The best mother of the bride outfits to take the stress out of shopping

Everything you need to find the best mother of the bride outfits to look sophisticated yet stylish on your daughter's big day

three of the best mother of the bride outfits
(Image credit: Macy's / Farm Rio / Anthropologie)

Finding the best mother of the bride outfits is no easy task. It might not be your big day, but watching your daughter get married is one of the most significant events of your life, so you'll understandably want an outfit that reflects that. 

In order to select one of the best mother of the bride outfits, the best place to start is by chatting with your daughter. Will the wedding be traditional or non-traditional? Is there a color scheme she would like you to stick to? And what is her overall vision and theme for the wedding day? These details are really important and will have a big impact on your outfit. As the kind of outfit you’d wear to a formal black tie wedding is very different from what you’d want to wear to a low-key garden party. 

“Run everything by the bride and ensure she is comfortable with your ideas,” advises Daisy Barnett, founder and personal stylist at The Daisy Edit. “Even if she says, ‘it’s up to you’, be sure she really feels good about what you’re wearing or have selected. Think about the photos and how your dress will look with hers, and be sure you feel authentic in whatever you’re wearing. It will likely be an emotional day and you’ll need to feel grounded in your outfit so you can feel present and comfortable.” 

When it comes to what to wear to a wedding, don’t feel pressured to go down the traditional mother of the bride outfit route of a big hat, dress, and matching jacket. It’s more important that you feel like you, and at ease in what you’re wearing. Equally, if you feel great in this kind of outfit, then go for it. 

The best mother of the bride outfits to shop now

The best mother of the bride outfits should stand out enough, that you feel special on the day, but in no way over shadow the bride's ensemble. As there will be many family photos, it's a good idea to work with your in-laws, so you can complement the best mother of the groom dresses too.

1. Beach wedding

With an abroad or beach wedding, you can pretty much guarantee great weather and this style of nuptials is naturally a little more relaxed. However, the trick here is making sure you look wedding-ready, rather than poolside glam. First and foremost, consider your fabric choice. You'll want to opt for natural fabrics such as linen, silk, or cotton and avoid anything too tight-fitting, as you'll want there to be good circulation and airflow to avoid overheating. 

Ask your daughter what she plans when it comes to bridesmaid dresses, so you can ensure you don't clash with the rest of the wedding party.

Take inspiration for floatiness from the beachwear and kaftans. Just make sure you have a steamer to hand for the morning of the wedding, as these kinds of fabrics are notorious for creasing. Some of the best summer dresses this season can easily be dressed up with a pair of jeweled flats, such as sparkly sandals, giving a modern nod to the shoe trends 2023

Worried your outfit might be too fancy for the relaxed feel of a beach wedding? Add a pair of sunnies, paying close attention to the sunglasses trends 2023 so they add style points to your look, a raffia clutch, and some bright chunky jewelry to evoke the fun and sunny feel of the event. 

2. High tea party wedding

Micro weddings are becoming more popular with many couples saying their vows at a registry office before celebrating with a few close friends and family. These types of weddings have a more formal dress code than a beach wedding, but less so than an evening, sit-down dinner. At a high tea party, vibrant, bold colors and patterns are the classic dress code and you can draw on inspiration from the dopamine dressing trend for a pop of mood-boosting brights like pink and green. Instead of a full-length, for this type of event, the best wedding guest dresses would be a tea-length dress, that falls above the ankle and below the knee, or the best midi dresses and finish the look with a pair of stand-out heels. 

3. Intimate Garden Wedding

Many lucky couples celebrate their nuptials in a family garden but just because this is an intimate affair, don’t mistake the dress code for casual. If the bride is wearing a traditional wedding gown, chances are she’ll want her guests to dress accordingly. Gardens evoke feelings of romance so reflect that in your mother of the bride outfit and choose a midi or maxi dress with a floral print or ruffles, for maximum femininity and elegance. Not sure how to wear a hat? Opt for a padded headband instead, which adds interest and height without feeling too formal. You don’t have to have long hair either. The best headbands for short hair are narrower for pixie cuts and wider for hair that hits your shoulders. 

4. Formal wedding

An evening wedding tends to be more of a ‘black-tie’ event, so a full-length dress is expected. This is the one wedding where it is acceptable to wear black, however, check with your daughter that she’s happy for the bridal party and more specifically the mother of the bride outfit to be in this usually frowned-upon color. An excuse to really get dressed up, you'll want to look for jewel tones, intricate beading, and sequin embellishment for a statement look. The best cocktail dresses are an obvious choice, but for the pants wearers, look to the best tuxedos for women as a jumping-off point for an evening look that still feels glamorous but suits your style needs. Wide-leg pants are really having a moment, with the nipped-in waist and flared legs making them a very flattering option. You can always mix and match the jacket and pants after the wedding too. 

5. Cocktail Wedding

A cocktail wedding outfit balances formal and informal attire and bridges the gap between day and evening wear. Cocktail dresses per sé are always beautiful and glamorous but avoid a ball gown and plump for a midi-length dress or a knee-hitting hemline for total sophistication. Not a fan of a dress? Try a flattering jumpsuit instead. Just make sure it’s suitably luxe. Maybe the fabric is silk or satin or the cut looks expensive. With this look, the finishing touches count. Take your outfit to the next level by reflecting your makeup in your accessories and opt for a little shimmer in your eye shadow. 

6. Summer Wedding

Although you can never guarantee sunshine, summer weddings normally feature periods outdoors. It could be just for photos, or for the reception drinks and mingling too. For this reason, you want to work on your outfit from the ground up. A stiletto heel can easily sink into mud, so make sure yours feature a sturdy block heel –  or play it safe with comfortable flats. One of the biggest shoe trends this summer is ballet pumps, which will look very chic paired with a dress. If the sun’s playing hide and seek, a maxi or mid-length dress will keep you warm when it’s cloudy while remaining loose if the day heats up. Fabric choice is always important with a maxi dress though. Avoid looking like you’ve turned up for a day by the pool by steering clear of jersey t-shirt material or anything that creases too much. Materials such as chiffon and silk are good options for keeping the look formal and elegant. 

7. Fall Wedding

Every fall bride hangs on to the hope that they'll be blessed with a surprisingly balmy day, so be prepared that some photos might be taken outside. And while you might get lucky, it's better to be prepared for cooler temperatures. Opt for closed-toe shoes, slightly darker hues (think rusty orange tones and sultry greens), and midi-length dresses or a trouser suit to usher in the season. If you're looking to balance a pear-shaped body try a structured jacket with strong shoulder pads as this will balance out your hips and create a narrower waistline. Team with elegant palazzo pants that will skim your silhouette and offer a feminine finish. 

8. Winter Wedding

Deciphering what to wear to a winter wedding as the mother of the bride is slightly easier to an extent as you get the luxury of drawing inspiration from Christmas party wear. Embrace sumptuous fabrics such as velvet, sequins, and faux fur for a fun and glamorous party look that feels seasonally appropriate too. Winter weddings tend to have a darker color palette to reflect the upcoming festive season – rich burgundies and moss greens, russets, and ambers are perfect. Aside from your outfit for the ceremony and party, you'll also want to invest in one of the best winter coats with a more glamorous feel than your traditional everyday jacket, so you can arrive in style. Check out the coat trends 2023 for inspiration.

What color should the mother of the bride wear?

Color is important when selecting the best mother of the bride outfits. Brides traditionally wear white, but there aren’t any strict rules when it comes to which color the mother-of-the-bride should wear. “Usually, she and her daughter discuss this and come up with a complimentary color to the wedding party that is flattering on the mother-of-the-bride’s skin tone,” says personal stylist and jewelry designer Zoé DuFour. As for colors to avoid, “I would probably say white, black, or red unless there is a color theme at the bride’s request,” adds DuFour. Wearing white can be seen as trying to upstage the bride, black is traditionally seen as a mourning color and red can be seen as an attention-grabbing shade. 

If your daughter is happy for you to take the lead when it comes to what color to wear, but you don’t know where to begin, start by looking in your wardrobe. Pick out the pieces that make you feel at your best and ask yourself, what color suits me as a starting point. Then reference the fashion color trends 2023, as this will give you an understanding of what you can expect to find in store. These will be the shades that always brighten your mood and make your complexion glow. You can then start shopping with these hues in mind.

“Traditionally the mother of the bride is expected to complement the bride, bridal party, and general color scheme of the wedding,” says Megan Watkins, Head Stylist at SilkFred. “These are commonly pastels, neutrals, and romantic tones.”

“However, many brides decide to go for a unique color scheme or do away with one altogether. A huge trend we’ve seen is mismatched bridesmaid dresses, which may point to brides being more relaxed about the mother of The bride outfit too. For 2023, I think we can expect to see bold colors such as royal blue and sunshine yellow in most fashion-forward wedding parties.”

“There is no reason for the mother of the bride to blend in,” adds Barnett. “Assuming the bride is on board then a pop of color can be a wonderful way for mom to separate herself from the rest of the guests and look beautiful in the photos - while still keeping the focus on the bride.” Bright jewel tones will look really gorgeous against white. “If bright colors are not your thing, then navy blue is also a wonderful option and is incredibly sophisticated,” continues Barnett. 

What should the mother of the bride not do?

There are no concrete no-gos around what the mother-of-the-bride shouldn’t do when it comes to selecting her outfit. The only important thing is making sure that your daughter is happy with what you’re wearing. First things first, that means making sure the color of your outfit is appropriate. For example, the bride might have a color scheme in mind that she wants you to coordinate with, or she may want to ensure you’re not wearing the same shade as the bridesmaids (or that you are). The second consideration is that your outfit fits the dress code. Being under or over-dressed never makes for an entirely comfortable experience. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be accused of trying to over-shadow the bride by wearing something too over the top. 

A final consideration is what the mother-of-the-groom or your fellow mother-of-the-bride will be wearing. “I have dressed many weddings where the mother-of-the-bride and the mother-of-the-groom decide to coordinate,” says DuFour. If you don’t already know them well, then chatting to your daughter’s partner's mother about outfits for the big day is a nice way to strike up a conversation and break the ice. Making sure you’re aiming for the same mark, not going to clash, and having the hat-or-no-hat chat ahead of time will avoid any potential outfit awkwardness at the wedding. 

Jess Beech

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.