Ultimate Mother of the Groom Checklist


Be ready (and relaxed) for this sweet moment.

I found myself  lost at sea in the spring of 2012. My son was engaged and I suddenly wondered what the mother of the groom is supposed to do. Is there a mother of the groom checklist? Who could tell me what to do and when to do it? These were questions I asked friends and Google. In addition, I tried to stay on top of whatever the bride and her mom needed, but the journey would have been a lot smoother if I had seen a big picture of what was ahead. It was a year before I realized that the process has phases.

The result of my questions, research and experience is this ultimate, Emily Post-approved, chronological mother of the groom checklist.

Think of it as an “if I were  Wonder Woman, I’d do all of this before breakfast” kind of plan.

Many of these tasks will not be an option for you. No mortal mother of the groom could do all of this. Some of these activities may be typically handled by the bride, her mother, or others, but none are off limits to the MOG, as far as I have been able to determine.

When you review this, go ahead and strike through the things that don’t apply, won’t be your territory or instantly terrorize you. Keep the rest and save, bookmark, download, print, add to Outlook, OmniFocus, Calendar, or make a spreadsheet. Whatever method you use to organize yourself, fold this into it. You won’t follow it exactly, but you will know what you’re not doing, when you’re not doing it, and what you’ve decided to skip. (Delete. It’s a great button, right?)

Be aware that this assumes the bride and her mother or other loved one are in the driver’s seat for this event. There are times when the mother of the groom stands in for the bride’s mother. If that is your situation, you’re going to need a much different list.

Also, watch for live links from many of these tasks to more information about the subject.

One more thing:

Let’s decide now that whatever anyone else is doing, you’re the sweet one. You’re the gracious, loving, optimistic, peace-making, can-do Super MOG. When the final curtain falls, the Academy is voting you Best Supporting Actress by a landslide. Effectively, no one else is even on the ballot.


Phase 1: Celebrating

Think of this as a time when you are planting heirloom seedlings which, carefully cultivated, will grow into a beautiful family tree.

  •  Call the bride’s parents and share the joy over the news that their daughter has accepted your son’s proposal. This is the first thing to mark off the mother of the groom checklist. This is a traditional response to the beginning of an engagement but can happen in the opposite direction as well. Just know that however it happens, it is important to very quickly establish contact and a relationship, or stronger relationship if one already exists, with the bride’s parents.
  •  Host a family get-together. Invite the bride’s parents, and your son and future daughter-in-law for dinner, breakfast, cocktails, lunch, a cookout – whatever feels right for your family. Additional family members may also be included. This is the time to celebrate, get to know each other better, and to toast the future. The occasion can be as epic or intimate as you desire or can execute.
  • Continue to stay in touch. Call, email, get together with the bride’s family as often as reasonable, possible and appropriate.
  • Host an engagement party if everyone is on board. This is definitely an event that is traditionally hosted by the bride’s family, or friends of the couple, but it is absolutely okay, if everyone agrees and desires, for the groom’s family to throw this soiree.


Phase 2: Plans and More Plans

  • Be available. Clear your own schedule as much as practical so that you have what one of my friends calls “margin.” Look for activities that can be eliminated at least for a while. This is memory-making time. Being available means you get to make more memories.
  • Establish your budget. Whatever your role is in the upcoming festivities, you will have some out-of-the-ordinary expenses. Take a realistic look at your finances and determine what you can afford to spend on all of the activities associated with your son’s wedding. From what you wear, to the rehearsal dinner, travel arrangements and where you stay, these unusual expenditures add up. If you are realistic about this, you can avoid all kinds of issues and conflict.
  • If you are divorced, make a plan with your ex. Have a meeting, if possible, in a neutral setting and discuss the financial arrangements. Know what you are both willing and able to contribute to the wedding. Whatever has happened in the past, you both love your son and the greatest gift you can give him is your unified approval and support.
  • Talk about expectations. Make an appointment to talk with the bride and groom, and her parents if appropriate, about expenses, responsibilities, and everyone’s expectations. Do this as early as possible in the planning process. Mark this off your mother of the groom checklist as early as possible. This can preempt disappointments and misunderstandings and neutralize drama during a time when everyone’s emotions are on edge.
  • Prepare your guest list. Begin working on this even before you know how many invitations will be allocated to you. Once you do have a number, massage the list to fit the parameters. Give this to the bride in a timely manner.
  • Offer to help, in the gentlest, least bossy way possible. Let the bride and her mother know you are available to take care of any details they would like assistance with. Ask if either or both would like to go over their to-do list and see what tasks they may be comfortable handing off to you.
  • Offer to notify friends and family. The couple may also have a formal “Save the Date” plan in place as well, in which case defer to this. If not, ask the bride if she would like for you to notify your out-of-town guests to of the date so they can make plans. This one is tricky so be absolutely sure anyone you advise of the date will actually be invited to the wedding.
  • Decide what to wear. Do yourself a favor and get this decision and any purchases needed behind you well ahead of time. It isn’t something you want to be thinking about that last month. Begin by consulting with the bride on her preferences for your mother of the groom outfit. If she is interested, willing and has time, invite her along with you on a shopping trip. Also, consult with the bride’s mom on what she will be wearing. Follow her lead on the level of formality. Beyond that, my advice is to:
    • Blend in with, but don’t match, the wedding colors. Choose an outfit that compliments the bridesmaids dresses as well as the colors of the wedding.
    • Be comfortable. Make sure your dress and your shoes will be something you can comfortably wear for at least 12 hours. Realistically, this is how long you’re going to be in them. It’s hard to be pleasant when your clothes don’t fit and your feet hurt.
    • Be yourself. If possible, work with a stylist who can bring out your best features. He or she will help you choose a great color and help you find the perfect dress for your shape. At this stage of life, for many of us, it’s not fashion. It’s architecture. There may be some Spanx involved.
    • Don’t forget the rehearsal dinner or other activities when you’re planning what to wear over the wedding weekend.
  • Offer to help address and mail invitations. This is a great way to get to know the bride and her mother better and can, in the best circumstances, turn a chore into a fun afternoon or evening. Whether your offer is accepted or not, you may earn more goodwill points from across the aisle and cross another thing off your mother of the groom checklist.
  • Make travel arrangements and room reservations if the wedding is out of town. If the bride has a block of rooms reserved at a particular hotel, try to stay there so that you can be as helpful as possible to the wedding party. Your out-of-town family and friends may need suggestions with hotel and travel arrangements as well. Reach out and offer this as appropriate. Know where rooms are available, discounted, or most convenient, what the best options for transport to and from airport and other arrival points are, etc.
  • Attend any bridal showers to which you are invited.  Now is the time to put shower dates on your calendar. Ask the bride when bridal showers are planned and clear your schedule so that you can attend. Be sure to rsvp in a timely manner and attend any bridal showers to which you are invited. If you are able, offer to help the hosts in practical ways. Perhaps you can cook or bring food, set up, answer the phone. This isn’t necessary and may not be accepted, but it is a very nice gesture and another opportunity to get to know people who are close to the bride. Purchase modest gifts appropriate for the occasion and be ready to answer questions from family and friends about what the couple needs or where they are registered. Although in the past it was taboo for either set of parents to host a shower, most wedding experts now give this a thumbs up. Emily Post says (on page 177 of “Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette,” that “the traditional hosts are friends of the bride, the couple, or their parents.”  So if you’d like to host a party, offer to do this. Just remember that anyone who is invited to a shower must also be invited to the wedding. This rule hasn’t changed and likely never will.
  • Plan the rehearsal dinner. Although this event is traditionally hosted by the groom’s parents, don’t assume it will be. Cover this in the “expectations talk” referred to in Phase 2. If this is your assignment, then make plans for this six or more months in advance if possible. If you have less time, then do the best you can to have all of these decisions made within a month of the wedding. Regardless of the size of the wedding, if you are hosting the rehearsal dinner it’s no small job. You’ll need to:
    • Establish a rehearsal dinner budget.
    • Determine the guest list. The size of the party drives just about everything else.
    • Choose a theme, venue and menu. Make sure the venue is large enough for the group that is attending.
    • Confirm, sign contracts with caterers, restaurants, venues as applicable.
    • Block off time. Formally set aside hours on your calendar for planning the rehearsal dinner if this helps you. You’ll need some time to do a good job of this.
  • Plan any other wedding week events. If you have the time, energy and funds for some nice “extras,” plan mini-gatherings of family and friends that can occur the week of the wedding. A breakfast or brunch prior to the ceremony or the day after are most common. Even better, if you have a family member who can help with this, recruit them in advance for less stress and more fun.
  • Know your cultural and religious traditions. The couple may turn to you for help with family or religious customs or traditions for the ceremony. Be ready to provide this information but careful about pushing your expectations for the ceremony to the bride and groom.
  • Plan to be beautiful. At this stage of life, it rarely just happens, right? Here are a few tips for looking your best.
    • Talk with your hairdresser about a style for the occasion and schedule pre-wedding appointments. How far in advance will you apply color and or get a haircut? Will you be needing stylist services the day of the event or will you be fixing your own hair? If you’re out of town, what is the plan for this? Your hairdresser can be a big help with all of these decisions and details.
    • Skincare. Take extra special care of your skin the month before the wedding. Being careful to stay hydrated is one of the best things you can do. If you don’t already have a good skin care regimen, put one in place several months before the wedding. Consider facials, microdermabrasion or other special services that will give you an extra glow for the ceremony.
    • Makeup matters. Consider having your makeup professionally done for the wedding. Find a makeup artist in the area and make this appointment as far in advance as you can. Their weekend schedules fill up for weddings and special occasions.
    • Schedule a manicure and pedicure the week of the wedding. If you have a regular nail technician or artist, tell him or her what you’re wearing and ask for suggestions. Make decisions about polish color when you are planning accessories for your outfit. If you’ll be getting a manicure away from home, consider taking your nail artist’s recommended polish with you.
    • Spa services. If you have time and the funds, arrive with time to spare for a spa treat. A relaxing massage can help you prepare for the intense days / hours ahead. Be cautious with facials at an unfamiliar spa, especially if you have sensitive skin. You never know when your skin may react to a new product.
  • Make a list of photos you’d like to have taken at the wedding. This is a happy time. You may be seeing many family members who are rarely able to get together. The official wedding photographer may not be able to accommodate your wish list of photos, but usually a friend or family member is happy to take these for you. Make plans to capture these memories in advance. You are not likely to remember this in detail on the day of the wedding.
  • Take care of yourself. Reducing your own stress will help (or at least not hinder) you when those tricky moments occur. In the months leading up to the wedding, be sure you’re spending time doing things you enjoy and with people who love you. Fill your emotional bank account so that you’ll have reserves for any difficulties you may have with people or situations at the wedding. This is especially important if you know you’ll be spending time with people who know how to push all your buttons.

Phase 3: Almost there

There is still a lot to do, but you’re in the final month before the wedding. Your mother of the groom checklist is nearly complete. Don’t forget to have a good time!

  • Offer to help keep track of rsvp’s from your part of the guest list and to make calls to non-responses for a final head count.
  • Deliver invitations to the rehearsal dinner three to four weeks before the event. These may be mailed, emailed, phoned or even Facebooked. However you plan to invite guests to this event, now is the time to do that.
  • Know your song. Be prepared to offer recommendations for the mother / son dance if your son is receptive but don’t expect this to be a high priority for him. He will have his mind on many other things at this time. Try to find out who is handling the reception dance details and if your ideas are needed or welcome.
  •  Help guests. Continue to provide information about lodging and details for out-of-town family and friends, including airport shuttle services.
  •  Try your outfit on again. Complete any alterations, make sure the tailoring is complete and everything still fits.
  • Prepare maps to the location of the ceremony and wedding for any of your out-of-town guests if needed. This may be done by the bride and her mother. If so, you can check it off your list. If not, though, it’s a great help to people traveling to the wedding. You may even prepare an email with all the details they need and a link to locations.

Phase 4: The Week Before

Details. It is all about details this week. Take care of as many of these as possible now. Doing so will make next week go much more smoothly for you and others.

  • Pay vendors. Your caterer, venue, florists, and others related any other part of the wedding you have committed to funding. Follow your contracts, and use your judgment on what to hold until delivery, but get as many of these things off your plate as possible. Set aside funds for tips in cash. Preferably, place these in designated envelopes that you can hand to someone else for final delivery.
  • Pack for your trip if the wedding is out of town.
  • Offer to help. Ask the groom what he may need help with now or next week. Ask the bride what she may need help with now or next week.
  • Plan special toasts, speeches or prayers.
  • Plan and prepare or procure food for the following week, especially if you will have guests in your home. If your budget permits, this is a great time to find a personal chef to assist you.


Phase 5: It’s Here!

 You’re probably reading this well in advance of your son’s wedding day. While it may seem a dim and distant event at the moment, it will arrive and fade away as fast as every other big event in your life as a parent has already done. As the cliche goes, it will be over before you know it.

No matter how careful you are about planning in advance and checking off your mother of the groom checklist, unexpected tasks, calls, and situations will arise. Do your best to handle these with grace and keep your eye on the prize: a beautiful ceremony and your family’s life after the wedding.


The Day Before The Wedding

  • Host the rehearsal dinner. If this is your job, hopefully the details are in place and the most you are doing is decorating, getting dressed, showing up at the right time in the right place, and enjoying yourself.
  • Make a logistical plan. Discuss the wedding day schedule with everyone who will be sharing your living space the day of the wedding. When and where will meals be served or if there is no plan, who is willing to help with this? What is the shower schedule? How is everyone getting to the ceremony? Any other logistic details that can be coordinated as a group: now’s the time to do it.
  • Deliver maps and directions to guests as needed.


Your Son’s Wedding Day

On the wedding day, your responsibilities are fairly simple.

  • Show up on time (or even better, early) for photos and other pre-wedding rituals and festivities. There will almost certainly be a corsage for you. You’ll need to know where to be when those are distributed.
  • Pinning the boutonniere. If you would like to pin the boutonniere on your son, be sure and ask for the privilege in advance. And I don’t mean the week of the wedding. I mean weeks or a month or two or even sooner if it is important to you. If everyone agrees, you’ll need to find out from the florist and wedding director where you’ll need to be and when in order to do this. It’s a special moment that is easy to miss in all of the dressing, photos, first-looks, and assorted things that are going on before the ceremony. Don’t get your feelings hurt if you miss it though. Grooms and groomsmen can be hard to find before the wedding and he needs to be wherever the bride wants him to be no matter what. Here’s a video that may help you accomplish this task if all the stars align and you do get to do this.

  • Participate in the ceremony as your son and his bride have asked. This may mean merely sitting in your assigned place. It may involve lighting a unity candle or offering a prayer or reading or responding as directed at other moments. Enjoy. Remember. Take mental pictures.
  •  Be well-supplied with tissues. If you don’t need them, someone near you probably will.
  •  Stand in the receiving line after the bride and groom so that you may introduce the bride and her family to your friends and family.
  •  Take your assigned seats at the reception. This may be at the parent’s table or other assigned seating at the reception.
  •  Dance with the groom.
  • Enjoy yourself. Hug the people you love. Be kind to any “frenemies” who may be present. (Ex’es, relatives, in-laws or others you don’t get along with) Make your mind up to set aside the offenses, at least for this day. It’s not about the past. It’s about the future.
  • Be good. I can think of a lot of ways you could become part of a bad memory. This is not the time to have a shouting match with anyone. It’s not the time to have too much to drink. It’s not the time to [insert an unwise, ill-timed action here]. It’s time to wish your son and his new bride all the best for a happy, prosperous and productive future. The fact that you’re reading this means you hardly need me to tell you this. I’m sorry to bring it up but in case someone needs this reminder, it’s here.

The Day After

  • Make more memories. Realistically, the day after the wedding is when you have the most time to enjoy visiting with family and friends. You may want to host an intimate breakfast or brunch where you can laugh, cry, and reminisce. Don’t forget to take more pictures.
  • Help your guests prepare to return home. Arrange for transportation to airports or other designations.
  • Relax. Congratulate yourself for the role you played in launching a new family into the world. Focus on the happiest moments and know that your son and his wife will reap the benefits of years of parenting and hard work.

After the Wedding

  • Take some time off. If at all possible, give yourself a few days before resuming your routine. You did a good job, mom. Take a well-deserved break.
  • Still want to party? Wishing you could introduce the couple to friends and family who could not attend the wedding? Consider hosting a second reception. Families sometimes do this for couples whose wedding takes place far away from their hometown. This kind of event can be very similar to a wedding reception, complete with wedding cake, if you like — the bride can even wear her wedding dress if she wants to —  or it can be a more casual affair. Whether to do this would depend on your desire, the wishes of the couple, and your budget. Second receptions can include photos, decor and other touches from the wedding. Gifts are not expected at a second reception. Only people invited to the actual wedding are expected to give gifts.
  • Mark all the items “complete” on your mother of the groom checklist. You can shred or scrapbook it, but this phase is over. Now you’re a mother-in-law! New adventures are ahead!