The role of the mother of the bride: Then vs now

The mother of the bride used to be a simple, pleasurable role, but with today’s multi-day celebrations and Insta-worthy visuals, it’s all got rather complicated. Brides editor Jade Beer lists the new rules.

NB: they still include writing the cheques.

Before the wedding

Former role: Chief adviser.
New position: ‘Team player’. And be aware: this team can – and often does – extend to the entire wedding party.

Matthew Bishop/

Until recently, the mother of a bride-to-be might have been expected to proffer her views on the number of tiers needed on the cake or why it’s good to have myrtle in the bridal bouquet (the emblem of love and marriage, according to royal tradition). Now that expertise has been somewhat diluted. The bride will most likely have friends, colleagues and an army of social-media followers who have taught themselves the art of calligraphy, can design a wedding website to keep guests up to date on the itinerary and even grow and style the wedding flowers. All this greatly reduces the areas in which she will actively be seeking her mother’s advice. To stay involved, today’s mums must log on to that wedding website or they’ll spend their time playing catch-up with the big decisions (even though they may be paying for them).

The mother of the bride (MOB) can also expect to see her name on a photo shoot-style call sheet next to a list of jobs, such as finding someone to build the waffle and doughnut walls – a towering help-yourself sugar buffet that American brides started to get excited about last year and that are now making their way into British receptions. The bride may want one on day two of the wedding weekend as part of the bridal brunch. It sounds OTT, but London-based planner Bruce Russell, whose clients’ budgets start at £200,0000, says today’s weddings are ‘small theatre productions’, with social media playing a part in convincing brides that anything is possible.

On-the-day duties

Former role: Host – and second most important woman in the room.
New position: Important guest.

Unlike the father of the bride who, in large part, has retained his traditional duties, such as delivering a heartfelt speech and walking his daughter down the aisle (even if today that’s just as likely to be in an urban industrial space or on a beach), the way modern weddings play out makes the MOB’s on-the-day tasks much harder to pinpoint. She should expect to find herself surrounded by the pros: the woman who’s been hired to let off the colourful smoke flares, the full film and photographic team launching drones and the live illustrator busy sketching everyone in their finery.

So what exactly will she be doing? Not sitting at the top table, I’m afraid. Because in all probability there won’t be one. Instead, she can expect to be standing with a carton of street food from vendors who have been shipped in at great expense from London’s Borough Market (cheese fondues or tacos are popular right now) or eating family feast-style in a tepee village, because her daughter wanted the full festival wedding and, yes, it is raining. Which means mum’s outfit choices are more crucial than ever.

The outfit

Getty Images/Pollyana FMS

Once: A well-cut shift and dress coat from Matches with coordinating accessories.
Now: Double the budget, and then some. She’s going to need multiple choices – and shoes she can hike in.

Even if the wedding is relatively traditional, the bride’s mother may be required to make an outfit change from tailored during the day to black tie for the evening. I’ve been to weddings where the dress code was ‘couture’ and ‘don’t disappoint’, so she should consider herself lucky if she avoids those. This is where keeping a close eye on that wedding website is vital. Will the wedding guests be dining outside? Sitting on a picnic blanket? Will the MOB be taking part in specialist activities? (I recently came across a bride and groom who staged a full jousting competition for their guests.) Is it a humanist ceremony that involves traipsing through the woods? Or, as is now becoming the thing, will the newlyweds’ parents be forgoing the standard receiving line in favour of the bridal march, which sees the entire bridal party stride en masse from the ceremony to the reception? Please note the essential point about shoes she can actually walk in. She will also need to get her game face ready for when her daughter announces her look: it might be a jumpsuit, a sharp crepe tux or bridal separates that reveal a flash of midriff.

Hakule/Alamy Stock Photo

Footing the bill

Once: The wedding breakfast for 70.
Now: The rehearsal dinner, the wedding party, the bridal brunch for 200-plus. And several dresses for the bride.

One of the biggest changes – and surprises for mums – is the significance now placed on day two of the wedding. The post-wedding day bridal brunch is starting to outrank the wedding breakfast in terms of expense and planning effort. Recent brides I’ve worked with have arranged champagne river cruises, professionally catered picnics with individual bespoke hampers and spa days for their party-fatigued guests. Even with a smaller budget, there is often still an expectation that day two is a standard entry on the wedding weekend itinerary. And that means another outfit for mum (and the bride, who no longer jets away on honeymoon on the day itself, and has racked up several different looks by now for the rehearsal dinner, the civil ceremony, the wedding reception, an evening ensemble, the aforementioned bridal brunch – it goes on…) One woman I recently featured in Brides had an actual wedding dress for each of these events and spent a not-insignificant sum of money scenting herself with a designed-just-for-her fragrance for the ceremony (a new – and expensive – wedding trend that can come with a price tag of around £5,000). She had one bespoke fragrance on the front of her gown to take her up the aisle and another spritzed down the back to mark her newly married self. This year’s brides and grooms may also be having a wedding-day scent created just for them that will be filtered throughout the day and sits on tables as a favour for guests to take home.

Photo opportunities are also an area where mothers are going to need to learn the art of polite refusal if they don’t want this budget careering out of control. Do
their daughters really need the 12-foot floral selfie wall, à la Kim Kardashian, dotted with hundreds of David Austin Avalanche roses, or the dessert table running the length of the hotel ballroom? Mums, speak up now before it’s added to that wedding website and you’re committed.


After the celebrations

Once: The MOB could congratulate herself on a job well done. Pay the bills. Wave them off on honeymoon.
Now: She can pack her bags – she’s going on honeymoon, too.

And not just the mother-of-the-bride. Several of the wedding party are joining this ‘buddy-moon’ and so are the full film and photographic crew. The beast that is Instagram still needs feeding and as brides (and their parents) spend more on the wedding celebrations, so the honeymoon is becoming something that needs to be documented in the same way. Photo shoots on the beach are no longer optional. It might sound extreme but then so did engagement shoots five years ago before everyone started factoring them in to the overall wedding expenditure.

The top ten new wedding trends

  1. Dramatic desserts: Tables laden with puddings are in. Think piles of doughnuts, meringues, macaron towers, cheesecakes and even trifles.
  2. Cake art: Couples are choosing handpainted wedding cakes: watercolour flowers,
    stained-glass effects or personalised designs.
  3. Outrageous entertainment: Say goodbye to photobooths and hello to roaming sketch artists, tarot-card readers, magicians and even immersive theatre performances.
  4. Cash gifts: Gifting money for the honeymoon or a house deposit are becoming the norm.
  5.  Food Fads: Formal dining has been traded for food trucks and pizza ovens. Watch out for Mexican and Peruvian food.
  6. Invitations: They can now feature fabric, Perspex and wood, says Susie Young of wedding planners Knot & Pop.
  7. Say yes to three dresses: Designer label Carolina Herrera reports brides buying dresses for the rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception.
  8. Living bars: Foliage  is taken to the next level with this Instagram-worthy trend.
  9. New venues: Industrial spaces allow couples to fully personalise. In the USUS, boxing gyms and barns are popular.
  10. Going Green: Foliage is fast replacing flowers for decoration, says wedding website Hitched.


‘I felt like a spectator at my own daughter’s wedding’

Ben Moore

Kendra Leaver, 28, an events director, married Royal Navy Lieutenant Joshua Rylah, 29, two years ago at St Mary’s Church in Rye, East Sussex, followed by a reception at her parents’ house nearby. The wedding weekend cost £90,000. Her mother Sylviané says…

When Kendra announced that she was engaged, I mentally prepared myself to be instrumental in all the decision-making for her wedding day and to be hands-on. When your daughter is an events director and used to planning high-profile parties, you accept that her wedding isn’t going to be low-key. But I quickly realised that my daughter had very different ideas to me and she wanted to bring in the professionals. I would have approached the wedding as more of an occasion and less of a spectacle. Kendra had unrealistic notions of wedding-day perfection, fuelled by looking at celebrity and friends’ weddings on social media. We knew her wedding would be viewed before we’d had a chance to choose the best pictures. Today’s brides are on Instagram as they’re coming down the aisle!

Everything had to be done in threes: three hen dos (Marbella, the penthouse of the London Edition hotel and Norfolk); three lavish meals for 250 guests (the wedding breakfast, a late-night dinner and lunch the next day), three marquees to house the main bar, reception and caterers; three bands and three outfit changes (a combination of Caroline Castigliano and Alice Temperley). This was not just a wedding day but an entire weekend operation.
I may have been the bride’s mother, but I was referred to as being part of Kendra’s ‘team’ on emails and I was given tasks, such as hanging the fairy lights.

On the day itself, Kendra sweetly arranged for me to walk down the aisle ahead of her to help me feel more included. But as I took my seat, surrounded by my closest family and friends, I’d never felt so lonely. Her father was with her while she was getting ready and they had that moment together when he first saw her in her dress. He took her to the church and walked her down the aisle. He gave her away to the man who was taking her away for ever. I felt like a spectator. But I did break ranks, insisting on wearing full-length white – an Amanda Wakeley dress I found that suited me better than anything else. It was all so different to my own low-key wedding for just 90 guests. We didn’t have a budget but we knew our boundaries. I walked to church and the whole thing was finished by 7pm.

Jade Beer’s novel The Almost Wife will be published by Bookouture on 20 June. To
pre-order a copy now, visit