What are the duties of the Mother of the Bride?

In Weddings by Joni

When you got married your mother may have taken a central role in the planning of the wedding especially as your parents may have taken on all or most of the financing of your big day.  But things have changed. 

Today your role as Mother of the Bride is to help the couple. You are a resource but not the director!  Phew!  Today you have more time and less stress.  Your financial involvement will be less but your emotional investment will remain crucial for the couple.

So here is a list of things you can tick off, or strike through, depending on what the couple require of you.

The role of the Mother of the Bride before the wedding:

  • Emotional support
  • Financial support
  • Engagement announcement or celebration – optional
  • Your dress, liaising with the Mother of the Groom
  • Wedding dress consultant
  • Creating a sense of tradition
  • Helping with admin tasks – ideas
  • Get to know the maid of honor or chief bridesmaid

The role of the Mother of the Bride on the wedding day:

  • Emergency fixer
  • Dealing with relatives and fielding phone calls
  • Helping the Bride get ready
  • Walking down the aisle and starting the ceremony
  • Giving a reading or making a toast or speech – optional
  • The receiving line – optional
  • Where to sit at the reception
  • Making special guests feel welcome
  • Dancing
  • Helping with clear up and clear out
Woman hugs adorable sad puppy
Be ready to give a hug when wedding plans get fraught

Emotional support

As soon as your daughter tells you of her engagement you must focus on preparing the ground for the couple to have a long and happy marriage. 

You need to get to know her fiancé and to really appreciate his qualities.  Nobody is perfect, not even your beloved daughter so don’t waste emotional energy on criticism.  Talk to your daughter about why she has chosen him, ask her what she sees as his good points as a marriage partner and as a potential father. 

If possible get to know the groom’s parents – they’ll be wanting to offer emotional support too. Here’s a guide for that important first meeting between parents of the bride and parents of the groom.

Talk to the husband-to-be and find out what makes him tick.  Ask about his childhood and life before he met your daughter.  Ask about his hopes and plans for the future. 

Remember that your greatest contribution to this marriage both now and in the years to come is your emotional support.  Make sure both your daughter and her fiancé know that whatever happens you will be there for them and love them unreservedly.

And, needless to say, be prepared to be that shoulder or that loving adviser, if there are emotional crises as the big day approaches.

Financial support

Sit down and discuss the costs of the wedding with your daughter or the couple.  They will have strong ideas about what sort of celebration they want and how much it might cost.  They will have already talked through how they will fund the wedding.  They may be intending to pay for everything themselves or they may be hoping that you or both sets of parents will chip in.

Don’t start this conversation with any preconceived ideas of what they will want or what you will offer.  Just listen and ask questions about details.  It’s their day.

By the end of this first important talk you should come away with an understanding of the likely costs and with some ideas of how you might help.

One of the biggest costs – the reception – will depend on the number of guests invited. This is always a tricky issue so read my article on how to decide on who to invite to the celebrations.

Don’t make any statement about your financial aid just yet.  Think through carefully what your daughter has told you and discuss with your partner if you have one.  Remember that these are outline plans so come back to her with an outline scheme of how you might help with funding.

Learn what other couples spend on their wedding in USA, UK and Australia.

Whatever your figures it is essential that you keep something in hand for emergencies – there will be last minute problems that can be sorted best by a quick cash gift or loan.  And there will be things that nobody has thought about or budgeted for where your safety net will be a godsend.

Engagement announcement and celebrations

If you’ve always wanted one of those newspaper announcements to feature your daughter and her fiancé now is the time to ask the couple if you have their go-ahead to place an engagement announcement in a local newspaper or magazine.  But this is becoming rare.  So you may just have to make do with phoning everyone you know.

Will you be hosting an engagement dinner?  And if so who will be invited?  It could be the extended family of both partners.  Or you may feel more relaxed just raising a glass to the couple over a Sunday lunch.

The couple, the best man (head groomsman) and chief bridesmaid (maid of honor) will be organising several pre-parties over the coming months.  Whilst you might be invited to the bridal shower, or even host it, don’t expect to be involved in the hen-do (bachelorette party). Here are the rules about who gets invited to which parties before the wedding.

The wedding invitations

It used to be standard practice for the bride’s parents to be on the wedding invitations as the hosts.  But very few couples rely on full payment by one set of parents these days so this hardly applies.  Invitations are often written as from the couple or from both sets of parents or even from the couple and all the parents!

Your dress

Mother of the Bride dress in pink with embroidered jacket
Gina Bacconi has some beautiful MOB dresses

It is your duty as Mother of the Bride to select and pay for your dress for the wedding. 

Why not take a look at the massive choice online these days. Read my article on how to buy a dress online for the complete novice.

You can find lots of suggestions in the category heading (at the top of each page): What to wear. To see all the videos of try-ons (such as this one showing the elegant Phase Eight Benita dress) go to my YouTube Channel: I’m Mother of the Bride

Tempted to wear white, red or black? Take a quick look at the new rules on wearing certain colours to the wedding.

In the UK lots of women wear a fascinator to the wedding. Do you dare? It’s a lot easier to deal with than a hat (trust me, I finally plumped for a hat for my daughter’s wedding and found it difficult to see taller guests. So it came off as soon as the wedding breakfast was announced.) I’ve made videos of some popular styles of fascinator for the Mother of the Bride and I’ve written a guideline for wearing a fascinator here.

Once you’ve decided on what you’ll wear it’s time to discuss your choice, plus the themes, colours and so on of the wedding, with the Mother of the Groom.  Give her plenty of time to select her outfit.

Tradition states that she should follow your lead when deciding what to wear.  For example both mothers could wear long dresses or both could wear a hat.  Probably best not to wear the same colour though. Take a look at why not in my article ‘Should the Mothers of the Bride and Groom wear the same colour?

Pant suits are a smart alternative to either a long dress or a shorter frock. They are so easy to wear too. So don’t dismiss this option before reading this article on wearing a pant suit to your daughter’s wedding.

Not sure what all the new style terms mean? I’ve put together a useful list of most of the fabric and styling terms you’ll find online today.

Once you’ve got your complete on-the-day outfit together try it on several times.  This will show up any snags such as difficult zip fasteners that you’ll need help with or shoes that you’ll want to place gel insoles into.  You want to be absolutely at ease with your outfit and able to get dressed and fully ready fast.  Because your other major duty is to help your daughter get dressed on the day.

Wedding dress consultant

Less of a duty more of an emotional moment.  After swapping images of possible styles between mother and daughter there will come a time for try-ons.  Oooooh!  You may not be available – or asked to be available – for every dress but when it comes down to the final one or two a Mother of the Bride is usually invited to comment. 

Even if it means flying in for the day, keep this appointment.  The memory of seeing your beautiful daughter walk out of the changing room in that beautiful dress will never ever leave you. 

Shops usually offer mothers champagne or a similar treat.  They know it’s your day too.  Enjoy it but be honest with your comments too.  That is why you are there.

At the ceremony guests mainly get a back and side view of the bride until she walks back up the aisle.  But these are the views it is most difficult to assess in a mirror.  So be sure to check these views out and say what you think.  Does the back look too tight or does the veil detract from the super low swoop of the rear neckline? 

Take your phone to snap images too so your daughter can judge for herself from all possible angles.

And take tissues.  Lots of them.  You will cry even if you think you won’t!

Add a sense of continuity and tradition

Old family photos to make a wedding book
Collect old photos and mount them in a pretty frame

A marriage is a major highlight in the long history of a family.  Brides often want to acknowledge this at the wedding.  But they sometimes just fall back on the toasts and speeches because they don’t have the information to do more.  This is very much your responsibility – and you’ll need the help of the Mother of the Groom too.

Discuss with the groom’s parents important family moments they would like to reference.  Consider the lifetime of your children but think back much further too.  Has the family moved from one country to another?  Do you have a language from your childhood that you used with your parents or grandparents that you haven’t passed on to your children? Do you have special memories of your own childhood home?  A memorable holiday? 

Then think about how you can bring these family memories and traditions into the celebrations.

The ‘Something old, something new’ rhyme is just one way of doing this.  Think through other ways.  Collect up old photos of as many generations as you can from both sides of the new family being created on the day.  Could you frame these or put them into a keepsake book?  Perhaps they could be displayed at the entrance to the reception so that guests can chat about them as they come in. 

If you can, try to add an heirloom to your daughter’s wedding outfit or her honeymoon luggage.  This could be a special piece of jewellery.  It doesn’t need to be valuable in money terms but it should be valuable in human terms.   The ring you had when you married her father if you are no longer together?  A brooch or earrings you wore when you went on your honeymoon?  Something left to you by your mother or grandmother that you want to pass on?

Only you and the groom’s parents will know the little things that have marked the highlights in your family history.  Think outside the box about how to include them.  It can be a public display or a very private secret little gift to the couple. 

Get to know the bridesmaids and other key guests

You’ll need the help and confidence of all these important guests on the day.  The couple will have assigned tasks to each of them and you all need to be aware of this so that you function as a team supporting the couple and ensuring nothing goes amiss.

If possible try to meet up with them all beforehand. This meet-up may have to be the evening before the wedding if people have had to travel to get to the venue. In this case an informal drink in a bar or a relaxed meal are useful ways to break the ice when everyone is excited and nervous. 

Don’t get involved in hosting this get-together.  You need to be in top form for the day to come.  So ask the couple to choose somewhere simple and unpretentious where people can chatter and disappear back for their beauty sleep earlier than normal.  You may want to slip off a lot earlier than the younger crowd.

Helping with administrative and planning tasks – ideas

At first your daughter may be reluctant to hand over any of the planning tasks to you.  She’s excited by making plans and getting quotes and taking decisions on the hundred and one delightful areas of the big day.  After all who doesn’t want to sip champagne as they nose around grand houses or flick through gorgeous images of beach venues?  And how scrumptious to spend a Saturday afternoon at a cake tasting. 

But the myriad of tasks soon mounts up and some of the charm disappears.

This is the point at which you can be really useful.  Have a second conversation and call it a planning meeting.  Note down all the early plans and all the upcoming tasks plus anything she has not yet had time to factor in.  Now plan with the couple exactly what tasks you can take on.  You will work to their guidelines and they will sign off on all decisions.  But you will do the legwork.

  • Manage the seating plan

Here’s exactly how to organise wedding seating and a planning tool that makes it really simple. Get a free trial too.

If you or the groom’s parents are divorced read this guide on to how to seat divorced parents.

  • Manage the photo collection from guests

There’ll be a professional or excellent amateur photographer snapping all the important people and moments during the ceremony and the partying but you can be super useful by finding out how to collect all those candid images taken by guests on their phones. I’ve done the research for you so you can choose a really simple way to manage this vital task.

  • Deciding on suppliers

Getting prices and availability from suppliers is a really worthwhile area for you to concentrate your efforts.  This takes a lot of time and often a lot of driving around too.  Draw up a basic set of criteria for each supplier with some extra ‘if possibles’.  Send your lists over to the couple and get them to fine-tune.  Then get busy.  Keep a spreadsheet with prices and other essential details and add comments as you go along.  This can be sent back and forward and updated by the couple until they take their decisions.  You may think you will remember what suppliers have said but you won’t!  So keep this record.

  • Liaising with suppliers

Once decisions have been made and suppliers contracted someone needs to keep in touch with them right up to the day itself.  At first this seems a simple task but little things happen that make adjustments necessary and suddenly life gets more complicated.  This is an excellent area for you to help.  The nearer the day gets, the more information the bride is dealing with.  Help her. 

Don’t make style or finance choices without her go-ahead but she probably does not need to know every tiny thing.  Your role is to decide what she needs to know and then deal with all the other details yourself.

  • The budget

Obviously, unless you are fully funding the wedding, the overall decisions about finance will be made by the couple.  You can help them stay on budget.  It may not be a ‘duty’ of a Mother of the Bride, but it sure is a worthwhile (and usually thankless!) task.

Get more useful pointers for keeping the couple on budget here.

Use a pre-formatted wedding planning tool (most wedding sites such as The Knot offer these) or make your own spreadsheet.  Get your daughter to give you her estimated budget for every aspect of the day.  Make sure these add up to no more than the total figure the couple have agreed upon. 

Now as each invoice comes in or item is purchased your job is to keep a detailed record.  Make sure you have a shareable document and notes so everyone is in the loop.  Get the couple’s agreement to treat you like a company accountant.  That means that before giving the OK to a supplier they show you the figures. 

Even if you are not liaising with suppliers you need to tell the couple whether the price fits into the budget.  If it is over budget then you need to ask them where they want to make a cut in order to stay solvent.  This can be an awkward task but it is soooo necessary.  The hundreds of tiny overspends do as much damage as the one big expense.

When the couple disagree over an expense, and they will, it’s useful for them to have a third person to turn to.  That’s you.  Acting as a disinterested (not uninterested!) accountant you can help take the emotion out of the financial compromises they must make.

 It’s a labour of love to keep the budget on track.  And love is what you have in abundance!

What does the Mother of the Bride do on the wedding day?

Emergency fixer

A mother emergency fixes the bride's hem
Be ready for all tasks on the wedding day

You’ll be up early on the day of the wedding even if the ceremony is scheduled to get going much later in the day.  Your duties as Mother of the Bride include being your daughter’s right hand, finding things buried in the packing, sending out for last minute oversights such as more refreshments for the bridesmaids as they prepare. 

Dealing with phone calls and queries

Get your daughter’s permission to answer her phone as she gets ready.  You need to field as many queries and supplier messages as possible.  She’ll want to hear all the best wishes but prepare callers for brief access to the bride explaining she’s very very busy.

There will be the odd relative or guest who has forgotten their invitation and can’t remember the time or the address of the venue.  There will be elderly relatives and guests with mobility issues who need your extra attention. 

There may be family who are staying with you or expect to see you or your daughter before the ceremony.  You may need to use all your diplomatic skills and knowledge of the cafes in the area to ensure both you and your daughter can focus on getting ready.

If you wonder how you will get through all those hours twiddling your thumbs, relax.  You won’t have a spare minute!

Help the bride get ready

If possible be there for a final try-on of her dress when your daughter takes possession of it.  Be aware how long it takes to get everything just right.  Make a note of anything you may need. 

Most Mothers of the Bride put together an emergency kit for potential mini-crises.  You can find ideas for the ideal emergency wedding kit here and just add in anything else you know you might need.

Walking down the aisle

The Mother of the Bride traditionally walks into the ceremony last and her entrance signals to the other relatives and guests that the service is about to begin.  She then takes her place at the front on the side of the aisle of the bride’s relatives.  (UK is usually on the left facing the front, US the opposite side). 

However times are changing.  Your daughter may want you to walk her down the aisle with or without her father on her other side. 

In Jewish weddings it is traditional for the bride to be accompanied by both parents. 

Don’t get too fixated on do’s and don’ts.  Ask your daughter how she wants you to enter and go with her ideas.  They may surprise you.  That’s the joy of the next generation – they are remaking the world.

Speaking at the ceremony or reception

The couple may invite you to give a reading during the service or to offer a toast or to give a short speech at the reception.  This needs careful planning and close co-ordination with everyone else who is giving a reading or speaking.  So don’t leave it to the last moment.  Check out my article on how to give a Mother of the Bride speech.

If your daughter has said nothing, just ask her about readings and toasts and be prepared for her to either ask you to speak or indeed, not mention you at all.

The receiving line

If there is to be a receiving line and you have part-paid the wedding then you should be in that line to welcome guests as your guests.  If there is no line you can expect to be mentioned and thanked during one of the speeches or toasts. 

Where to sit at the reception (wedding breakfast)

Once the table plans are agreed you’ll know where to sit so you don’t need to look around wildly on the day.  This might be the top table especially in the UK, with the couple flanked by the best man and the parents. In the US it’s more likely that the bridal party (couple flanked by bridesmaids and groomsmen) will occupy a top table and you will be seated on a table with your relatives or with the other parents.  The same goes for celebrations where the couple sit at their own Mr and Mrs table.

See this article for more information on seating divorced parents.

The reception and special guests

It is your duty as (co)host to ensure every guest enjoys the day.  So be prepared to get up and move around the room.  Target anyone who has made a special effort to attend such as anyone living a flight away or those with very busy schedules or incapacities.

Ambassadors have a whole staff researching guests and writing prep notes then directing handshakes for their receptions.  You’ll have to do with a couple of emailed lists and comments from your daughter.  But if you get nervous chatting to new people make sure you have at least those brief notes to help you in your task.

Dancing

Mother of the Bride dancing with the Groom
You’ll be glad you wore comfortable shoes for the dancing

Your daughter will have two key dances while everyone looks on – the dance with her new husband and the dance with her father.

But now it’s your turn to show your grace and elegance or alternatively your fun  side.  So get ready to take to the dance floor. 

Get this planned before the day so you can be positioned right as the music starts.  Does the couple want you to dance with the groom?  Perhaps while the bride is dancing with her father?  Or will your first dance be with the groom’s father whilst the groom’s mother dances with your daughter’s father? 

Or the couple may have no interest in any of this formality and just tell you to get on that dance floor and have a great time, dancing with whoever you want.

After the wedding

You may think that’s it.  She’s married. Time to relax.  Well not quite! 

Somebody – and it may be you or it may be the maid of honor and the head groomsman – need to ensure any gifts brought on the day are kept safe.  And if the couple receives a copy of the marriage certificate during the ceremony you can offer to keep it safe until they get back from their honeymoon.

There may also be guests’ property left behind or other items to be secured.  Rented items need to be returned. 

And then there’s the remains of the cake to store in someone’s fridge.

Hopefully the clear up and clear out of both the venue and any other rented space such as a tent or marquee will have been delegated to an outside contractor.  The last thing you want is to have to help clear up after the day – you will be exhausted for a week, emotionally and physically, even so.

One task you may be reasonably expected to take care of is the payment of any final bills, or tips, that the couple have arranged will be paid after their departure on honeymoon.  But be absolutely clear (yes, written notes from the couple) on who, why and how much.  And of course, whether the cheques are there ready or whether you will be reimbursed when the ‘children’ get back from their holiday.

Get more about after the wedding in this article.

So that’s it.

Time to slip off those shoes and indulge yourself.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. There is another important duty of the Mother of the Bride. It’s not one you hope to have to carry out but be prepared beforehand anyway. Read about this awkward subject here – hint, it’s not warning your daughter about what will happen on the wedding night! We take it she knows more about this than you do!

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