Pecking Order

The Wedding Guru Judy Lewis fields this week’s wedding questions. Today: Who chooses their gown first? Bride, mom, or mother-in-law?

Put three women together in any given situation and you know it’s not going to be easy! The “main” female players in a wedding party are usually the bride, the mother of the bride, and the mother of the groom — and they all need to be dressed for the wedding. This creates a real challenge, with the objective being to avoid any hard feelings, of course.

A Valley bride asks: “My mother and my fiancé’s mother are at odds with each other as to who gets to pick her gown first, and I’m pretty sure they think that I come last in the lineup. Can you give me some guidelines so that the two of them (or the three of us) won’t come to blows?”

Dear Valley bride: Every bride wants her mother and her future husband’s mother to be happy and comfortable with what they wear to her wedding. Unequivocally, the bride gets to pick first and to decide the level of formality. It’s then up to the mothers to make sure that their dresses complement that of the bride. If you’re wearing a formal gown, then they should as well, choosing either a floor- or tea-length gown. If you’re wearing a short, informal gown, then it’s inappropriate for either of the mothers to wear long dresses. It’s also important that they choose colors that look good next to your gown and the gowns of your attendants. Under no circumstances should either wear white, unless you specifically direct them to do so. By the way, no one in a wedding party used to wear black, except the men in tuxedos, of course. In recent years, however, black has become quite popular. Second to select a gown is the mother of the bride; last to choose is your future mother-in-law.

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One way to keep unpleasant issues from coming up is for the three of you to go shopping together. Having been a mother of the groom, I was absolutely delighted that my future daughter-in-law asked me to come along to select her gown — and equally delighted that she came with me to pick mine. Fortunately, there are lots of lovely stores in the Hudson Valley where both you and the moms can select gowns. (I can recommend Chamonix in Rhinebeck, for starters.)

» Check out my post “Laws for the In-Laws” for more tips in dealing with your hubby-to-be’s mom

To submit your own question to the Wedding Guru, email Judy at

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