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christine215's avatar

Step-Mother of the Bride questions… Looking for insight?

Asked by christine215 (3158 points ) February 14th, 2013

My Step-daughter is getting married this summer. We are close in age; her husband to be is less than two years younger than I am.

It’s an evening wedding and it’s semi-formal (not black tie)
The ‘theme’ colors are clover green and yellow

Her mother is wearing…something kind of dowdy, not very “summery” and it doesn’t coordinate at all with the theme colors (wedding party colors)

A very good friend of mine said “your job is to not outshine the mother of the bride, next to your step-daughter and her husband, this is her big day too”

My sister says that I should only be concerned about what I wear being complimentary to my husband and tasteful, that my “job” is just to look good and make my husband look good.

My husband says “wear something that looks good” (because he’s such a help!)

I’m not really in tuned to wedding etiquette so I don’t know what to wear and would love some suggestions

Also, now there is the planning of the shower…

The maid of honor and I are friends and she contacted me about places to have the bridal shower, ideas, etc…

Her Mother is out of work and has no car, so she’s not financially able to contribute, but I don’t think she should be totally left out of the planning process

I’ve offered to help pay, how much more involved SHOULD I be in the planning process?

(and if anyone here has any more experience in this realm, what other problems should I look out for in the future?)

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21 Answers

janbb's avatar

As regards dress, I would say your job, and it isn’t an easy one, is to find that sweet spot between looking great for yourself, your stepdaughter and your husband and not looking hot or upstaging anyone. It sounds like if the mother is ignoring the color scheme, you can ignore her choice and look for something tasteful that would blend in appropriately with the chosen theme colors.

I found as mother of the groom, I probably offered too many opinions and will keep more mum if a second opportunity presents itself. In terms of the shower, I would include both the mother and the maid of honor in the decision making and then ask them how much input they want from you or do they want just a financial contribution.

Judi's avatar

What kind of relationship do you have with your future daughter in law? I would take advice on the matter from her if your relationship is good. Ask your future daughter in law to approve your dress and level of involvement.
As for the shower, if you help pay for it, I would try to keep that as quiet as possible. You don’t want the mother to feel like you are trying to shame her or anything.

syz's avatar

Oh, Lord, it’s just a wedding – wear what you want to wear!

(Sorry, I sound totally bitchy, but I’ve never understood why people act like they’re planning the invasion of another country rather than just a celebration.)

janbb's avatar

@Judi She’s the step-mother of the bride.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Judi, I read the question to be she is attending the wedding of her stepdaughter. She and her husband’s daughter are about the same age.

Saying the mother of the bride is “dowdy” just doesn’t sit well with me. How do you know what she is wearing?

christine215's avatar

Clarify relationships

Mother of the bride is my husbands’ ex wife
(I’m the ‘new wife’ of twelve years)
My step-daughter and I are only nine years apart in age
She is getting married this summer

@bkcunningham I picked up my step-daughters mother and we drove together to the bridal shop, where my step-daughter, the maid of honor, my daughter tried on brides maids dresses and my step-daughter picked out her bridal gown

While we were there, my step daughters mother showed me the dress that she bought from the catalogue
I didn’t MEAN to be rude by describing the dress as dowdy… it’s just what first came to mind when she showed me the picture.

@Judi I have a close relationship with my step-daughter. It’s not a “mother-daughter” kind of thing though, we’re more like just friends that hang out when she comes up to visit.

I don’t want to put any stress on her (any more than she’s already going through) so I was hesitant to ask her about dresses.

Her mother’s in a bad situation, unfortunately (which I know contributes to the stress factor of the wedding planning) and I’m doing what I can to help.
I’m picking her up this weekend so that she can come to a menu tasting at the place that they’re having the reception.

bkcunningham's avatar

When you say that you’ve offered to help pay, do you mean pay for the bridal shower the maid of honor is hosting? That is up to you, IMO. It is up to the daughter and maid of honor to keep her mother in the loop and connected to the showers and such. They know her financial situation. There’s many, many things she can do that don’t require money.

Also, if I were you, I’d take my friend’s advice on not upstaging the mother of the bride or the bride.

gailcalled's avatar

Excellent advice from the women (above) with experience.

I would add that as either the step-mother or the mother (considerably older than you, I would guess) I would avoid clover green and yellow as the color of choice of my outfit.

I am sending this question to one of our own who just went through this. She wore a very elegant light gray lace and drapey fabric dress and jacket. It was stunning.

jca's avatar

@christine215: Did you tell the mother (the owner of the dress) that the dress was dowdy? Or are you just telling Fluther? If you told the mother that the dress was dowdy, IMHO that’s definitely insulting and not a good way to get off to any kind of positive relationship with the woman.

christine215's avatar

@bkcunningham regarding your question of the bridal shower:

The maid of honor called me a few weeks after she and my daughter and step daughter were trying on dresses

We talked a while about the shower… it was a casual conversation, we talked about setting up some possible dates to run by the other members of the bridal party (since some are coming from out of state) then we discussed places, and prices

At that time, I said basically before it gets all awkward, I wanted to let you know that if it helps with picking a place, we (my husband and I) can contribute financially… also at that time, I said that Step-daughter’s Mom may want to be in the loop on the shower planning too.

My step-daughter and her mom aren’t REALLY close and there are reasons for it which don’t need to be discussed really, but suffice to say that the maid of honor is well aware of the situation. I’m doing what I can to be a good person here, I just don’t want to step on toes, or offend anyone (though for some reason, I feel like I’ve offended bkcunningham, and I can’t figure out why?)
@jca I would never tell anyone that their dress was dowdy! it’s just MY opinion, I kept it to myself..
(who would do something like that?!?!?)

christine215's avatar

@gailcalled, if you can find a picture of the dress, I’d love to see it
Thanks!

gailcalled's avatar

The link our flutherer originally posted doesn’t work any more. I am sure she will chime in later.

Re; mother of the bride. If her former husband left her and married the much younger you, and you and Mr.Father-of-the-bride are both financially comfortable, and she is out of a job and has no car, iit is, indeed, tricky.

It was you who volunteered to us that the mom’s dress was dowdy…a gratuitous remark in light of your question. I was preparing to comment with @bkcunningham beat me to it.

bkcunningham's avatar

You haven’t offended me, @christine215. It just got my attention and threw up red flags when you, (1) made a point of saying you have been warned by a “very good friend” not to outshine the bride and the mother of the bride, (2) called the mother of the bride’s dress “dowdy” and made a few points about how young you are compared to the bride’s mother.

I’m glad you don’t want to offend anyone or step on toes regarding you stepdaughter’s mom. Regardless of what has happened between your stepdaughter and her mother, she is still her mother and everyone is going to be very emotional. Step gently and be kind to yourself and everyone else involved with hearts so open and tender during this stressful and beautiful time.

Does she have children yet? That will be the next hurdle in this mixed family.

christine215's avatar

@bkcunningham, thank you for understanding, I know the comment about the dress sounds harsh…
(just being outwardly honest about my thoughts on the dress)

We have a grandbaby from my step-son and his girlfriend, they live with us (she’s going to school to get her degree) My husband’s ex was actually instrumental with helping me plan the baby shower (when the girlfriend’s mother called me and told me that she’d like just to be a guest at the party, and didn’t want to have to get involved in the planning)

marinelife's avatar

As to what to wear, do not give the wedding colors a thought. Wear a dress that you like. It should not be your goal to outshine the bride’s mother, but neither do you have to dress down so as not to.

As for the shower:

“Traditionally, the bridal shower is arranged and paid for by the maid of honor and the bridesmaids, good friends or relatives. In many instances, the bride’s parents offer to contribute to the costs to help alleviate the financial burden for the bridal party (especially if the shower is held in a restaurant). So, if money is a factor, and your bridal party alone is paying for the shower, they might consider having it in someone’s home to keep expenses down. A brunch, pool party or barbecue creates a fun, informal atmosphere that will be enjoyable, relaxing and appreciated by all.”

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Look good for you and your family. You want to look back on the pictures with pleasant memories. The pictures and memories will last forever. The Mother you only have to tolerate for the day.

JLeslie's avatar

It sounds to me like the mother might be wearing what she is wearing because she can’t afford something else. If that is the case, I think it would be nice for your husband to offer to pay for a new dress if it can be handled without insulting her. That is if you think, or the bride thinks, her mom would appreciate and be happy about it.

As far as the shower, I think it really depends. I know my mother would not care about planning and would be happy to just show up. But, I don’t have a step-mom where it might be odd for a step mom to help out when my own mom couldn’t or might feel left out. It’s kind of difficult to give advice without knowing all the characters. The bride’s mother doesn’t really need to know you contributed money, the maid of honor or is really the host. Unless the shower is going to be a spectacular party where it would be very odd for a maid of honor to cough up so much money. I think if it will be obvious you are in on the planning then you certainly can invite the mother to particpate if the maid of honor is ok with it. If the mom is fine not being a part of the planning of the shower then that is fine too. At least she had the opportunity to help if she wanted.

As for your dress, I think don’t bother to coordinate with the wedding if you are not in the wedding. I see no problem with you looking fabulous at the wedding, but at the same time don’t wear something that is a show stopper. Don’t be in the bright red dress among a see of beige so to speak. You certainly can show the dress to your step-daughter to make sure she likes your choice if you are overly concerned.

I know a lot of people criticized the term dowdy, I don’t think it is a problem to describe it that way to us here.

Semiformal is never black tie

Shippy's avatar

Don’t worry about how old the groom is, how old the bride is and how the mother looks in your opinion. Your job is to help make it a special day. That means help the bride where you can, attend the wedding and be gracious. People often take the colors that were outlined in the wedding coordinates as indicators. Something that will match or blend in.

diavolobella's avatar

I wouldn’t advise you or your husband offering to pay for a dress for her. That might be reasonably be taken as patronizing or pitying. You should have the bride herself make that offer. You can still give the money to the bride to do it, but that gesture would surely be better coming from her than the ex-husband and new wife.

christine215's avatar

My step-daughter (the bride) set up a credit account with the bridal shop (they’re a national chain here in the US) so that her Mom could buy the dress online and have it shipped.

We’re all doing what we can to make things as ‘pleasant’ as we can for her mother. She has a long history of addiction, which caused her to lose a professional license.

She’s been clean and sober and tested such long enough that she’s on the verge of getting her license reinstated, but she was just laid off from the half decent job she had

It’s a fragile thing… someone’s sobriety and with her situation being what it is at this moment, I think we all feel as if we’re walking on eggshells.

I would like to wear something fabulous, my personality isn’t the “red dress” type. I was thinking something classy and a little sexy, but not overt.
The bridal shop website suggests “coordinating” or “complimenting” the colors of the bridal party for the mother or step-mother of the bride or groom, so I was going on that suggestion… every other bridal site I visit has seemingly conflicting information, I’d love for someone to tell me what length I should wear, ankle length? Tea length? I have no idea

As far as the shower goes, I’m going to play it by ear and see how that goes

JLeslie's avatar

@christine215 semi-formal is usually pretty flexible on length of dress. I would say anywhere below the knee you are safe. Full length might be too formal unless everyone in the wedding party and the mom is full length also.

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