Ask the Experts: A Mother of the Groom Dress Dilemma

by Marta
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Ask the Experts is your chance to get your wedding questions answered by a panel of wedding professionals. If you have a question, write the panel at asktheexperts@onewed.com

This week a bride writes:
I'm having a Destination wedding in Florida in the height of the summer. We had decided on an outdoor semi-formal (but more casual) wedding. My soon-to-be mother in law asked me what she should be wearing, and I explained to her that it was going to be very hot, that it was on grass and that my maid of honor and mother were both wearing to the knee light dresses. She seemed to get it, but when she showed me her dress a few days later, she had spent a few hundred dollars on a floor-length, dark navy blue dress, embellished with rhinestones. So, not only is she going to die of heat-stroke, she is now outshining my maid of honor, and is going to look entirely out of place at my early afternoon summer wedding.

I really don't know what to do. If I should say something... What could I possibly say?

Our experts were clearly divided on their answers:

IN FAVOR OF Saying Something:

Arianna of Iris Fields says:
Say something. I can tell you from professional and personal experience that it is better to have things out in the open or else you will not only be upset the day of but every time you look at your pictures. Make sure you have the support of your soon to be spouse (a must) and say it to her like this in person and be sweet as sugar:) "I am sure your dress is beautiful but the wedding in its entirety is a vision that I want to flow throughout and I feel that your dress being so formal will be really out of place. So, with that said can I show you pics of my dress, my maid of honor and bridesmaids' to give you a better idea of what I am looking for? I am also happy to pay you back for the dress you already purchased if we cannot return it. This is really hard for me to say and I gave a lot of thought before saying something so please understand how important this is to me."

Arti of Zoya Couture says:
Yes, you should say something - both for aesthetics of the wedding, and for her own comfort. Aside from the potential heat stroke, I'm sure that she wouldn't want to look like the odd one out! Try organizing an accessories or shoe shopping day out with your mother in law, mother, and bridesmaid where they each bring their dresses along. By seeing the other dresses in person, she may get a stronger hint. Or, consider having a heart to heart with her, explaining how much it would mean to you if she wore a knee-length, light summer dress.

AGAINST Saying Something:

Jeff of Blackbird Images says:
My first impulse is to say let it go; you’re in a no-win situation and it’s hard to tell guests what to wear. If you feel you must, try, “I’ve been thinking… I love your dress, but it’s going to be really hot and I’m worried about you… and everyone else has agreed to stick to light dresses…” and see how she responds. If she immediately says, “Oh, I’ll be okay…” then let it go. If she is open to discussing, great – just tread lightly. In the end while she might outshine others, at the same time those others will be dressed similarly and will know why… and bottom line it’s not a competition.

But if you’re at all in doubt, don’t say anything. Saying nothing is least likely to cause a problem; saying something could.

Rebecca of Studio B Photography says:
This is one of those instances where it is probably best to hold your tongue. Although she will be dressed in a decidedly different style than your mother and your MOH, she will definitely NOT outshine them. Lots of times older women feel uncomfortable showing too much skin, whether it be their legs in a shorter dress, or their arms in a sleeveless dress. Unfortunately their solution is often to find the most monstrous creation you've ever seen and choose to wear it proudly on your wedding day.

Let her wear what she feels comfortable in. The dress she's selected will undoubtedly make her very warm, so have someone make sure that she has plenty of fluids throughout the day so she doesn't get overheated.

Rest assured, this is normal, so let it slide off your back and worry about other aspects of the wedding that are a bit more under your control.

Larissa of Weddings of Costa Rica says:
Let it go. A wedding is like a mine-field fraught with emotional bombs. Remember that this is a major rite of passage for a mother of the groom, he is officially leaving 'her' to have another woman as the center of his universe.

You let her know ahead of time what the location was, the type of event it was going to be and what the rest of the party would be wearing, and she chose her dress. Going back to her now and asking her to change it is only going to stir things up. She's a grown up and made her choice. If she wants to sweat it out in a full-length dark dress, let her. She is not going to out-shine anyone so don't worry.

Remember that MOGs tend to take a 'back seat' to the bride's mother and there isn't much of a role for her so let her have her moment to wear her special dress.

Weddings, like marriage, are all about finding a balance and knowing when to push for something and when to give. In the grand scheme of things, who really cares what the MOG is wearing? If it makes her happy, let it be. Better to have a happy MIL than one who feels you're trying to control everything.

OneWed's Wedding Maven is solidly in the middle:
I think the answer depends on your real motivations. If you are really concerned that your future MIL will be physically uncomfortable, then you should say something like this "Becky, I've been thinking about your dress. I really love it, but I am a little worried that you're going to be way too hot in it during the wedding. Are you sure you'll be ok wearing it in the sun?"

If, however, this is more about aesthetics and control then you really need to let it go. You chose your dress and your bridesmaids' dresses, what everyone else wears is up to them. I'm not suggesting you just avoid saying anything, I'm suggesting that you actually realize and accept that you can't control what your mother in law wears, and that it's nothing for you to be upset about.

Something to think about, you said that you gave her all the information about the location and what others were wearing before she bought her dress. Is it possible that you and your future mother in law have a communication issue? It may be that what you think you said and what she thinks you said are totally different things. Try and pay some attention to how the two of you are communicating, and give some thought to whether or not there's a better way for you to get your message across in the future.

Fixing a communication problem now will save you hours of pain once you have children!

About our experts:
Arti Anand works with ZOYA Couture, a boutique design and print studio in Washington, D.C. that creates wedding invitations and marketing collateral. The company incorporates work of numerous in-house and freelance designers, offering clients fresh new designs, layouts, and materials.

Larissa Banting of Weddings Costa Rica has planned over 300 weddings in this beautiful tropical Paradise. She is also the force behind Lazy Bride, the blog for the energetically-challenged bride.

Jeff Haden is President of BlackBird Images, wedding photographers based in Harrisonburg, VA. Not only is he a well-respected and talented photographer, but has also gained recognition as a ghostwriter.

Rebecca is the owner of The Studio B Photography in the Atlanta, Georgia area. As a recent bride herself, Rebecca is able to better understand what her clients need and enjoys providing them with images that capture the joy of their wedding day.

Ariana Gordon Stecker is the co-founder and Lead Planner for Iris Fields, Inc. She is a seasoned New York City event professional who has been featured on MTV, Fox News, and the New York Times.