It's important that she feels and looks her best, too.
emme daji wedding processional with mother and bride

While the process of buying a mother-of-the-bride or -groom dress generally requires fewer shopping trips than are necessary for the bride to choose her big-day look, this important task shouldn't be left until the last minute. "The old saying, 'You just know when it's the one' applies here," says Melinda Ladyzinski of Elizabeth Johns boutique in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. "Like some brides, [moms] may love the first dress they put on, while others feel more comfortable trying on a range of styles to be sure."

If your mother wants to wear a custom gown, plan to start the process at least six to eight months before the wedding, recommends Ladyzinski. "This allows them to find the style of gown they love and order it to their specifications regarding size, color, and fabric," she says; depending on the designer, a custom gown can take three to four months—or more—to arrive.

Off-the-rack gowns are also an option, but they come with their own requirements. "If they wish to buy something off the track, they have more flexibility in their timing," says Ladyzinski. "They should, however, allow themselves the time to not only source and purchase the dress, but also consider alterations." Ladyzinski encourages her clients to get their gowns altered about two months before the ceremony, which leaves a tailor plenty of time for extra fittings to make sure it's right—and for final-hour tweaks. "Plan to have your last fitting about two weeks before the wedding, to account for any last-minute changes," she says. "This ensures your gown fits perfectly on the day."

Though beginning the accessory search before the gown arrives is tempting, Ladyzinski usually advises her clients to wait until they've seen their dress on to commit to jewelry, shoes, or other fashion choices. "Maybe you find a gorgeous emerald gown that would pair perfectly with faux diamond and emerald earrings—or you want to add a dramatic pop of color that you couldn't have imagined," she says. "We find that, depending on the style of gown purchased, it can be obvious what you would need: Maybe a stunning off-the-shoulder gown calls for only a statement earring, and how would you have anticipated that in advance?"

Moms who are in a hurry—either because the couple chose a short engagement, or because they still haven't found their dream dress—have a few options. Start with a boutique that offers a mix of custom orders and off-the-rack gowns; if the dress you love can't be rush ordered, you may be able to find a gown in a similar style and color that, with custom tailoring, looks like it was made just for you. And don't hesitate to call on a professional stylist from your preferred boutique to confirm that you're seeing the full selection. "Working closely with someone who knows the fabrics, colors, and silhouettes each gown comes in ensures you will have a seamless, stress-free experience," says Ladyzinski.


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