo by Studio Brown via One Fab Day

Youthful Legs and Happy Feet

Re your legs; it’s better to avoid nylons as they are ageing. An application of fake tan on bare, groomed and moisturised legs is more youthful and don’t forget a good pedicure too. Shoes are extremely important – they can make or break your day. If you’re wearing heels, find a pair that are supportive and won’t cripple you after a couple of hours. Break them in by wearing them around the house in advance and get some Scholl Party Feet pads too. Bring a lower pair of shoes for dancing, as by nighttime, no one will notice your footwear.

Finally, whatever you choose to wear to your child’s wedding, you want to look your best and create happy memories. Prioritise those aims and dress as yourself and the day will be a joyful experience.

Need more modern mother of the bride or groom style inspiration? We have a post on Where to Find Great Mother of the Bride Style and check out these 50 Real Mothers of the Bride and Groom with amazing wedding outfits to inspire you!