Thursday, December 22, 2011

Specialty Shops for Mother of the Bride Dresses

Why Choose a Specialty Shop?

The term "Mother of the Bride" dress refers to a category of attire for weddings and special occasions. Included also is the groom's mother and esteemed guests, such as grandmothers and aunts. When shopping for a dress for your child's wedding, consider beginning your search by going to  boutiques that specialize in dressy clothing. They offer a wide range of styles, fabrics and colors
appropriate for any season. They stock dresses for any season all year 'round. While wedding attire today tends to be more casual than in the past, it is still considered party wear, distinct from everyday clothing or rather street wear. We encourage the mother of the groom to be sure to look for a special dress also. Many friends and family members will be present and photographs will be taken as mementoes, you will want to look your best and celebrate the occasion by dressing up. You will always look back on this occasion and be glad you invested the effort into putting together a lovely outfit to honor yourself and the couple.

mother of the bride, mother of the groom
September 23, 2006, Pittsburgh, PA

Browsing in specialty shops or formal wear departments of your favorite store will acquaint you with this mode of dress. By the process of elimination, you can begin to decide on what you might consider wearing.

Sophi escorted by her mother
Mom escorts daughter, Los Angeles, CA Exquisite gowns with ruching

There are several reasons to shop in a specialty boutique for your dress or suit for the wedding. 
1. Such shops specialize in dressy attire. They will have many choices of fabric and style.
2. Such styles are classic and less subject to fashion fads as street wear or seasonal clothing. 
3. The sales assistants and designers understand the mature woman's figure and create clothing that fits well.

  the mother of the bride

Mother of the bride in festive floral print two-piece chiffon dress with ruffled jacket arriving in limo

4. They are experienced and can answer the kinds of questions that are likely to be asked. They have outfitted mothers,  the wedding party, and brides for every type of wedding, from formal and traditional to casual and contemporary.
5. They will suggest styles for your particular shape and colors for your coloring. They often understand color and style harmony and will work with you to find a great look, whether you want something conservative, or perhaps a style that is more adventurous.

Mother & Brother of the Bride
Mother of the bride in floral print shift style formal dress with modified cowl neck
6. They appreciate when you have done your homework, so to speak, by beginning to develop some ideas of your own. However, the are also happy to work with you from scratch.
7. The one thing they will tell you is to allow them enough time to do their job well. Although you can pull together an outfit in three weeks, if you have to, it would be so much easier to allow three months. They will often allow you to pay on lay-away.
8. There are three types of specialty shops, one is where they are exclusively for bridal and formal wear. They do not manufacture the dresses so your dress will most likely have to be ordered. The dresses usually come sized to allow for alterations, so if you don't anticipate alterations, sometimes you will order a smaller size. They will need time to be sure your color selection is in stock, especially if it is a more frequently chosen color such as rose, blue or teal. They will alter the dress once it comes in. Usually, you have from one to two fittings.


The "pop" of a bright color looks great in photographs. Cindy, a red-head mother of the bride looks great in pink.

9. Better department stores often have a formal wear department. However, sometimes these dresses are not suitable for a church wedding. They might be too bare, or have too much glitter or be too form-fitting. Usually, the store will do alterations for you.

Vicky & Bev

Mother of Groom and Mother of Bride in formal suits with coordinating colors and styles, wearing pearls.

10. The third type is a store that makes their own clothing, such speciality boutiques are designer-owned and make all garments locally. The approach can be quite personal as you can meet with the designer. You can also easily put together a mini-wardrobe of coordinated outfits for all the other festivities related to the wedding. Once your dress is custom-made, they will have your measurements for future orders. Such shops often are lower priced than comparable department store prices because they have lower overhead costs. Such shops often carry the lines of one or more local designers. Another advantage is that they are local, so their designs are suited to the environment and lifestyle of where you live.

Three Generations

Three generations walking down the aisle. Photo by Sullivan Studio

Speciality boutiques are also current on trends in other parts of the country and overseas as well. If you are traveling for a wedding, they can help you know what is appropriate in your destination. They often have much quicker turn-around than other shops because all work is done locally. However, they can get busy at "bridal season" or around the holidays. They also appreciate a two to three month window to create your dress or outfit. Often, such shops will carry a range of accessories or can make recommendations of where to shop for accessories.

Mother of the bride and groom's mother color and fabric coordination, ruffled dusty mauve skirt
harmonizes beautifully with multi-color abstract print skirt. Fun and festive.
Candid photograph by Jim Alli in Maine.

For mother dresses or special occasion attire such as second weddings or vow renewals, visit Joanie Char Design Boutique in San Francisco. Can't come in person? Give them a call, they can send swatches and photos. Sample styles can be viewed on the post dated 11/26/2011,"Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles."  Store hours are Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Joanie Char Boutique
537 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Tel (415) 399-9867                    (c) 2011 Joanie Char Design Group

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fitting your Mother-of-the Bride Dress

"FAQs" (Frequently asked questions) have to do with the shopping logistics, and basic questions, such as:
When should I start shopping and getting ideas? Shouldn't I just be focusing on my daughter and not be concerned about what I wear? Should I wait until I lose that 10 pounds I have been promising myself I would lose? I don't want to look too "old" but not as though I am trying to look "too young." What is there that is appropriate for my age? How formal or casual should I look? Where can I get assistance in putting together my look and my outfit? I have concerns about de-emphasizing area, how can I do that and still have a pretty look and not be too covered up?

Today, the dresses or suits for the mother of the bride are all about enhancing your natural style. Let go of any concerns about your figure and instead, look for a color and style that flatters you and that you will enjoy wearing. The stylists and assistants who work in specialty shops are often familiar with the type of concerns you might have and can help you select an attractive look. They usually know the "tricks of the trade," such as how to camoflauge one area and highlight another area. Even if your weight does go up or down, alterations can be done. Specialty stores normally provide fittings and alterations. With a loosely fitted dress, such as the one shown below, any fluctuations in weight can be easily adjusted.

 the groom\'s parents and the bride\'s mother
Mother of the Bride is in sage green silk, figure-skimming dress with demure V-neckline, delicate beading detail,
gently flared skirt, graceful chiffon jacket with dropped shoulder. This is a versatile and flexible look that is perfect for a reception at a beach resort. Groom's mother in three piece pants outfit with attention focused on jacket detail. Scoop neckline on the shell, jacket shape, and jewelry coordinates with MOB.

The sooner you start to look for your dress or outfit, the better. Ideally, try to allow at least three to six months. We recommend this for a number of reasons. You are going to be shopping for a dress at least one and possibly more seasons ahead of when you will be wearing it. Depending on where you shop, your dress might be a special order. If it is custom-made, you will need to make sure the fabric in the color you want is available. You will also want to choose accessories. Then if you are going to help the other mother or the grandmothers coordinate their outfits with the color scheme, you will have time to help them. Also, the "peace of mind" factor is something to keep in mind. And, finally, you may find that you want several new outfits for all of the other related activities. Sometimes, you can find everything you need in one specialty shop, which will greatly simplify the coordination of your ensembles. If you shop in a custom-made shop, they will always have your measurements on file, making future shopping easy and convenient.

Seleting a style will depend on the season and location of the wedding and reception. You can gather ideas by browsing through magazines and visiting speciality shops or the formal wear department of your favorite store. Considering the season, location, and degree of formality, you'll next need to decide on either a dress, a gown, or a suit. The speciality shop or better department store will usually do alterations and schedule fittings. Often, dressy clothing is sized a bit large with the expectation that alterations will be done. How much time to allow will depend on the store. If the dress has to be ordered, then fitted and altered, you will need more time. If you go to a shop where they make their own designer clothes, it will take less time. They are also experts on altering their own designs to insure a perfect fit. Today's looser fitting styles are easier to wear, even with suits.

With the suit shown below, a slightly fitted jacket in silk duipionni has more structure and shape and is an easy solution to creating a polished, poised look that minimizes any figure flaws. A single breasted style
is comfortable to leave buttoned.
Groom\'s Mother and Bride\'s Uncle
Groom's Mother is radiant in an easy fitting silk suit with notched collar detail to draw
attention to the face and gracefuly skims the waistine ending in a slight flair. 
The simple lines of the jacket work well with the color "pop" of the rich silk.

The groom's mother wants to be as lovely and well-dressed as the bride's mom. The convention in the past was that the groom's mother could be as dressy as the bride's mother, or a notch less dressy. Today, many grooms' mothers enjoy getting as dressed up as the bride's mother for this memorable day.

In the photo below, the groom's mother is lovely and stylish in deep teal blue. The color choice is flattering and classic. A solid color, one-piece long dress is slimming. The collar and hem detail keep the eye moving up and down. The contemporary crinkle-pleated fabric adapts to the shape of the body so it is comfortable to wear. It is fashionable and dressy without being fussy.The long sleeves eliminate the need for a jacket. The combination of color, style, fabric and length are perfect for this elegant mother. The color is versatile, it can be worn by many women, it always looks elegant, and blends with many bridal color schemes. A dress like this can even be worn again and look fresh with a change of accessories.
The Groom\'s Mother Watching the Beginning
Groom's mother is lovely in deep teal blue contemporary style dress.

In addition to the mothers, there are several other significant women in the young couple's life--grandmothers, special aunts, friend's mothers. They will want to look their best as they celebrate the couple. Grandmothers will especially appreciate assistance from their daughters in putting together their outfit. Once the mothers have done the research in choosing their dress and know where to shop, helping grandmother should be easy and enjoyable.
the groom\'s aunt and mother

The groom's mother and grandmother selected compatible pastels in simple long gowns.
Mom chose a shawl cover-up, grandmother chose a jacket to match her dress. Solid colors
and figure-skimming dresses are lovely and elegant.

Casual settings for garden weddings invite a more relaxed look. Yet, mothers still want to have a dignified yet festive look. That can be achieved by choosing a light, bright color scheme in matching separates. pieces. A solid color will look more elegant and beautiful in photographs. In this groom's mother's outfit,
the accessories play up her hair color and enhance the outfit.
groom\'s family 1
Mother of the groom chose deep aqua dress and jacket for the casual garden reception.
Seasonal shades of teal, aqua, turquoise are refreshing and flattering for the groom's mother.

For mother dresses or special occasion attire such as second weddings or vow renewals, stop by Joanie Char Design Boutique. Can't come in person? Give them a call, they can send swatches and photos. Samples styles can be viewed on the post dated 11/26/2011,"Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles."  Store hours are Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Joanie Char Boutique
537 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Tel (415) 399-9867            (c) 2011 Joanie Char Design Group

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mother of the Bride: Elegant Suiting

The Simplicity of a Classic Suit 

Mother and Brother of the Bride
Mother of the Bride Mrs. Turner and son photographed by J.D. Blundell

Mothers often postpone shopping for their dress for the wedding for many reasons. The one we hear most often is they think a mother's dress is something they cannot imagine themselves wearing. Many images might come to mind--none of them flattering--such as a "costume" that is too fussy, or perhaps a gown that is too revealing. Some women worry about "figure flaws," and try on a dress that has so much fabric, it exaggerates rather than flatters. 

Fortunately, today's mothers can put together an outfit that is elegant, with clean lines, in a festive fabric and color without being too formal. The tailored look of a suit is softened with silk fabric in pastels or vibrant colors and always appropriate for a wedding taking place in a religious establishment.   

When choosing your outfit, if you select a style you know looks well on you, then dress it up with a longer skirt, you will reflect your personal style. Your well-chosen accessories polish the look.

Coordinating Mothers' Outfits Creates Harmony
Your child's wedding can also be a great time to have fun wearing something out-of-the-ordinary and coordinate your look with the other mother. This takes a little more planning, but the harmonious results  are worth the effort.
Mothers of the bride Marie (l) and groom Sue (r)
Mothers of the bride and groom coordinated the look of their dresses for pleasing harmony. The pleating detail tells the story of these softly hued dresses. Jewelry is kept to a minimum to keep the look young and fresh.

Dad is as proud and important on your child's wedding day as Mom is. Coordinating your look with your husband adds to the formality and can look quite crisp and smart in family photographs. 

Mother and father of the bride

Mrs Hodgson in red silk jacket with jeweled collar detail worn over a black scoop neck dress

Mother of Bride
Shimmering raspberry silk for one-piece dressing creates a powerful impact.

The special and unique bond between mother and daughter can be highlighted when mother coordinates her outfit to enhance her daughter's wedding dress. A dignified generational heritage is clearly conveyed by this mother, lovely in a refined suit and pearls, and the bride with her more youthful hairstyle and demure beaded gown. The timeless beauty of a single strand of pearls is all the adornment a radiant bride needs. Here, the luster of pearls is reflected in the mother's smile as well. The symbols of classic and ladylike femininity are always appropriate, especially for a formal wedding.

Bride, and mother of

R Barenblat photography, Mrs Kleinman and Mother
The mother's richly-hued silk suit is a striking complement to her daughter' formal wedding gown
  There are many ways to coordinate outfits for a formal look. The bridesmaids are in butter yellow, both mothers wear suits and picture hats. The mother of the bride in very pale yellow with a pale yellow hat, the groom's mother in bright pink. Their husbands are formally attired in matching tuxes for this daytime church wedding. 
Gareth and Fran\'s Wedding 072 Mother of the bride
Classic suits for a coordinated look, Fran's mother in silk taupe,  Gareth's mother in raspberry pink. 
Hats are the finishing touch for a traditional church wedding.
Stylish, youthful mothers are lovely in formal dresses coordinated in style and fit, and complementary in color. It is a time for everyone to be proud and look their best.

Elegant coordinated look,  Mother of Bride in dusty rose, Groom's Mother in teal blue. 
Photography by Neeta Lind

When looking for mother dresses or special occasion women's clothing, visit Joanie Char Design Boutique. Can't come in person? Give them a call, they can send swatches and photos. All that's needed are your measurements to have a custom-made dress sent to you. Samples of Joanie Char fashions for mother of the bride and special occasion attire can be viewed on the post dated 11/26/2011,"Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles."  Hours are Monday- Saturday, 10 to 6.  

Joanie Char Boutique
537 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Tel (415) 399-9867            (c) 2011 Joanie Char Design Group

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bridal Bouquet and Mother of the Bride Bouquet 
Today's mother of the bride, whether accompanying her daughter down the aisle, or viewing from a seat, is experiencing the proudest and happiest moment of both their lives. Photographs will capture and memorialize the joy of the beginning of this new chapter. It is a time when both the bride and her mom are so proud of each other, each wants to look her loveliest. Mothers today are youthful and active. Dress selections available for the mother of the bride and the groom's mother are beautiful, elegant and truly reflective of a woman's role at this significant life passage.

Mother of the Bride

Samples of Joanie Char fashions for mother of the bride and special occasion attire can be viewed on the post below,"Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles," dated Saturday, 11/26/2011. Store hours are Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Joanie Char Boutique
537 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Tel (415) 399-9867            (c) 2011 Joanie Char Design Group
           Spring and Summer Weddings

Mother of the Bride
While the traditional wedding season is still the months of June, July and August, they edge out the other months by only slim margins. Today, with busy lifestyles, weddings can take place at any time of year. The symbolism of the season reflects the freshness and vitality of youthful couples. Springtime symbolizes hope, new life, young love. In practical terms, it is the time of year when transitions are frequently made. With graduation parties and proms also filling the calendar, it is a convenient seasons to shop for dresses for both bridesmaids and mothers. Clothing is lighter weight and easy to layer. It is  easier to put together attractive outfits with accessories. 

No matter where you live in, June weather is usually highly compatible with weddings. The bride can choose indoor or outdoor, and guests will need fewer accessories. It is a slightly slower time of year for many people who can schedule their summer vacations to attend a wedding and other related festivities, especially if they need to travel. Although it is a busy time for wedding planners, they have more recommendations to make as there are more possibilities for indoor-outdoor weddings near home. If a bride is able to plan a year in advance, she will be able to make the accomodations she wishes. However, along with June and July as the most popular months for weddings, December is the most popular month for the engagement. That gives the bride just six months to plan her venue. That might not be enough time. So, for that time of year, a reception at home might be a consideration. Other possibilities are an unusual local historic house/museum situated in a beautiful local park. Landscaped gardens are at their loveliest and provide space for guests to stroll. 

Lately, the June palette has been bright with contrasting colors.  Hot pink with bright green, or orange and lime green were popular. We see a deepening of the palette to raspberry. The black and white or black and silver color scheme remains popular. 

If the bride selects a punched-up color palette, mothers might experiment and find these colors look fresh and youthful on them. If they prefer the watercolor pastel color palettes, these are easier to blend than at any other season. Summer brightness seems to make it all work together like a garden full of flowers. As long as you choose solids and not prints, a range of colors can make for lovely photographs. For example, if a bride chooses deep oranges, yellows or bright greens for her bridesmaids, mothers dressed in pale pink or paler colors of the same palette will blend in a soft wash of color to make beautiful photographs. The lightness and brightness of the color scheme seems to lift everyone's spirits and is perfect for an informal yet dressy garden-style wedding.
Romantic Color Palette

Mothers find their selections of springtime colors give them a youthful boost. Many women can wear shades blue or aqua or lavender or orchid.  Mothers' colors tend to be feminine and soft in dresses and suits for June weddings. For the wedding, choose solids. Patterns are very personal and harder to select. We suggest you consider pattens only for informal showers or brunches. The bridesmaids dresses may be selected in shades of rose or peach or periwinkle. If the bride favors navy blue, the summer shade of navy is brighter than the winter shade of navy. That is true of most colors. Shades of mid-tone blues and aquas can be lovely with peach or sand if going with a nautical or beach theme so popular today.

Guests enjoy attending a June wedding.  It's a leisurely time of year when they can schedule vacations.  Teachers and students have time off from school. It's a time when young couples and parents will be celebrating the special occasions and weddings of other family members. There might be several occasions when guests will have a chance to wear their finery.

At other times of year, a couple might choose a destination wedding for the novelty of a lovely new setting when the weather is bleak at home. In June, the weather itself is enough of a celebration to remain at home and welcome guests in a convenient location. Nature cooperates in June to allow simplicity and naturalness to be the theme. 
Mother of the bride
For beautiful palette suggestions for decor and clothing, please refer to the following website.

When looking for mother of the bride dresses or special occasion women's clothing, visit Joanie Char Design Boutique. Can't come in person? Give them a call, they can send swatches and photos. All that's needed are your measurements to have a custom-made dress made and sent to you. Samples of Joanie Char fashions can be viewed on the post "Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles" dated Saturday, 11/26/2011. Store hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Joanie Char Boutique, 537 Sutter Street, San Francisco CA 94102, Tel (415) 399-9867                         (c) 2011 Joanie Char Design Group

Monday, December 5, 2011

                Festive Winter Weddings

Fairy tales seem to be spun of winter weddings. That theme can be played up in the wedding decor in a variety of color schemes.  There are many color themes to consider for this time of year. Color schemes can be shades of deep blue and white and silver, or royal blue and gold, or deep burgundies with midnight blue, or reds with silver and white. Some brides choose an ice-blue and silver theme. One color scheme that also creates a lovely unusual theme reflecting the symbolism of the celebration is a winter white wedding. The bridesmaids would wear a color such as silver or gold, however, the bouquets and decorations can be in white. A wedding in this scheme is pristine, lovely, elegant and unusual yet still  classic. Mothers can wear silver, gold or muted blue or dove grey. An all-white wedding can be formal or semi-formal.

Winter weddings require careful planning to work out the logistics of many other events competing for attention, such as holiday parties, college vacations, inclement weather, and even family birthdays. While many brides choose December, January and February for their weddings, this season has fewer weddings than summer or fall, probably for many of the reasons stated. Yet because it is party and family season, when people are planning to travel to "go home for the holidays," it can be a practical time if given enough advance notice to plan without getting overly stressed or distracted.

The most festive season of the year will make for easy dress shopping for wedding guests. Mothers, on the other hand, will want to start well before this. If given a year's advance notice, mothers can begin to visit shops or department stores in season when  holiday gowns are on display. Get ideas from the winter issues of brides magazines. You don't have to buy a holiday gown that much in advance, but it helps to begin to form ideas. If having your dress custom-made, it is not necessary to purchase too far in advance as your measurements might change a little. However, meeting with the design shop is a good idea so they can know what you have in mind and reserve fabric of shop for fabric. It sometimes happens that a mother does select and purchase a dress well in advance. Then when the next year's fashions are out, she might find something she likes better. Because she knows she has a dress, she doesn't  feel pressured. If that should happen to you, you can  get the new dress and save the other for another event such as an engagement or announcement party, or the wedding of a niece or nephew.

Mother of the Bride

Mother of the Groom
Shown above are classic dress styles in a  seasonal color red for mother of the bride and the groom's mother. For beautiful palette suggestions,  refer to the following website.

Mom, Heather, mother in law :)
                  Black tie at the holidays for Heather, her mom and new mother-in-law.
Some brides try to plan a wedding 'midst the year-end holidays to coordinate with other life events, such as graduation or a move for a job, only to find they do not have enough time. Because so much else is going on in their lives, along with the holidays and family expectations, they find it is too overwhelming. They don't want to "squeeze in" their wedding but want to give it the attention it deserves. Emotions can run high at this time of year, adding to the stress. If that is the case, postponing a wedding until January or February when things have quieted down gives everyone something to look forward to. Everyone gets a breather from the holidays, the couple make arrangements for the other aspects of their lives, and all can anticipate a special occasion where they can wear their festive attire.

For fashion ideas for the Big Day and related events, visit Joanie Char Boutique in San Francisco. If you are not local, you can call them, they will work with you on the phone and send swatches.

Samples of Joanie Char fashions for mother of the bride and special occasion attire can be viewed on the post below,"Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles," dated Saturday, 11/26/2011. Store hours are Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Joanie Char Boutique
537 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Tel (415) 399-9867                                (c) 2011 Joanie Char Design Group

Saturday, December 3, 2011

         Wedding Etiquette or Manners Matter

Browse through the bridal section at your local book shop or library, first you'll notice glossy books featuring glamorous layouts of youthful, vibrant brides.  A second glance may reveal a small section devoted to etiquette tucked away discreetly on the bottom shelf. You may encounter a single tome whose cover proclaims it to be the "bible" of correct behavior. Is there all that much to it? Perhaps at no time in life does etiquette seem to be a major concern as when planning a wedding. We want to manage this lifetime event as graciously as possible, yet often we do not have a lot of up-to-date experience. 

Many of our present-day American wedding customs stem from the royal court of Victorian England. Ever since Queen Victoria wore a white wedding gown in 1840, she set a fashion standard that many brides follow to this day. The young queen wore a gown with features still considered traditional today--a   fitted bodice with a floor-length skirt puffed up with petticoats. When presented later to the court, she wore the white gown with alterations made to the bodice. Many of our manners of proper behavior come from the royal courts of England and Europe.

Mother of the Bride
Your daughter's or son's wedding is a public celebration of a personal relationship. Much more is involved than the bride and groom. There are relationships -- new and old -- and heightened emotions to consider. Understanding and observing  etiquette can help maneuver this life transition with as much graciousness for everyone. For the mother of the bride, your own wedding may have been the last time you gave much thought to this topic and might want to know how times have changed. For the groom's mother, you might be wanting to contribute a lot more that social custom seems to permit. We consult  etiquette books to negotiate the changing relationship with our now-adult children as well as welcome into our lives the families of our daughter's or son's fiance.

Has much changed? When it comes to styles and fashions, much has changed,  on the surface. When it comes to human nature and the tender sensibilities of a young bride and groom, nothing has changed. This is their special day, more so than anyone else's. Emotions may run high around the planning of the wedding for a number of reasons. There is the stress of planning a lifetime event, along with emotions surrounding this rite of passage. The young couple are the ones most affected. In the past, mothers undertook the planning of the wedding under their direction.

Today's bride is likely to take a more active role. Often, she has been on her own and is accustomed to managing her own life. She also may have very different ideas of what she wants for her wedding than her parents' generation. Weddings today are often seen more as personal celebrations of private lives already being lived rather than formal announcements to the community of family and friends of a social union being formed anew. For some brides, the wedding is an opportunity to step into a traditional role, for others, it is an opportunity to celebrate her individuality. 

 It is wise to be aware of basic etiquette, however, the finest expression of manners is to be mindful of the frame of reference of those involved in order to be gracious and charming in welcoming new family members. Sometime a bride's mother wants to help or even manage the planning process. A mother who is taking charge will want to consult with her daughter in most decisions. Even though mom might have more experience in event planning, the daughter is the reason for the celebration. The groom's mother is sometimes uncertain of how much she may contribute. Some grooms' mothers want to be involved in showers and other events and have the time and energy for it. Others, not so much. Some mothers--of either bride or groom--are fashion-conscious and excited about looking for a new dress. Others are reluctant to start the process and inquire if they can wear something they already have. Some might be intimidated by the process as they have not shopped for a fancy dress in a long time. Others are "always on a diet" and use that as an excuse to procrastinate. We have met  who might need some coaxing to those who wait until two weeks before the wedding. Our advice is encourage but do not pressure. The wedding is primarily about your daughter or son being married to their beloved and families coming together to celebrate. Fashion always takes a back seat to personal values. A wedding is not a "photo op," it is a celebration. Being gracious and respectful while building new relationships is what matters. 

Meeting of the mothers

The bride chose black and white for her destination church wedding in England.  Her American mom, in bisque lace, greets the groom's mother, dressed in the English style of a suit and hat. Bridesmaids in black tea length dresses hover in the doorway. 

The idea that a mother, especially the mother of the groom, should not wear black, had a social meaning that stems from a time when women were more guarded about openly expressing their opinions. It may have been seen as coded language for disapproval of the son's choice of spouse. Today, that meaning does not apply, black is considered fashionable, but in the minds of older folk who may be attending the wedding, that meaning might still linger. You would not want to give your relatives and other guests pause to wonder if there is a hidden meaning. For that reason, unless the bride suggests a mother wear a black dress because it goes with her color scheme, we say you look for another color. We have seen black as a practical choice for a destination wedding to a major city because it can be versatile. You can change its look with a simple change of accessories, and it is less likely to show wrinkles. That would be a deliberate choice of the bride might like the idea so much, she might ask both mothers to wear black. 

The "little black dress" or LBD has become a staple in many women's wardrobes, brought out whenever a woman is uncertain as to what to ear, especially for women in major cities in the northeast.  For a formal black tie wedding, a bride may feel that black is perfectly acceptable for her guests. However, a mother of the groom who wears black routinely and is planning to attend an informal wedding in another region of the country, will most likely want to consider color instead. She may retain her accustomed level of formality in choosing a structured suit or long dress, and will surely find a becoming color that will be youthful. 

There can be numerous reasons why a mother, or another significant relative, is not able to match the dress code of the wedding. Perhaps their are other pressing matters in their lives the prevent them from giving their attire undue focus. It could be that they do not choose to disclose the reasons why. For the sake of gracious inclusion, their attire should be overlooked and the guests made to feel welcome at the time of the ceremony. The reverse can also happen, a mother might feel under-dressed in being asked to wear casual attire that she chooses an outfit that is dressier than most. That is also to be accepted as a reflection of the respect and honor she wishes to bring to the occasion.

If such an event is your worst nightmare, and if you are traveling to a wedding destination at the last minute, we suggest that you bring in your carry-on the outfit and accessories that you will wear to the wedding. Luggage can be lost and not delivered in time. One solution for such an event is to pack coordinating separates in various stages of dressiness so that if an impromptu outfit needs to be hastily assembled, you will have the basic ingredients and accessories. It is in such situations that a black dress or neutral color scheme seems to be most flexible. Although we are not recommending a black dress for the mothers, simply remarking that some have considered this to be a solution.
Bride and Mother
It is normally suggested that only the bride should be attired in white. In the case of divorced families, where there are step-parents, the mothers of the bride and groom may dress with whatever level of formality they desire. Step--parents tend to dress as other guests, wearing street-length suits and dresses with jackets.

Walking down the steps
              Mom walked Victoria to her ceremony in similar dresses in white and red.

In California, among younger couples, while the bride and groom,  wedding party and parents are more formally attired, we have seen some extremely casual outfits in younger guests. This happens with more informal weddings in a garden party or beach resort setting. This casualness seems to be a fashion statement among the young in relaxed, intimate environments such as smaller church settings where nearly everyone is a close friend or family member. Such weddings express unique charm as there tends to be much informal mingling as if it is a big family party. Our advice for the mature generation is to dress as they customarily would, and leave the trends to the young. 
In cases where families are blending cultures and traditions, the bride might sometimes want a two-phase wedding, one, an American style, with a white dress and the groom in a tux. For the second phase, both change into folk costumes and may have some traditional music and entertainment. This helps introduce the family and guests to the two different major influences in the couple's life. If a couple from two different backgrounds chooses an American-style wedding, there can be variations. We have seen brides make three changes of outfit. We have also known of many weddings where there are several receptions, one on the east coast, and one on the west. Couples who choose destination weddings often have a separate reception back home where more family members may be present. All of this will need to be discussed in detail with the bride, her mother and the groom's mother to ensure that expectations of what a makes up a proper wedding are understood by all.

Mother and the bride
To view color schemes for dresses and wedding themes, look at the following website.

Whether you tend to be traditional or have a casual outlook, do visit Joanie Char Boutique in San Francisco, CA for special occasion women's clothing. This designer specializes in dressy-casual looks that are chic, contemporary and youthful. Elegant, clean lines are figure-flattering. She offers a range of mothers dress selections as well as custom-made outfits for all the festivities associated with a wedding, such as shower, engagement, rehearsal and brunch parties. Call for a phone consultation, swatches and photos can be sent. Monday - Saturday 10 - 6 PT.   

Samples of Joanie Char fashions for mother of the bride and special occasion attire can be viewed on the post below,"Mother of the Bride/Groom Ensembles," dated Saturday, 11/26/2011.                              

Joanie Char Boutique
537 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94102
Tel (415) 399-9867                               (c)2011 Joanie Char Design Group