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Wedding Etiquette for Mother of the Bride & Groom

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Couple etiquette

My father had a singular perspective on tieing the knot—”emotions run highest at weddings and funeral.” As we head into preparations for Spring and Summer weddings, I thought we all might welcome some guidance in the area of protocol and manners.  Best to keep the emotion quotient down as much as possible. And here we look to the experts…

Diane Gottsman is founder of the Protocol School of Texas  and a leading etiquette expert (a frequent guest on Fox and Friends and The Today Show) as well as a contributor to the Huffington Post. I knew that this topic—etiquette advice for the mother of the bride or groom — would resonate with many of you! Welcome, Diane, to Private Newport. We’re all anticipating your “words of wisdom.”

You have been anxiously awaiting the day, but nothing can prepare you for the excitement you feel when your child tells you they are getting married.

Your support will be instrumental in navigating the expectations of the soon-to-be husband and wife. As you watch your child usher in a new chapter in their life, it’s important to keep the following tips in mind to ensure you do your part to make their big day memorable.

Slattery Wedding - Maaike Bernstrom etiquette
Wedding Etiquette Tips and Suggestions. Image via Maaike Bernstrom Photography

Wait to announce the big news . Before you post on social media and tell all of your friends and family of the engagement, take a pause. Ask your son or daughter when it would be most appropriate to share the news. Allow them to be the first to tell the world while you follow suit.

Reach out to the other in-laws.  As we all know, marriage is more than just the union of the bride and groom. Plan a luncheon or invite the groom/bride’s family out to dinner to get to know them on a more personal level. Use the opportunity to make new introductions and discuss important aspects of the ceremony and reception. Don’t forget to include the happy couple and ask for their input in the wedding preparations.

Request guidance. Although your children probably welcome your advice, they more than likely have their own agenda for the ceremony and reception. Instead of pressuring the bride to wear a family heirloom or incorporate a family tradition into the nuptials, ask if they would consider adding these elements to their plans. Be prepared if they politely decline your offer or request.

etiquette walking away
Wedding Etiquette Tips and Suggestions. Image via Maaike Bernstrom Photography

Don’t exceed your limit yourself. As a mother of the soon-to-be-married couple, you can easily overwhelm yourself with too many responsibilities. Be realistic and take on manageable tasks so you don’t find yourself exhausted or overworked. Allow others to pitch in, delegate tasks and make sure to include the bridesmaids in the party planning process. You want to be available for your son or daughter, but not come across as meddling.

etiquette maroon
Wedding Etiquette Tips and Suggestions. Image via Maaike Bernstrom Photography

It’s not a competition.  Instead of tallying points and keeping score, focus on how to make the days leading up to the wedding as special as possible. You may find that you can accomplish much more when you choose to join forces with the other mother in law. Although there may be moments when you have differing opinions, keep your children’s wishes in the forefront of your mind.

etiquette Mr and Mrs
Photo Credit: Maakie Bernstom Photography

Let the mother of the bride pick her dress first. Even though many wedding traditions have been substituted with modern innovations, allowing the bride’s mother to select her outfit first will continue to be a time-honored privilege. As the mother of the groom, avoid the urge to go shopping until you know what the mother of the bride has chosen. Once she has made her selection, use it as inspiration to find something unique, yet complementary. White is not an option for the mother of the bride or groom (or anyone else for that matter).

Feature image by Maaike Bernstom Photography

Thank you so much, Diane, for your wise and thoughtful advice. For more of her sage tips on all things etiquette do stop by and visit her website.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

2 thoughts on “Wedding Etiquette for Mother of the Bride & Groom

  1. Bettie,
    I would love to stay in touch.
    I can’t think of a better way to do so then by reading your blog and newsletter.
    I will cherish the opportunity to keep abreast of your wanderings and entertaining.
    With every story you will transport me back to Newport.
    Thank you for your friendship,
    Very warmly,
    Michele (a.k.a. COCO)

    1. Oh Michele, I’m missing you already…not to mention the most divine chocolates in the world. Please keep me posted on your culinary adventures and I shall keep you posted on Newport! xB

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