Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Step by Step Guide for Mother of the Bride

December 4th, 2019

For anyone not on Instagram, my daughter Kate got married in London ten days ago.

As a newbie MoB (mother of the bride), I learned a lot on the job which I am happy to share with all of you MoB virgins out there.

For starters, you must remember, you are not the bride.

She is.

When I got married in 1987 my mother told me that this was really her wedding, mine would come when I had daughters. She organised everything, wore a scarlet red flamenco style dress that showed off her great legs, and the wedding guests were mostly my parents’ friends, many of whom I barely knew. Times have changed.

Kate interviewed wedding planners, chose the church, party venue, flowers, photographer, invitations and wedding dress. Her chilled fiancée Harry piped up when it came to music, food and drink. I was there at almost all these activities, by Kate’s side, but I wasn’t leading the show.

So future MoB’s out there, what exactly is your role?

Best supporting actor, lady-in waiting, background cheerleader, balanced buddha who treats pre-wedding nerves as just that, tea lady, omniscient errand girl ready to nip to the dressmaker an hour before church time when MoH’s (Maid of Honour) zip malfunctions.

The MoB must be attentive, calm, cheery with cell phone charged and car keys handy.  I recommend watching Anthony Hopkins as the loyal butler in Remains of the Day to get the vibe.

Below are some of the on-the-job experiences I had which I hope will help prepare you for your big day, which is actually her big day:

What to wear?

I was aiming for best supporting actor level of glam. There would be lots of people congratulating me, lots of pics, and last, but definitely not least, ex’s gorgeous blonde girlfriend somewhere nearby.

I found a dress I  thought ticked elegant-chic, not mutton dressed as lamb, but not mutton dressed as mutton either. It was bottle-green, long-sleeve and floor-length. I emailed a pic to the bride and her sidekick sister. (Btw, that’s talented and fun dress designer Stephan Janson below.)

Response from the bride:

Are you converting religions?

Response from sidekick sister:

People are going to think you have some unsightly skin disease.

So off went the sleeves. Which brings me nicely to pre-wedding prep:

While the bride must ensure every body part is toned to perfection,

the MoB’s focus is thankfully confined to one body part  – her arms – nothing else need be exposed.

Here I am on wedding day. Bravo to Ilkay – best Pilates teacher in NYC – In September I told Ilkay that Spanx can deal with collarbone to baby toe, but she’s in charge of bat wings.

What to Say:

MoB toast – this was one of the hardest tasks. I think the MoB toast should strike just the right note of loving without saccharine sweet, funny but not belly aching, welcoming the groom to your family without terrifying him about what he’s gotten himself into. I penned multiple versions.

Version 15 met with silence from MoH Julia.

You’re not laughing?” I say to her over the phone.

That’s because Kate will not find that funny. You cannot take emails from Kate to you as material, especially when she doesn’t sound good.

Really? But it’s so funny!” I pleaded.

Do you want the bride to be annoyed with you two weeks before the wedding?”

Note to MoB virgins- do not piss off the bride. For example, if bride gets a little prickly before the big day (her big day, not yours) and tells you that your new living room looks like a lighting shop, do NOT respond. Smile and exit scary space.

Toast version 16 didn’t fare much better. I read it to my wise old friend Mimi:

It’s safe, she said after a considered pause, but no one is going to break into tears. This is your one chance to say something about your daughter. Go for how you feel, go with your gut.

So I wrote what I felt without worrying about the laughs. Weirdly, version 17 felt a lot like version 6. So pay attention to your version 6.

Here’s my version 17  should your daughter be heading down the aisle anytime soon and you are struggling with what to say.

And while I’m at it – I wrote a poem too- quite a fertile, creative period for MoB

Fresh Start
Cornices, molding, curtains and cushions
New flat, fresh start
Church, confetti, toasts &  tears
a husband, a new life
For better or for worse
Forever or for a bit shorter
A mother and a daughter
One starting over
One just starting
Love conquers all
Even the wrong sofa
Did I mention that I am also renovating an apt in NYC? Or that I’ve upped my daily dose of Zoloft? Maybe that explains why I had so much fun at the nuptials.

What to do when it’s all over– don’t book anything right after the wedding. You will need a good few days to recover from the adrenaline rush. All I wanted to do was sleep for three days.

And when I woke up, the bride and groom – now husband and wife (not in that order) -were back from their mini moon. I was relieved to discover that while they may be married, I still played an active role in their lives:

Earl Grey or something stronger? asked the happy tea lady.

December, 2019