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Here Comes the Mother of the Bride

11 ways to feel — and look — like royalty on the big day

Mother of the bride adjusting her daughter's wedding dress

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While we all know a daughter's dress is most important on her wedding day, a mother's dress ranks high in importance too.

Mamma mia! Another fairy-tale royal wedding approaches so expect tradition with a tweak. If, like Meghan Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland, you’re a mother of the bride (MOB), you know the real star of the show is that independent, accomplished, beautiful woman you raised. Your best supporting role deserves a red-carpet moment too. Every MOB wants to look amazing at the event, in photos and on social media where any "What was I thinking?" regrets about your dress, hair or makeup will live on forever. Stay calm and carry on — as the Brits say — in style with these 11 tips.   

1. Give yourself enough time

You will change your mind 10 times about what to wear so avoid getting locked in too early (tags removed, alterations done) or leaving it too late (I can't find a dress!). Anxiety can make your weight go wacky too. The stress hormone cortisol makes us hungrier and leaves us craving salty, sweet, high-fat noshes. Your dress size may fluctuate accordingly, and that's normal so work with it.

2. Prepare like it's the Oscars

Savvy mothers of the bride use a wedding date as an incentive to make a few updates. Use the goal to start and stick to a new fitness regimen, switch to a healthier diet, try new makeup, update your hairstyle or color, whiten your teeth with DIY strips (it takes time) and maybe even learn to meditate.

3. Let the bride be the guide

a mother hugging her daughter at a makeup and hair session

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Lose the Momzilla attitude and share your ideas and preferences with your daughter. The worst that can happen is you'll compromise. She wants you to wear a long dress but you prefer short? How about a midi length or trendy hi-low hemline (shorter in front, longer in back) or a short dress for the service and a long one for the festivities? She’s imagining celeb-glitzy but you want quiet elegance? A simple silhouette in a neutral champagne, gray or navy splashed with same-color sequins makes smiley faces all around. 

4. Stick to the color plan

Usually the MOB’s choice of color complements the bridesmaids' dresses — but you don't need to match. There are two feud-free choices. First choice: Stay in the same color family but go lighter, darker or brighter. For example, if they're in poppy pink, you might wear blush pink, a deep raspberry or wine shade or bold fuchsia. Second choice: Choose a shimmery neutral like champagne or silver-gray, which works with any color scheme and adds radiance to us. Tell the mother of the groom the color theme so the immediate family clicks, not clashes, in photos. And of course, avoid wearing white.

5. Do your research online

mature woman doing some research online on a laptop

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Major department store retail sites like Nordstrom.com or Bloomingdales.com have a specific wedding shop category and carry a broad range of sizes from petite to plus, which are not so easy to find in small bridal specialty stores. They are good places to start evaluating looks. At-home try-ons and returns are easy, fast and nonjudgmental (no hovering sales people!). However, you don't need to shop for actual MOB dresses. Dresses slotted for wedding guests or evening/cocktail wear also have great options.  

6. Highlight your assets, play down the rest

Be glam but comfy in fabrics that are supple and move like stretch lace, draped jersey and sparkly mesh. Three major MOB silhouettes that are trending now and come in every neckline and sleeve length: a midi/tea length gown that follows curves before flaring mid-thigh to hemline (thanks to wedge-shaped inserts called godets) and highlights trim ankles and fabulous shoes (no worries about tripping or dirty hems); an off-the-shoulder sheath or gown that displays your amazing shoulders and holds attention there (amazing in seated or group pics); or a knee-length sheath in stretch lace or embellished with beads shows off still-great legs. Go with your gut. You'll know that thank-goodness-the-search-is-over dress when you see it.

7. Think outside the box

Wearing a dress or gown is super, but not for all. Wedding attire has loosened up as weddings veer from beachy or country casual to a city hall and restaurant celebration or to offbeat venues (think mountaintops, fields and boats) rather than more formal affairs. Consider the venue, time, kind of wedding and any cultural or religious customs, but if you want to rock your daughter's wedding in a one-shoulder jumpsuit, an off-the-shoulder floral fit and flare dress or an embellished tunic over dressy pants and sandals — just do it. (Cross your fingers and tell her first, of course.)

8. Get your hair and makeup done

Splurge — it's your daughter's wedding! Most hair salons and blow-dry shops have an on-call or resident makeup artist. Book yours at least a month in advance, and if you can afford a trial run, do so. You want to be the best version of the real you so avoid last-minute untried suggestions like an updo or false lashes.

9. Put these musts on your get-ready list

Add extra volume, texture or highlights to take your usual hair up a notch. Make sure your face makeup does not include sunscreen — it goes chalky on film. Define your eyes more and use waterproof gel liner and mascara. Blend cream blush high on your cheeks for a healthy glow. Line and color in your lips with a lip-tone pencil before applying lipstick to help color last. Choose lipstick one shade richer or brighter than usual. A nude with pinky tones won't disappear in photos, and a vibrant red, rose or berry lip makes a statement and whitens teeth. Your choice!

10. Make a "what if" list

woman writing notes in a notebook

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Anticipate last-second problems that might affect your peace of mind and looks on the big day or days if it's an extended event with a rehearsal dinner or post-wedding brunch. Use a dryer fabric softener sheet to smooth your dry "done" hair gone a little frizzy from humidity, let Spanx add smooth confidence beneath your dress and stick cushioned gel inserts in your heels so you can dance and stand for hours of fun.

11. Enjoy the moment

Bride's mainds dressed in green lined up while standing on grass

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Listen to a mood-setting playlist of calming tunes as you get ready. Spray on your favorite fragrance head to toe and stash a mini sample of the fragrance in your clutch. Add a tissue, cotton swabs (for eye touchups) and your lip pencil and lipstick. Show up on time to help your daughter, who will be in a panic over timing and scheduling. Don't drink too much champagne. And be assured that "Mom" can still turn heads. 

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