Guide to Mother of the Bride Duties and Etiquette

Audrey M. Jones
Mother of the bride together with bride

Though you have probably been to countless weddings during your life, none are as meaningful as when your daughter walks down the aisle. Make your daughter's wedding day one she can treasure by flawlessly performing your role as the mother of the bride.

Planning Duties

As the bride's mother you want to help your daughter undertake the enormous task that is wedding planning. However, keep in mind that, although your daughter wants your assistance, she most likely does not want you to take over planning the entire event. Additionally, be mindful of the fact that there is her fiancé and his family to accommodate in the wedding events.

During planning, duties and etiquette as a mother of the bride include:

Basic Etiquette

  • Share your schedule: Let your daughter know when you're available for wedding planning. This will help her plan any visits or shopping that she wants you along with, but leaves the final decision of when and what to plan up to her.
  • Step back: It's wise let the bride and groom have some space during the planning process. Some events, like cake tasting or selecting groom's attire, may be more appropriately handled just by the two of them. Remember that the two of them will be making memories during the planning process.

Budget Decisions

If you are paying for the wedding, be upfront and honest with your daughter about what you can afford. Many brides prefer having a total amount to disburse among wedding purchases as they wish. This is because keeping an eye on the bottom line can make planning easier by allowing for setting individual budgets for each item desired.

If you can't afford more than you already offered, don't give any more. This is your right as the giver of the funds. However, it also means that if your circumstances change and you can no longer provide the total amount you stated earlier, you must share this information as soon as possible. Don't watch your daughter spend money you know is not there, as this only causes stress and heartbreak.

Don't involve yourself in monetary decisions if you are not paying for the wedding. If you're not providing funds for the wedding, you do not have the right to dictate any decision that your daughter and her fiancé make.

Provide Requested Advice

Provide advice about what your daughter should do or plan for her wedding only when asked or in situations you feel it is absolutely necessary to do so. Your daughter will appreciate being left on her own to figure things out without feeling bombarded by dictates of how she should spend the money given to her. Exceptions can be made in situations like the following:

  • When you feel something is necessary but has been overlooked. An example of this is transportation for guests from the ceremony to the reception. If there is no way for guests to get from one location to the other but your daughter has not considered this, gently bring it to her attention to avoid a wedding-day disaster. Many times, a question will serve this purpose, such as: "Have you thought about how guests are getting to the reception site after the ceremony?"
  • When you feel something is dangerous. If something in the ceremony reception venue threatens guest safety, speak up. Nobody wants to see Great Aunt Ida fall down the stairs during the reception.

Don't dismiss or be overly critical about something just because you don't like it. Additionally, don't set ultimatums. Keep in mind that this is your daughter's event and that, more than anything, you want her to be happy.

Shopping Duties

Help Wedding Dress Shop

Mother and daughter shopping for bridal gowns

The most important time for a mother of the bride to join her daughter is during wedding dress shopping. At this time, you can steer your daughter into a dress that is flattering, within her budget, and appropriate for her wedding.

Purchase Your Own Gown

Preferably, begin shopping for a mother of the bride gown once bridesmaids dresses have been chosen so that you can choose a color that will complement but not match them. Do not choose a dress in either black or white unless previously been discussed with your daughter.

Although not required, the groom's mother may appreciate you letting her know what color and style of dress you'll be wearing to the wedding. Wedding photos will turn out much better if the two of you do not wear gowns that clash.

Additional Shopping Duties

If you're invited, help your daughter go on venue visits and choose a venue, select flowers, and even choose a menu. If you're not invited, offer to help out in these ways and leave the decision of whether to bring you along up to her. When at visits, avoid being over critical and focus instead on providing guidance that you believe is helpful. If, for example, you know that a certain invitation font is too difficult to read, speak up and say that you think it might be a problem but let her decide whether to use the font.

Vendor Contact

If your daughter hasn't hired a wedding planner, offer to act as the point of contact for vendors and others that she has employed on the day of the wedding. This will avoid her being continuously contacted by vendors asking questions.

Create Your Guest List

A final guest list is often composed of individuals to invite from the bride's side and groom's side. Your daughter will find a spreadsheet or document listing names of family members and family friends that must be invited along with their addresses extremely helpful. To be even more helpful, you can indicate whether you think those persons you'd like invited will actually attend the festivities, to help your daughter plan.

Help Track RSVPs

It's perfectly acceptable and quite common for the mother of the bride to keep track of received RSVPs. You can do so by keeping a spreadsheet of all invited guests and their response. A Google document can be shared with your daughter so that she can easily see the responses received.

Mother of the bride attending bridal shower

Attend Bridal Shower

Traditionally, the mother of the bride doesn't throw a bridal shower in her daughter's honor unless the bride wants her to; that's usually the duty of the maid/matron of honor. However, it is perfectly acceptable for her to attend the shower. If your daughter will have several bridal showers thrown in her honor, attend the one that will involve the most family members. Also understand that there may be showers you are not invited to such as a "girlfriends only" lingerie shower.

Pre-Wedding Tasks

A mother of the bride's duties don't end with planning. Instead, she has several pre-wedding duties and etiquette points to comply with prior to the ceremony's occurrence.

Attend the Rehearsal Dinner

Traditionally the groom's parents host the rehearsal dinner. However, the bride's entire family should be present.

Stay Calm

Help your daughter through any last minute issues that may arise by remaining calm and working to solve the problem.

Be Ready Early

Get dressed early so that you are available to handle your daughter's pre-wedding jitters and any mishaps that arise. This may also allow you a few private moments with your daughter during which you can express how happy you are for her and your hopes for her new life as a wife. You will also want to be ready on time for family photographs that may be taken before the ceremony.

Ceremony Duties and Etiquette

When the big day arrives, your services will be called upon in multiple ways.

Help Your Daughter Dress

On the day of the wedding, the mother of the bride is expected to help the bride prepare for her big day. Perhaps it means getting your hair and nails done together or helping the bride into her dress and adjusting her veil.

Greet Guests Upon Arrival

In most cases the bride usually doesn't appear until the ceremony has begun. However, the bride's mother can stay in the vestibule or lobby of the ceremony location and greet guests as they arrive. You're not to be seated however, until all the guests have appeared.

Wait to Be Seated

Once it's time to begin the wedding, the ushers will seat the mother of the groom, followed by the bride's mother. The mother of the bride has one of the most important jobs of the whole wedding, for without her, the wedding ceremony can't begin. The mother of the bride is seated last on purpose, for this is the signal for the ceremony to begin.

Reception Duties and Etiquette

bride with mom at reception

Your daughter's officially married! It's time to celebrate, but not before you complete a few last-minute tasks.

Greet Guests

Many receptions still start with a receiving line. In a receiving line, you can great all the guests. However, if your daughter chooses to forgo this, make sure to visit each table to say hello to all guests. This will show your graciousness and make everyone feel welcome.

Speak If You'd Like

The mother of the bride isn't required to give speeches, but feel free to say a few brief words if you'd like. A good time for this is during the main course of dinner.

Dance the Night Away

At the wedding reception you'll be expected to share in a few dances, but for the most part, this is the part when you get to relax and enjoy yourself. Enjoy the food and the music and take in the results of all of your and your daughter's planning work.

Post-Wedding Duty

The main post-wedding duty is an emotional one.

Understand That Change Happens

Your daughter's new life may not include daily interaction with you. She may have to move away for a new job or to accommodate her husband's employment. Regardless of where she physically ends up, keep the lines of communication open so your relationship can continue to grow. Understand that she may no longer need your support daily but will always appreciate and care for you. A happily married daughter earns you a pat on the back for a job well done.

Acting as Mother of the Bride

Mother of the bride etiquette is often misunderstood and may lead to confusion. As the mother of the bride, it is important to understand your role and how your behavior can affect the festivities. Knowing what areas of the planning, ceremony, and reception you are responsible for the upcoming day should help things run smoothly.

Guide to Mother of the Bride Duties and Etiquette