What Does The Stepmother of the Bride Wear?

It’s hard enough to figure out what to wear when you are the mother of the bride or groom, so what the heck are you supposed to wear when you are the stepmother of the bride or groom? Here are some dressing guidelines for getting it right.

step mom of the bride

Find out if the Bride and Groom are treating you as a Mom or a Guest

To know what to wear you have to be clear on whether you are being treated as a mom or a guest. This is determined by seating.

It’s totally up to the bride and groom to choose where they want their parents to sit on this very special day. Etiquette dictates that the biological parents sit together in the first row of the church, and any stepparents sit 2 or three rows behind. This may not seem fair and can really hurt, but remember this is your stepchild’s day.

An appropriate stepmother of the bride dress from www.davidsbridal

An appropriate stepmother of the bride dress from www.davidsbridal

Dressing if You are a “Guest.”

If you are going to be sitting a few rows behind, then the bride and groom have decided to treat you as a guest, not a mom, and you need to dress like a guest.

Often there is the temptation to try to upstage your spouse’s ex-wife, but don’t! If you try to stand out by wearing a very dressy or revealing style or a bright color, you will only look jealous and petty. You should not outdress the mother of the bride or groom.

Dressing if You are a “Mom.” 

In some cases, when parents have remarried, and there’s no fighting going on, then the bride and groom may want their parents to sit with their current spouses in the front row. In this case, you are being treated like a parent, so you may wear something similar to what the mother of the bride and mother of the groom are wearing. Still, be careful not to outdo them.

The etiquette around selecting either a stepmother of the bride dress or a stepmother of the groom dress is as follows:

  • the mother of the bride chooses her dress first, then
  • the mother of the groom, then
  • the stepmother of the bride or stepmother of the groom can choose.

A bride may have suggestions for what style and color might be appropriate, but she can’t dictate.

What Color to Wear?

The key to selecting the right color is: don’t wear the same color as the mother of the bride, mother of the groom or the bridesmaids.  So if the bridesmaids are wearing blue, the mother of the bride is wearing pink, and the mother of the groom is wearing lavender, don’t wear any of these colors. Instead, you could wear a pale mint green, pale yellow, light gray or peach, even taupe would work.

A few colors to always avoid would be white, red, and in some cases black.

Can You Ever Wear Black? 

Black is a tricky one. Sometimes brides don’t want it at all. Other times brides opt for black and white theme wedding and may request all parents or step parents wear black. You really need to consult with the bride before you go out looking at dresses.

In the end, go for a dress in a style and color that won’t steal attention away from the mother of the bride or groom. It’s also always good to choose a dress that will look timeless in family wedding photos for years to come.


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  1. I think black at a wedding is such a lost opportunity, unless the entire wedding party is doing black and white, which can be very sophisticated. Black is such a fall back for every occasion it seems, I’m sorry to see it seeping into weddings. To enhance the overall look of weddings and to give them continuity, I suggest the mothers of the bridal party dress in complimentary hues. This makes for a lovely coordinated look in the photos, giving an appealing over all effect, rather than mismatched colors fighting one another.

  2. former MOB says:

    As a former MOB who lucked out with her shopping I can see the idea behind wearing 2 dresses & would probably do so again if I were to be MOB again. I felt totally appropriate and comfortable in a MOB dress coordinated with the wedding party for the ceremony and photographs (I walked my daughter down the aisle & bought from the same line the bridesmaids did), but at the reception occasionally felt out of place as I was not dressed in just a fancy version of my usual style (there was no MOG). My MOB bride dress was more formal than what most of the guests were wearing.

  3. What a great idea is the Mother of the Bride e-book. There are lots of things to be said about the role, things to prepare and of source how to look one’s best.

    • Hi Brian,
      I think so too. After all, your child’s wedding day will be captured forever in a gorgeous family photo that often hangs on the wall for years and then is passed down through the generations, so you want to look as fabulous as you can be! It’s a important day in your life as well as theirs. Enjoy.

  4. Wow, I love the dress.