What Should the Mother of the Groom Wear to the Wedding?

Learn traditional and modern dress etiquette for mothers of the groom and the best colors to wear for a drama-free wedding day.

Updated June 15, 2023
Groom dancing with his mother

As the mother of the groom, your wedding ceremony attire should be uniquely you. But it's traditional to wear something that complements the mother of the bride's dress and coordinates with the wedding party.

Figuring out what the mother of the groom should wear is easy once you understand some of the basic guidelines around wardrobe etiquette and outfit colors for the mother in the bridal party. However, a lot of weddings today don't pay much attention to tradition. With a non-traditional wedding, you can choose something you love that will make you feel and look great as long as you, your son, and his partner agree on it.

Mother of the Groom Wear: Traditional & Non-Traditional Guidelines

As with most roles in a wedding party, there are a few traditional guidelines about what the mother of the groom should wear. Figuring out what outfit is best for your role in the ceremony as the mother of the groom might depend on whether the wedding is traditional or non-traditional.

Basic Traditional Guidelines

Following proper protocol is important, especially when it comes to extremely formal weddings. Keep wedding attire in line with some general mother of the groom guidelines for selecting a dress. These suggestions prevent the mother of the groom from making a faux pas that will be immortalized in photographs for decades to come.

  • Traditional mother of the bride dress etiquette says that she should select her dress first, then inform the mother of the groom what she chose in order for them to complement one another.
  • Wear a dress in a color, style, and length that goes with, but does not exactly match, the mother of the bride's dress and the bridesmaids' dresses.
  • Do not wear white, off-white, or similar neutral shade that match the bride's dress.
  • Choose a mother of the groom wedding outfit appropriate for the formality of the wedding. A casual wedding may allow a less formal dress. For example, summer dresses for a beach wedding might be casual, yet still dressy.
  • Do not wear black unless it's a formal wedding and the couple getting married approves the look.
  • Be conservative in your attire so as not to distract from the couple during the procession.
  • As with the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom is expected to purchase her own dress.

Modern & Non-Traditional Guidelines

Traditional etiquette has become relaxed in modern society, meaning some rules are frequently bent.

  • Black wedding dresses used to be a faux pas at a wedding; today, black is often part of the wedding color scheme, so don't rule it out completely.
  • Though the rules used to state that strapless or spaghetti strapped dresses were improper for a mother of the groom, today, some mothers opt for dresses like these with a bolero jacket, shawl, or wrap.
  • Checking in with the mother of the bride is a more traditional approach to selecting a mother of the groom dress and may not be needed in a modern wedding, so you may have more freedom in selecting your attire.
  • As brides are starting to let their bridesmaids choose their own style and color of dress for modern weddings, you might find there are fewer rules about the mother of the groom's attire as well. Check in with the couple and see if you can step outside of the box with your choice.
  • A reception dress or outfit might also be in order for a modern wedding. You could be able to choose a pantsuit for the reception or a more casual dress so you can enjoy the party comfortably. If the rest of the wedding party will have wardrobe changes, you can too.

Colors the Mother of the Groom Should Wear

With the basic guidelines out of the way, you can start thinking about the color of your outfit as mother of the groom. There are a few traditional ways to go and a few ways to have extra fun with the look.

  • Coordinate with the mother of the bride and discuss wearing the same color in different styles, so you both complement the wedding party while demonstrating your personal styles.
  • Choose a color that is truly flattering on you. You're going to be in those wedding photos for a lifetime, so you'll want a color that highlights your beauty.
  • Opt for a shade similar to the bridesmaids but slightly off so it doesn't seem like you're trying too hard to match them. If the bridesmaids are all in blue, you could try a rich navy. If they're all wearing deep purple, go for a soft lavender.
  • Though you'll want to avoid neutrals that could look white in photos - that's definitely a mother of the groom no-no - you could try other neutrals if you want to help the bridesmaids stand out. Opt for deeper neutrals like a medium toned gray, deep navy, rich brown, or subtle olive. If you're unsure which way to go, determine if the wedding party is wearing cool or warm colors. If they're cool, stick to gray or navy. For warmer colors, brown and olive are complementary.
  • Silver and gold are elegant choices for formal or black-tie weddings. Just make sure your shades are deep and bright enough. The last thing you want is for your silver dress to look white in photos next to the bride.

Dress Etiquette for Mother of the Groom

Although wedding planning guides are often filled with pages on issues like wedding invitation etiquette and who pays for what, little is said about what the groom's mother should wear to the wedding.

Wearing Black

groom and mother posing for wedding photo

Black and white weddings are becoming more and more popular. Sometimes, the couple will pick an accent color, like deep purple or claret red, while other times, they stick with basic black and white. Here, dress etiquette does not say much. Consider wearing one of the accent colors or black. A dark, deep toned dress is often appropriate. Ask your son's fiancée for their recommendations or preference based on what her mother is wearing.

Multi-Color Wedding Schemes

A trendy wedding color scheme is to have one that uses rainbow colors. This usually means the attendants all wear a different color. Here, the mother of the groom should wait until she learns of the mother of the bride's outfit and choose one in a flattering color. At a brightly colored rainbow wedding, the mother of the groom would not look out-of-place wearing a burnt orange or bright blue; at a wedding with pastel colors, a soft violet or mint green would look lovely.

Stepmothers of the Groom

A groom's stepmother is usually considered an honored guest, but not necessarily on the same honoree level as a mother of the groom or bride. Her attire should fall somewhere between normal wedding guest outfits and that of the mother of the groom. Speaking with the groom or his fiancé is a good way to figure out your proper role in the bridal party and proper dress code.

Select Appropriate Accessories

Remember that your accessories will help create the outfit.

  • Choose wedding shoes that are appropriate and not too casual. Nude-colored shoes are a great choice, but avoid white.
  • Create a hairstyle that complements your face shape but does not look like a bridal updo.
  • Look for jewelry that matches your dress or go with classic pearls.
  • Choose natural-looking makeup that suits the casual or elegant vibes of the ceremony.
  • Stick to a three accessory limit. Anything more might feel like too much.
  • Check with the couple before wearing any accessories that might be flashy, like a large hat, gloves, statement jewelry, or an accessory in a bold color.
  • Choose nude and neutral colors if you get your nails done unless otherwise stated by the bride or groom.

Check With Bride and Groom

Ultimately, what matters more than dress etiquette for mother of the groom is that the mother of the groom, the groom, and the bride are happy with the dress. Getting prior approval for the dress from the bride-to-be is a surefire way to know that you are dressed appropriately.

What Should the Mother of the Groom Wear to the Wedding?