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.
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
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.
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.