Can the Mother of the Bride wear White ?

In Weddings by Joni

This seems to be a question that really arouses strong feelings in daughters.  So it’s no surprise that there have been numerous heated debates on wedding forums and Mumsnet on this topic.  And opinions are very divided but about 50-50 in favour and against. 

I thought I knew exactly where I stood on this question but after my research I’m feeling less sure.  So I’ve collected the most popular online reactions to a Mother of the Bride in white and here they are.

Is a white dress appropriate for a Mother of the Bride? 

  • Traditionally only the bride wears a white dress to the wedding. White symbolises her virginity and purity. 

Whilst this might have been a selling point two hundred years ago when parents looked anxiously for someone to take their daughter off their hands once she turned sixteen, few brides today want their father to literally ‘give them away’ and the same women generally think it’s nobody’s business whether they are a virgin or not. 

White is possible but…

So white is possible though about half of the comments from brides I read on forums said they would definitely not want their mother to wear white.  This means that you really need to get your daughter’s ideas on colours before you start looking for an outfit.  Her sense of tradition may be stronger than yours if you married in the hippy era.

Ask your daughter what look she is going for.  How will the bridesmaids, if any, be dressed.  Will this be a rural idyll like we see in films or is she going for a sophisticated city vibe. 

  • Mothers of the Bride never wear white in films of rustic bliss where the bride has to stand out from miles away.

Will white upstage the bride?

  • Neither you nor any of the guests should wear anything that makes them look more special than the bride herself. 

Your daughter is the star of this show.  She may even have funded and directed most of it.  So she gets top billing.  She’s the leading lady and the female romantic lead. 

You are looking to take the Oscar for best supporting role so dress and act accordingly.  If white upstages her – don’t wear it.  But if it complements her dress – go ahead.

You want to look the best you ever.  But you don’t want to be a show-stopper.  The look to go for is confident, happy, elegant and radiant.

How to make white work for you

If you love white and you really want to wear white, or if your daughter is happy for you to wear white, there are a few rules you should follow. 

  • Look at the dress you want to wear and ask yourself – could this ever be mistaken for a wedding dress?  If it could – do not wear it. 

Some guests are bound to make comments behind your back so just choose something else.  White dresses to avoid: anything similar in style or fabric to your daughter’s frock, plus beware of lace, sequins, very fitted silhouettes, backless and long dresses.

Use accessories and trims to make sure your white outfit does not look bridal.  Piping in black or deep red for example will be a good choice.  A belt or scarf or statement necklace in a strong colour will work magic. 

The same goes for a short bright jacket over a white dress or trouser suit.  And of course a colourful hat will definitely draw the right sort of comments.  It’s the all-over white look you should avoid at all costs.

Can you wear white to a summer wedding?

  • White certainly makes more sense when the sun is shining. 

It deflects heat better compared with a dark outfit.  So it gives you the OK to go white.  A knee-length summer frock in white cotton can look fabulous and if your daughter is wearing a long silk and lace gown then there is no need to agonise over whether you are upstaging her. 

Personally I think you will always look the part if you add bright or black accents.

If white is difficult what about ivory, cream or very pale pastels

All of these will look beautiful against tanned skin for a summer wedding.  And you won’t need to worry too much about whether your outfit has too much lace or a low back.  You don’t need to look pale all over though, as a dashing hat or vivid shoes can say ‘Here I am’.

Gina Bacconi do a beautiful embroidered dress in buttercream which would look stunning next to a bride in pure white. Theora comes in sizes 6-22 and is just fitted enough to look elegant but not too tight at the waist. Click on the link to get full details and the current price in your currency. Ships worldwide.

These colours work well in the evening too and give a polished performance on the dancefloor.  Think silk, some sequins perhaps and a narrow silhouette.  Probably not the ideal choice if you are heavy though. 

  • According to the forums I looked into, ivory is a popular colour for mothers at weddings. 

So if you look great in pale shades this could be the way to go on the day. 

How will your dress look in the photos?

Photos are massively important at weddings.  Fortunately with digital photography allowing limitless shots all the poorer ones can be excluded from the final selection.  But it is still useful to imagine yourself standing next to your daughter with and without the bridesmaids and the groom’s mother when you decide on a dress. 

  • Whatever colour you choose, you want the bride to be the central focus in every shot.  This is easier for the photographer to get right if your dress does not vie for attention with the bride’s.

But in the end it’s really your daughter’s decision.  Don’t be annoyed if she has very strong views.  This wedding is costing a ton of money and she wants to stand out like never before

You might also be wondering…

Can the Mother of the Bride wear red?

  • Traditionally red symbolises passion so it is not common for mothers to choose a red dress for their daughter’s wedding. 

But nowadays the traditions don’t count for much in many western societies.  Just check with your daughter before handing over that credit card.  She might love the idea of you standing out in red or hate the drama queen aspect.  It’s her day.

Can the Mother of the Bride wear black? 

  • Traditionally black symbolises death so few mothers or other wedding guests would think of wearing black.  But how important are such traditions to your daughter? 

Black can look very good against her white dress in the photo line-up so she may be delighted.  Or she may be horrified and expect you to shimmer quietly in pale blue.  I admit to wearing a black dress to a nephew’s wedding a few years back and I got a lot of compliments and nobody in my hearing seemed to think it was inappropriate. 

But it’s your daughter’s day. Give the girl what she wants.