The day your son or daughter gets married is a very special, emotional day for a parent, and shouldn't be overshadowed the the stress of choosing wedding attire. You want everything to be perfect for them. But, navigating the rules and etiquette of wedding attire can be tough, especially if it's a traditional wedding.
The rules on wedding attire for parents are less defined than those of the bridesmaids or groomsmen, but more defined than those of the rest of the wedding guests. If you're confused about wedding attire etiquette and what to wear to your son or daughter's wedding, we've got some guidelines to help you work it out.
Attire For Fathers of the Bride and Groom
When it comes to wedding attire, dads have a bit of freedom in choosing what to wear. The main rule for dads is that your attire should match or exceed the formality level of the groomsmen's attire. So, if the groomsmen are renting tuxes the dads should do the same. The dads' tuxes should be in the same style as the groomsmen's, but they can differentiate themselves from the groomsmen by the color of their tie, vest, or both. Their outfits don't have to match the groomsmen's outfits or each other's outfits.
For a semi-formal wedding, dads can choose to wear a basic dark colored suit with a white shirt and silk tie. If it is a less traditional wedding, you could have a bit of fun with the color of the shirt and tie. If the groomsmen are not wearing suits, dads should wear a pressed shirt and dress pants, with or without a tie depending on the wedding dress code. Generally the father of the bride and the father of the groom will match formality level with each other.
In less formal situations, dads may choose to dress more formally than the groomsmen but shouldn't dress more formally than the groom. A good rule of thumb for deciding if your attire is too formal is if the groom would look underdressed next to you-you should wear a less formal outfit.
Mother of the Bride Dress
The mother of the bride's dress should match the formality level of the wedding and, traditionally, compliment the bridesmaid's dress color. If you're going with this route, the mother of the bride's dress will be chosen after the bridesmaid dresses.
Although the mother of the bride's dress should compliment the bridesmaid dresses, it generally shouldn't match them. You should wear a color that is complementary to the bridesmaid dresses. After all, a daughter's wedding is a very special and sentimental event for a mother, so she should be set apart from the rest of the wedding party.
Other options for complimenting the bridesmaid dresses is to wear the color the bridesmaids are wearing as an accent color. This can be done with a dress that has a pop of color or with shoes and accessories matching the color of the bridal party. If you're not sure what color to wear, greys and navy are quite neutral and compliment most colors well. Make sure to consult your daughter about what she would like you to wear to her wedding ceremony, as the bride most likely has an idea of what color she would like you in.
Mother of the Groom Dress
Traditional etiquette for the mother of the groom's dress is that it will be chosen after the mother of the bride has chosen her dress. This is because the mother of the bride's dress is supposed to serve as a guide for the mother of the groom's dress. After the mother of the bride has chosen her dress, the mother of the groom should try to find a dress that is similar in length and style.
As the mother of the groom, you should avoid wearing the same color dress as the bridesmaids or as the mother of the bride. When choosing your dress, choose colors that compliment the mother of the bride's dress and match the formality level of her dress. Always ensure that your dress choice doesn't clash with the mother of the bride's dress or with the bridesmaid's dresses.
It is best to inquire with the bride about what she wants you to wear as well. She may have a specific vision in mind or she may not care about wedding attire etiquette. If the bride is not going the traditional route it allows you more freedom in choosing your dress. If the bride does want to follow traditional wedding attire etiquette, it may be helpful to speak with the mother of the bride so you can better coordinate your dresses.
Although traditionally, there are a lot of constraints of the mother of the groom's dress, it is still important that you wear something you feel comfortable in. Try to find a balance between meeting the requirements of the occasion and choosing a dress that you feel good in.
Tips for Moms
Moms should focus on choosing their dresses after the bridesmaid dresses have been chosen in order to avoid clashing or wearing the same color as the bridesmaids. The mother of the groom should wait until the mother of the bride has chosen her dress for the same reasons. Ideally, you should start looking for a dress 3-6 months before the wedding.
It is better to look for a dress sooner, rather than later. This gives you time to find a dress that fits well and suits the theme of the wedding. It is also a good idea to have a backup dress; dresses can rip, drinks or food can get spilled on them, and other dress disasters can occur. Having a backup dress can save you from an embarrassing or uncomfortable situation and give you peace of mind.
When it comes to formality level, you can take some cues from the wedding venue. For a beach wedding, less formal attire is acceptable and more sensible shoes are recommended; sand and heels don't mix well. The same goes for the majority of outdoor wedding venues. For a more casual indoor venue, a semi-formal dress is most likely acceptable. If the venue is quite fancy then you should dress more formally.
You should also consider the bride's dress when you are making your dress selection. Aside from the obvious rule of not wearing white or ivory, you should also avoid wearing anything too flashy. It is best to avoid reds and other loud colors, and anything that has a lot of bling on it, unless otherwise specified by the bride. You don't want to upstage the bride on her wedding day; even if it's done unintentionally it can come off as rude and tacky and may be hurtful to the bride.
Hopefully, this helped take some of the confusion out of picking an outfit for your son or daughter's wedding. Wedding planning is stressful enough without adding additional worry over proper attire. Knowing what you're expected to wear helps you narrow down your choices, making shopping for an outfit so much easier.
Remember, these are just general guidelines on wedding attire for parents. More and more weddings are non-traditional these days, so some of the etiquettes may not apply. What recommendations do you have for parents trying to choose wedding outfits?
Michelle has been with Wedding Favors Unlimited for nearly 20 years. Starting out in Customer Service, she’s interacted with thousands of Brides helping them navigate every detail imaginable around a wedding. She became a full-time writer for us because she realized he kept getting the same questions over and over and wanted to share them with everyone. Feel free to ask Michelle a question below!