Mother of the Bride

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 do you wear when you are the stepmother. Here are some dressing guidelines for choosing an appropriate stepmom dress that won’t offend.

Stepmother of the Bride Dress Etiquette – Are You a Mom or a Guest?

The first thing you need to clarify is 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 special day. Etiquette dictates that the biological parents sit together in the first row of the church, and any stepparents sit two or three rows behind. This may not seem fair and can hurt, but remember, this is your stepchild’s day.


Dressing as 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 upstage your spouse’s ex-wife, but don’t! If you try to stand out by wearing a 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 as a “Mom.” 

When parents have remarried, and there’s no fighting going on, 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.


Wedding Etiquette for Mother of the Bride Dress 

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

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

step mom of the bride dresses

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 bride’s mother is wearing pink, and the groom’s mother 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. Err on the side of a more subdued color.

A few colors to avoid would be white, red, and sometimes black. Royal blue or Navy is popular because it is conservative but a little livelier than black.

Can You Wear Black? 

Black is a tricky one. Sometimes brides don’t want it at all. Other times brides opt for a black and white theme wedding and may request all parents or stepparents wear black. You 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.

Real-Life Example: Stepmother of the Bride Dilemma

step mother of the bride dress

When Wanda’s stepdaughter was married, Wanda’s primary goal was not to upstage the mother of the bride. However,  she still wanted to look nice and make a great impression.

Wanda, 61, did just that when she wore this stunning, deep purple dress with wrap detail. She accented the dress with a beautiful necklace, earrings, and a vintage Gucci watch with an elegant band. It’s a chic, figure-flattering look.

Wanda, you were a wonderful stepmother of the bride.

Mother of the Bride Ebook

Need more Ideas?

Do you have a wedding coming up? What are you planning to wear? If you need help deciding which mother-of-the-bride dresses (or mother-of-the-groom dresses) might be best for you, check out my bestselling book Tweak Your Chic – Mother of the Bride. It will tell you everything you need to know on one of your life’s most important and cherished days.

Join the Conversation

34 thoughts on “What Does The Stepmother of the Bride Wear?

  1. I am a stepmom to the groom.
    The bride’s mother wears a long dress, but I haven’t been told about the color.
    The groom’s mother is wearing a pants suit; I have not been told the color.
    The bridesmaids are wearing blush, and the groomsmen are in navy.
    My husband, the groom’s father, and the bride’s father have been told to wear black suits. When I asked what color I should wear, I was told it didn’t matter.
    I am trying to blend in and not stand out. Would a floral long-sleeve dress with the above colors be too much? It’s longer in the back, shorter in the front, and below my knees.
    I don’t want to cause any issues, but I feel I am not getting any helpful information.

  2. My step-daughter is getting married in September, and I asked her what color the wedding party and the mothers would wear – she told me black. My step-daughter and I get along pretty well, so she said I could wear black because I will be in pictures. I was going to get a different color but didn’t want to stand out since everyone would be in black. I didn’t know what to do and wanted to get a tea-length dress, not a gown, even though it was a black-tie wedding. Her father and I do not get along with her mother. She wants both parents to walk her down the aisle. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Diane, If the bride wants you to wear black, and everyone else in the photos will be in black, you will surely stand out in another color. It’s her day, so I would do as she asks to make her happy and avoid conflict with the mother. As for the length, you can wear a cocktail-length dress, so long as it is very dressy – rich fabric, fine details, not too much skin. I hope this helps.

  3. Hi,

    I need to be clear on colors for the stepmom. Although she will have her mom, do I have to wear the same colors for the wedding or can I choose to wear a different color? Please advise.

    1. Tasha, If you are not part of the wedding party, you can wear whatever color you like, but if you are part of the wedding party and will be included in the photographs, then I would try and coordinate my colors. Does it sound like you are more of a guest and not part of the wedding party?

  4. Hi Kimberly,

    I’m attending a semi-formal spring destination wedding as the Stepmother of the Groom. The MOB and MOG are wearing long sequined gowns. I will be seated with FOG, but we will not be part of the wedding procession. I will be in pictures but will not be given a corsage, which, to be honest, hurts a little. FOG would like me to dress very beautifully, but I am sensitive not to upstage the MOG or MOB. I have selected a knee-length muted floral dress in colors similar to that of the bridesmaids. I wonder if I should wear a long or short gown (I’m 5’ 10”, so long dresses look rather dramatic on me). Is it OK to wear a floral that coordinates with everyone else’s colors, or should I wear a different color like beige or blush? (The bridesmaids wear the mothers, mint wear navy, silver, and light blue).

    1. So sorry, Gretchen, this is so stressful for you, and they are making it so difficult and unpleasant. It’s a tricky situation. Remember, it’s not about you but their insecurities. MOB/MOG doesn’t want to be upstaged; they should wear a short dress. I think the floral would be fine since it is in muted colors. However, I think your intuition is telling you something, and maybe you should wear a beige or blush dress to avoid them saying you were trying to look like part of the wedding party. I hope that helps!

  5. Hi,
    My new stepdaughter is getting married in 3 months, and I am unsure what I should wear. I had asked her dad (my husband) if he knew what colors she was using for the wedding, and she stated dark greens; I currently have an emerald green dress that I had bought before I knew this, but I feel like if this is a color that she might have her bridesmaids in or even her mother or the groom’s mother in these colors… what should I do, should I go out and purchase a new dress?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Kim, I don’t know what your relationship with her is like, but if she has her wedding party in green, I will stay away from that. Try to get more information, and if you can’t, I suggest navy or some blue. The Navy is conservative and always works. All the best. Deborah

  6. I love your advice.
    I have a dilemma of my own.
    I am the MOB, there is a SMOB involved, and I have no issues w/her sitting as the FOB during the ceremony or at the reception. My point is she purchased the same color and style I chose to wear. She even brought up the idea of discussing color and style choices so we wouldn’t be in the same ones. Then she goes and buys a dress the color mine. How should I handle this situation without seeming jealous or petty?

    1. Hi Teri,
      So sorry to hear this. I don’t think you are being petty at all! The wedding dress etiquette says that the bride’s mother picks her dress first and all the other women in the wedding party follow suit. I can understand you not wanting her to be in the same color and style. Can the bride step in? Here is an article to help prove my point, or you can google wedding etiquette and find the same: Since you are supposed to be chosen first, you must be courteous and do so in a timely matter, at least three months ahead, to give others the time to order and fit their dresses. Best of Luck. Deborah

  7. I am in a challenging situation. I am not married to the Father of the Bride, but we have been together for many years. The bride has been less than forthcoming with any information about my role in the wedding (i.e., where I will be seated, photos, etc.). The MOB has remarried, and her new husband has a significant role in the reception (he will be sharing a father/daughter dance), but he will not be included in walking her down the aisle). I may be seated with FOB, but that may be the only ‘non-guest’ gesture extended (there are no hard feelings, just not a close relationship). I inquired about the MOB/MOG dresses, and the reply was, “…they are wearing navy. And that it doesn’t matter what you wear.” I said casually, implying that I shouldn’t be stressed about something. I thought it odd that they would both be wearing the same color, but I was more thinking that the response indicated that I should consider myself a guest and that I should have no expectation to be in any role of step-MOB whatsoever. It does, however, concern me that I will be with the FOB throughout the evening and may be in photos, possibly more than the average ‘guest,’ and I do not wI want to be underdressed. While I would never try to outdo the Mothers, I want to be appropriately attired. Would you suggest I avoid the colors of the mothers and bridesmaids, even as a regular guest?

    1. Hi Kari,
      Weddings are always so complicated. Yes, I get the sense they are implying you are a guest, so I would avoid navy or the color the bridesmaids are wearing. There are many other lovely sades out there for fall. I would go for a pretty cocktail dress in plum, burgundy, or some rich shade that photographs well and is classic. A print would even be acceptable. What about all the dark florals we are seeing? You could perhaps wear a dark navy dress, but only it was covered in bright florals, so it read floral, and not navy. That, or a floral dress with a black background. Whatever the case, the message is clear. Don’t try to look like you are wearing something similar to the MOB or MOG. That doesn’t mean you can’t look beautiful in whatever you choose. Hold your head high and find yourself a lovely dress. All the best, Deborah

  8. This was very helpful. I certainly did not want to appear petty or rude or by attempting to upstage the mother of the bride.

  9. Hi, I need help. My significant other’s son is getting married. We are not married but have been together for 15 years. The MOB is wearing navy, the MOG is wearing Plum, and the Bridesmaids are wearing Sangria. I am also doing the flowers for the wedding party, and when the mother corsages, I was told by the bride that I should have one. What should I wear?

    1. Hi Rena, What about gray or silver? That goes well with plum, Sangria, and Navy. You could also wear champagne which is a neutral that also works. Just don’t wear the same color as the bridesmaids. Have fun doing the flowers.
      Cheers, Deborah

  10. I am the step-mom of the groom. I have been married to his father for 22 years. My hubby and his ex do not speak to one another but will be fine doing what is asked of them. The bride is very nonchalant about what we all should wear. She says wear whatever you want. The wedding colors are blush and gold. Bridesmaids are in rose gold. MOB in light pink, MOG in lilac. Should I be in long or short? I have a column dress in creamy beige color with pink and gold embroidered flowers. I have a pink shrug for church and either gold or pink shoes. Is this dress appropriate

  11. I am the stepmother of the groom. My husband and his ex-wife have been divorced for twenty years, and he and I have been together for four years. We all have a friendly relationship. The bridesmaids’ dresses are wisteria, and the MOB and MOG wear gray/silver. I asked the bride whether I should wear a long or short dress, and she said I could wear whichever I preferred. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Jolie,
      A navy dress would look nice with silver, and as for long or short, I would say short. If it has only been four years and the groom is a grown man, you are more like a guest than another mom. If I’m wrong and you feel you helped raise him and are close to him, then you could wear a long gown, but only if the MOB and MOG are wearing long too. I’d go short.

  12. Thank you for this article. This particular day isay for my stepdaughter and her mother and father. We all get along, so there are no hard feelings toward one another, so I want to keep it that way! Lol. The bride’s mother has not chosen her dress yet, but I am looking for one as I post this. I’m sure I’m going with a neutral color and something more business-like, then dress it up with some blingy jewelry. I was going to play it safe.

  13. I like the sample dress on the right with the cap sleeves. Any idea where I could find this dress?

  14. I disagree the stepmother should dress down or be pushed back. When my other stepdaughter got married, I had no problem sitting in the second row in the church, but at the reception, I was put at a table with my back to the top table; I felt terrible, and I could see people looking at me in pity. as I am married to the bride’s Father, and the Mother and Dad are apart 25 years. They don’t speak to each other about why I should be pushed aside. I will also wear whatever color I want as the bride’s mother did not tell me what color she was wearing, so I expect the same will happen again.

    1. Asat as a SMOB or SI agrees that MOG, we shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens. Especially since, in this day, we are co-parenting, and some are even more a parent. I have a very Blended family of Adopted and Step and Foster, but I hate those titles when introduced. They are all my children, no matter how they became my children. I have been married to her father for 18 years, and being treated like I’m less just because I didn’t carry her in my belly is insane. I do not think it is right to segregate a family like this. A marriage is supposed to bring people together, embracing differences and love, not pushing people away. If Bio-Mom and Dad are no longer together, why indulge in a fantasy for a day and pretend they are by pushing out others and not embrace what is real and love the ever-growing family?

  15. I have been struggling with how to accessorize my wedding dress as the bride’s stepmother. It is a solid navy dress, and I’ve got two options: nude shoes, a purse with pearls, or silver shoes and a bag with silver. The silver combo is edgier, and the pearl combo is timeless. Your article sealed it with your comment about being timeless.
    Thank you. I’ll save the edgy stuff for another event and remember that these photos will be around for a long time, and I don’t want to date them.

  16. HELP! I am to be the bride’s stepmother, and the MOB has selected the most overly casual dress for the day. It is a dress I might wear to work and would not consider it for a wedding or party…I did not want to upstage her, but NOW what do I do? I would never feel comfortable at any wedding that dressed…The bride says anything but white.

    1. Hi, Future mob,
      Have you talked to the bride? Perhaps she can gently encourage the mob to dress up a little more? I understand you not wanting to upstage her, but I agree you have to feel good too. If she insists on the dress, you may have to tone it down a bit, i.e., not much embellishment or a more subtle color, but in the end, I think you should wear what makes you feel good.

  17. I think black at a wedding is a lost opportunity unless the entire wedding party does black and white, which can be very sophisticated. Black is such a fallback 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, providing an appealing overall effect rather than mismatched colors fighting one another.

  18. As a former MOB who lucked out with her shopping, I can see the idea behind wearing two dresses & I would probably do so again if I were to be a MOB again. I felt 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.

    1. 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 critical day in your life as well as theirs. Enjoy.

It's your life. Make it Fabulous!

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