Stepmother of the Bride: What to Wear

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Perhaps the role in weddings with the least resources available for research, and the most challenging to dress, is the stepmother of the bride (or groom). You certainly want to be in your gorgeous best, yet you’re trying to be more sensitive and not upstage the mom. So what do you do?

What to Consider

Your Relationship with Your Stepdaughter or Stepson

First, take a step back and assess your relationship with your stepchild. How close are you to them? Do you talk often, do they share secrets with you? Do you think they consider you as a parent or a close friend? How long have you been married to their dad?

Next: Are You Invited As A Guest Or As A Parent

The next step is to determine if you are coming to the wedding as a guest or as a parent. This is usually determined by the seating arrangements. Some etiquette experts say that the couple’s biological parents must sit together on the first row and stepparent should be seated on the second row. While many other experts – and people in general – disagree to this, remember that this is totally up to the bride and groom. And while it may hurt (especially if you have a close relationship with your stepchild), you have to respect their choices. It is their big day, after all.

What to Wear

What to wear if you’re coming as a guest

If you are coming as a guest, wear something classy and choose an appropriate length for your dress. This is quite tricky, but remember that you are still family and somehow expected to participate in the wedding in some way, so try not to veer away too much from what the mothers of the bride and groom will be wearing, or wear some of the wedding colors. Choose a dress that is not too revealing, and even though it will be tempting to upstage your husband’s ex wife, don’t. This day is not about you, or your husband’s ex wife.

What to wear if you’re coming as a parent

Many couples are not very traditional and decide to do their own thing, not following the standard “etiquette”. This is not uncommon for families where there are stepparents, especially if the step kids grew up with them and / or has a very close relationship with them.

In this case, wear something similar to what the mothers will be wearing. Just the same, resist the urge to outdo them. As a guide, let the mother of the bride choose her dress first, then the mother of the groom, before you choose yours.

If you are coming as a parent, then you certainly have some sort of relationship with your stepdaughter or stepson, so consult with them first about your dress. The bride, specifically, will likely have suggestions on what she prefers the mothers to wear.

The Colors

Perhaps the most important factor in selecting your dress is choosing the right colors. Here’s a tip: do not wear the same color as the mothers of the bride and groom or the entourage. It is safe to wear a more subdued color or something neutral. Also, avoid white, red and in some instances, black as well. Popular color choices are taupe or beige because they are classy and neutral, and royal or navy blue because they are conservative but somewhat livelier than black.

Ally and partner Ken at Ken's son's wedding Photo by Mot Rasay Photography

Ally and partner Ken at Ken’s son’s wedding
Photo by Mot Rasay Photography

In the photo, Lawyer Ally attended her partner’s son’s destination wedding in Asia. The wedding colors were bright spring shades of pinks. She was dressed appropriately in a dress of proper length and the colors did not over shadow the mothers. She picked a subtle shade of lilac with lace details that were pretty and attractive, yet not loud. Photo credit to Mot Rasay Photography.

At the end of the day, remember that this is a very important day in the lives of your stepchild and their partner, and one that will be remembered by the family (and friends forever), so you want to look classy and attractive without upstaging the mothers and causing gossip. If you can, ask the bride for advice or suggestions on your dress. This is the safest solution to this dilemma! Choose classy accessories and shoes to match your dress and remember to smile for photos!

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