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8 Musts for a Fun, Low-Stress Experience • budget FASHIONISTA

Before my daughter’s wedding in 2022, I tried on at least 14 mother-of-the-bride dresses. The process was more daunting than shopping for my own bridal gown decades ago. The challenge was finding a dress that felt right among a sea of dowdy, matronly options.

Two years later, my shopping pictures are popping up as memories on my phone and social media accounts. I’m using those memories as inspiration to evaluate my MOTB shopping mission and summarize the key points. Now that time has passed, I can objectively share what I learned — so you can find the perfect dress for your daughter’s wedding…without pulling your hair out.

Shoulder to hip view of two women in formal dresses walking side by side.
Source: Canva.

Read on for my best eight tips for stress-free mother-of-the-bride dress shopping.

Stay focused

First, stay focused on the mission. Do this by jotting down style notes for yourself. For example, you might want the dress to feel modern or sophisticated or glamorous. You might prefer a certain color or silhouette. Documenting those preferences keeps you grounded, so you don’t get distracted by a great dress that doesn’t suit the occasion. If you’re working with a stylist, your notes also help you communicate what you want.

As an example, I briefly fell in love with a black backless gown that a stylist brought to me in a dressing room. It was gorgeous but way too sexy for my daughter’s wedding. That dress went back to the rack, but not without some hand wringing on my part.

Remember the event colors

Gather intel on the wedding colors and theme. Add any conclusions to your style notes. For example, you probably don’t want to wear the same color as the bridesmaids. And you don’t want to clash, either.

Opt for shades that complement the wedding colors without overshadowing them. Soft pastels, rich jewel tones, and elegant neutrals are timeless choices that exude sophistication and grace.

Consider the theme and venue

The level of formality of a wedding should influence the dress length and style you choose. For evening affairs or black-tie events, long gowns or elegant cocktail dresses are nice choices because they reflect the sophistication of the occasion. Conversely, daytime or semi-formal weddings call for shorter dresses or, possibly, chic business attire.

The venue is also a consideration. Outdoor settings like beaches or gardens welcome light fabrics and relaxed, free-flowing dresses. Church or hotel weddings require more formal attire to align with the venue’s decorum.

Choose dress shops wisely

The longer I shopped, the more impatient I got. That impatience can be good if you routinely have trouble with big decisions. I am not that person, however. So, the impatience made me edgy, like I had to complete this task before I could focus on anything else. When I did find a “perfect” dress, I bought it quickly — even though the price was well outside my budget. 

To avoid shopping fatigue and impatience, be disciplined about where you choose to shop. You don’t want to waste energy and time in dress shops that are unlikely to have what you want at the right price. If you’re not sure where to start, opt for big shops like JJ’s House or others that have a diverse range of mother-of-the-bride dresses .

For more ideas on where to shop for MOTB dresses, see: 11 tips for shopping gorgeous, budget-friendly MOTB outfits.

Ask your daughter for feedback

This is your daughter’s big day. Let her weigh in on your style notes and your dress shortlist. Her opinion is also valuable because she is closest to the event details. Therefore, she has a clear vision on the event’s vibe. That vision can help you choose a dress that elevates your presence and looks great in the photos.

Coordinate with the groom’s mom

Coordinating your style plan with the groom’s mom can help you both avoid missteps. The goal is to achieve harmony in color and style.

If you are not close to the groom’s mom, ask your daughter to facilitate the conversations.

Know that the bride’s mom usually takes the lead — but being stubborn about this won’t do you any favors. If the groom’s mom is opinionated about what she’s going to wear, let her have what she wants. Consider it a gift to the couple and a fun style challenge for you.

Think about accessories

As you consider different pieces, think about the accessory options. The ideal dress or suit will look amazing with a minimal accessory investment. Said another way, if a garment is inspiring you to accessorize heavily, it might be wrong for the occasion. MOTB garments don’t need to be stepped up with jewelry. At most, your accessories should include a pair of shoes, a chic clutch, stud earrings, and a pretty pendant.

Accessories can also be an opportunity to save. In my case, I teamed my pricey dress with shoes I bought used and jewelry I already had.

Have patience

My MOTB shopping regret is that I may have spent less if I had more patience. You can cultivate patience by:

  • Start shopping early.
  • Use Try Before You Buy from Amazon Prime to clarify which styles you like.
  • Schedule time on your calendar for in-store shopping.
  • Consider less traditional options if stores don’t have what you want, such as renting, buying used, or borrowing a dress.

Elegance on the big day

Selecting the perfect mother-of-the-bride dress is a delicate balance of etiquette, style, and budget. Do the groundwork early to understand the event details and what the mother-of-the-groom has in mind for her attire. Give yourself a defined list of style notes and use it to keep your shopping efficient and on point. Ask your daughter to weigh in and remember to plan for accessories as you shop.

Finally, stay patient. Stay confident that the right dress at the right price is out there, waiting for you. Hold out for that piece and enjoy your daughter’s wedding with no regrets.

PSA. It’s time to dump Google and switch to Ecosia. Get answers faster and make the world a better place. Download the Ecosia iOS app and make your browser’s homepage.



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