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Best mother of the bride dresses for a 2024 wedding - plus expert advice on what NOT to wear

We've found the most elegant mother of the bride dresses...

Mother of the bride dresses
HELLO!
Hollie BrothertonLifestyle & Commerce Senior Writer
Maisie BovingdonFreelance Writer
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Once the bride has chosen her wedding dress, it's time to turn your attention to the mother of the bride's dress. You're probably looking for something classy and elegant, and certainly not frumpy.

Traditionally, it has been said that the mother of the bride's outfit should complement the bridal party, and follow the same colour scheme. However, these days many brides are more relaxed, giving their mums free reign to choose what they feel best in - although it is best to check in with her just in case.

We spoke to leading wedding and events planner Lavinia Stewart-Brown, who told us: “There is no specific rule for the mother of the bride, it is dependent on the couple's dress code. However, I will caveat that, one rule is that they must not outshine the bride!"

While some mothers of the bride will go all out with a dress, a matching jacket to cover up, and a hat, others may prefer a trouser suit with a blazer for a little more coverage. The options are endless, but it's important to dress appropriately for the venue, and primarily, to feel comfortable and confident.

What is the mother of the bride supposed to wear?

The mother of the bride’s outfit for a wedding is typically meant to be modest, co-ordinate with the bridal party, and, of course, not outshine the bride. Most commonly, the mother of the bride will wear a mid-length dress and usually a full-length or ¾ length sleeve design, although capped sleeves are also popular.

"When picking an outfit, maybe work with the bride to find something that is complimentary and fitting with the venue," says Lavinia. "For example, a destination wedding may have a more laid-back feel to match the country's climate however, a UK wedding may be more formal. I wanted my own Mum to go for something really special so everyone knew she was one of the most important guests.”

Some mums may choose to add a blazer to their outfit, or a shawl if the wedding is in a religious setting, as well as a hat or a fascinator. More recently many mother of the brides choose to wear a two-piece suit, instead of a dress, whether that is a trouser suit or a skirt and jacket.

Kathy Hilton, Carol Middleton, Sarah Ferguson, Doria Ragland wearing their mother of the bride dresses
Celebrity and royal mothers of the bride (L-R Kathy Hilton, Carol Middleton, Sarah Ferguson, Doria Ragland)

What is the most popular colour for the mother of the bride's dress?

The unspoken rule when it comes to weddings is not to wear white like the bride and some brides wish for the entire bridal party, including the mother of the bride, to co-ordinate and follow the same colour scheme. Champagne hues, blush pinks and other pastel hues tend to be favourable.

Lavinia says: “This is definitely seasonal dependent, in the last year I saw a lot of powder blues during the summer months. People often choose a pastel colour so this is a good place to start for a summer or spring wedding. For a winter or autumn wedding, you can play around with a richer colour pallet - the dark and dramatic backdrops work well with this! 

"For a destination wedding, I think there is a need to consider which colours will be most comfortable in the sunshine - I maybe wouldn’t opt for a dark or rich colour.”

Does the mother of the bride have to wear a hat?

In short, no, the mother of the bride does not have to wear a hat. Some who wish to stick with tradition may choose to wear a hat or opt for a fascinator for a more low-key alternative, but it's not essential.

“The mother of the bride wearing a hat is a time-honoured tradition and not a necessity in my opinion," says Lavinia. "I think you can make the judgement based on the overall feel of the wedding - for a very traditional wedding, hats are more likely to be worn. For something more laid back, I think it is down to personal preference. There is no simple yes or no I am afraid!”

What shouldn't the mother of the bride wear?

Ever the question. The mother of the bride plays a key role in being a huge support for the bride, groom, and father of the bride, but it is traditionally frowned upon if any guest wears white to a wedding. It's also best to avoid dressing in any way that will outshine the bride, from revealing cuts to bold designs.

Some say it's advisable to not buy your dress too early in case it doesn’t fit on the day, and of course don't leave it until the last minute. It's also important to get the footwear right, as you will likely be on your feet for hours. Opt against stiletto heels and in favour of a chunkier heel, or a wedge, if you want to add a little height.

What are the best brands for mother of the bride dresses?

Lavinia says: “Depending on how much you are looking to spend, lots of high street stores have some great options for mother of the bride - Whistles and Reiss are great options and have a luxurious feeling without such a high price tag. For something a bit more mid-market, I would say Ralph Lauren is a great place to look. For something higher budget, Chanel carries a lot of amazing and classic styles. I have also worked a lot with the brand Caroline Castigliano who has a stunning evening and mother of the bride range.”

How we chose the best mother of the bride dresses

  • Trusted brands: We've only included dresses from brands the HELLO! shopping team know and love in this edit. We've worn pieces from their collections on multiple occasions.
  • Variety: Whether you're looking for a maxi or midi length, something sleek or statement, sleeveless or long-sleeved, we've found a style to suit you.
  • Price: We've included dresses suitable for a range of budgets, from £475 pieces by Needle & Thread to affordable £65 options from Debenhams.
  • Hobbs Mother of the Bride Dress

    Hobbs dress

    Hobbs Lois Embroidered Midi Dress

    Sizes available: UK 6-18

    Colours available: Navy

    Shipping: £2.95 Standard Delivery or free for orders over £150

    Returns: Free within 28 days

    Hobbs is a popular shopping destination when it comes to formal attire and even has its own Mother of the Bride edit.

    For those looking for a luxe option in a darker colour, the Lois dress is ideal. Adorned with elegant embroidery, the navy shade will complement any skin tone, while the timeless fit-and-flare shape and sheer sleeves ensure it's universally flattering.

  • Monsoon Mother of the Bride Dress

    Monsoon Kendra

    Monsoon Kendra Embellished Maxi Dress

    Sizes available: UK 6-18

    Colours available: Blue

    Shipping: £3.95 Standard Delivery or free for orders over £50

    Returns: Free within 28 days

    Monsoon is another of our go-tos when it comes to occasionwear, including weddings, which they have a category for customers to shop curated items.

    If you're looking for something with a bit of sparkle, we love the embellished design of the Kendra dress. Falling to a maxi length, it has a flattering twist detail and flutter sleeves. We'd style it with metallic accessories.

  • Phase Eight Mother of the Bride Dress

    Phase Eight mother of the bride

    Phase Eight Elnata Tux Midi Dress

    Sizes available: UK 6-20

    Colours available: Soft Pink

    Shipping: £2.95 Standard Delivery or free for orders over £150

    Returns: Free within 28 days

    With its pastel hue and sleek silhouette, we think Phase Eight's Elnata tux dress is very Carol Middleton. Falling to a midi length, it's beautifully tailored with double breasted buttons, a matching belt and clean seam detailing. 

  • Self-Portrait Mother of the Bride Dress

    Self Portrait dress

    Self-Portrait Embellished Peplum Bouclé Midi Dress

    Sizes available: UK 4-16

    Colours available: Blue

    Shipping: £8 Standard Delivery or free for orders over £350

    Returns: Free within 30 days

    One personal favourite for stunning occasionwear pieces is Self-Portrait, and none other than Princess Kate is also a big fan of the brand.

    Not only does it have the royal seal of approval, this dress has been cut to emulate a two-piece set, creating the illusion of a bouclé-tweed jacket and pleated chiffon skirt with metallic flecks and subtle sequins in the fabric - gorgeous.

  • Ghost Mother of the Bride dress

    Ghost mother of the bride dress

    Ghost Grace Satin Midi Dress

    Sizes available: UK 6-18

    Colours available: Rose, Navy, Black, Ivory, Lilac, Stone

    Shipping: £4.95 Standard Delivery

    Returns: Free within 28 days

    Ghost has you covered for all formal occasions, and it's a brand Holly Willoughby often turns to.

    Known for its iconic satin designs, you'll find plenty of mid-length creations, two-piece sets and much more. Inspired by vintage designs, the Grace dress is made from a heavy satin fabric and cut with a gentle v-neck, delicate angel sleeves and subtle gathering around the shoulders and bust.

  • Needle & Thread Mother of the Bride Dress

    Needle & Thread gown

    Needle & Thread Wisteria Ingrid Gown

    Sizes available: UK 4-18

    Colours available: Champagne & Lilac

    Shipping: £4.99 Standard Delivery or free with Karen Millen Premier

    Returns: £2 within 28 days or free with Karen Millen Premier

    If you're looking for something really special, head to Needle & Thread's Mother of the Bride edit. Romantic ruffles and eye-catching embellishments in pastel pinks, bright reds and muted blues are all on offer for the glamorous mums out there.

    We're a little bit obsessed with the lilac accents on the modest and truly stunning Wisteria Ingrid Gown.

  • John Lewis Mother of the Bride Dress

    John Lewis mother of the bride

    Adrianna Papell Knit Crepe Pearl Dress

    Sizes available: UK 6-18

    Colours available: Aqua

    Shipping: £4.50 or free over £50

    Returns: Free within 28 days

    John Lewis stocks a wide range of brands, which means there are numerous dress styles, sizes, cuts and colours to choose from. 

    Looking for a classic mother of the bride dress? This one by Adrianna Papell is your calling. Cut from a premium stretchy knitted fabric, it features ruching at the waist and gorgeous pearl detail.

  • Reiss Mother of the Bride Dress

    Reiss pink dress

    Reiss Erica Tie Neck Midi Dress

    Sizes available: UK 4-18

    Colours available: Pink

    Shipping: £5.95 Next Day Delivery

    Returns: £1.95 within 28 days

    Reiss is a fail-safe option when it comes to sophisticated occasionwear. Favoured by the likes of Princess Kate, Princess Beatrice and Meghan Markle, the brand is a firm royal favourite.

    So for those mothers wanting to channel their inner royal, Reiss is the place to shop. We love this very flattering long-sleeved dress with tie-neck detail, which comes in the most gorgeous shade of pink.

  • Karen Millen Mother of the Bride Dress

    Karen Millen dress

    Karen Millen Floral Lace Applique Maxi Dress

    Sizes available: UK 6-16

    Colours available: Blue Floral

    Shipping: £4.99 Standard Delivery or free with Karen Millen Premier

    Returns: £2 within 28 days or free with Karen Millen Premier

    Another brand with its own Mother of the Bride edit, Karen Millen has you covered no matter what your style preference – we're talking everything from Bardot necklines, A-line styles, bright colours and more. 

    If the bride is happy for you to go a little bolder, this floral woven maxi dress is a particularly standout piece and the perfect pick for any special occasion.

Meet the expert

Lavinia Stewart-Brown

As the founder of Lavinia Stewart-Brown Events, Lavinia is one of the UK’s most sought-after wedding and events planners. With a wealth of expertise in the curation and management of spectacular events, Lavinia's career to date has ranged from private parties and intimate and full-scale weddings to corporate events, award ceremonies and much more! Having started her career in the media industry, Lavinia grew her expertise and experience by putting herself at the forefront of a collection of globally prestigious and unforgettable celebrations. As an expert in her field, Lavinia is well-versed in various topics, from curating intimate dinner parties and hosting kids' parties to tips on wedding planning and tablescaping.

We want to be completely transparent – the HELLO! Loves badge indicates a paid product placement in this article, but we only recommend products that we believe in and think you would love to discover and shop.