I’m the Mother of the Groom – Now What Do I Do?

Bride posing in her future mother-in-law's wedding dress. Photo by BF Newhall

The bride-to-be tried on my wedding dress. And, yes, that’s a photo of me wearing it on my wedding day. Photo by BF Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

My son Peter proposed. His girlfriend said yes. They set a date. Her mom and dad are delighted. Jon and I are delighted.

Now what do I do?

Aside from hosting the rehearsal dinner and showing up on the wedding day in a dress that is neither black nor white, that obscures the multiple necks and iffy upper arms and yet still manages to be pretty – what’s the mother of the groom supposed to do?

I asked the sweaty ladies at my Zumba class.

“Not much,” said one with a rueful smile.

“Avoid having opinions,” said another, zipping her lips.

1977 vintage wedding gown in its storage box. Photo by Jon Newhall

I hadn’t opened the box containing my wedding dress since I sent the dress off to the cleaners in 1977. Photo by Jon Newhall

There’s got to be something I can do to help with the wedding plans.

But what?

Won’t the bride be needing a wedding dress, for example?

I’ve got a wedding dress.

Bride-to-be tries on her future mother-in-law's wedding gown. Photo by BF Newhall

The bride-to-be gets a little help from her future sister-in-law. Photos by BF Newhall

It’s pretty. It’s lacy. It’s creamy ivory. It’s got a flattering empire waist and just a hint of a train. It’s been worn only once – by me, on the day I married Jon thirty-five years ago.

I know what you’re thinking: Even if my vintage 1977 dress were to fit the bride, odds are it wouldn’t fit her sensibilities.

And you would be right. There’s a biggish taste gap going on here.  My wedding dress was detailed and traditional. My daughter-in-law likes sleek and mid-century modern.

There’s also this to consider: How would Peter feel about seeing his bride come down the aisle in his mother’s wedding gown?

Still, I can’t help thinking about that dress.

Bride looks at herself in mirror wearing vintage gown. Photo by BF Newhall

It fits . . . sorta.

It’s been hidden away in a fancy storage box high on a dusty shelf for thirty-five years now without anyone to enjoy it.

I last saw my wedding gown when I sent it off to be cleaned a few days after Jon and I returned from our honeymoon. It came back in an airtight “Keepsake Pak” sealed with plastic sheeting and heavy duty tape.

I never looked inside.

Isn’t it time I opened that box and took a look?

And wouldn’t it be a kick if  Peter’s fiancée could be there when I did?

Daughter holds up her mother's wedding dress and smiles. Photo by BF Newhall

My daughter gave the wedding dress a try. No luck. Maybe it will fit one of the granddaughters.

Yes, it would.

And so, on the Monday after Thanksgiving – just before Peter and his fiancée departed for San Francisco International and Minnesota, and just before our daughter Christina drove off to Southern California – fiancée, daughter and I gathered around the box and opened it up.

And there it was. My wedding dress, visible through a plastic window, stuffed with tissue paper and looking as fresh and perky as the day my father handed me over to Jon.

The three of us took the dress upstairs to a bedroom and closed the door. Peter’s bride slipped the dress over her head. Christina zipped her into it.

It didn’t fit, of course. But my daughter-in-law-to-be looked beautiful in it. Creamy and traditional and beautiful.

We laughed. We took pictures.

This was fun. Having this new person in the family was going to be fun.

Maybe that’s what the mother of the groom is supposed to do — enjoy her new daughter-in-law.

For more on being a mother-in-law-to-be, go to “I’m Thankful for a Clean Oven, Fresh Ice Cubes . . . and a Daughter-in-law-to-Be.”  And for a story about my own mother, see “Write About My Aging Mother? I Don’t Think So.”

Since writing this, I’ve posted lots of stories about the wedding preparations and the wedding itself. To see those, go to “They Did It! They Got Married.”




  1. Christopher Wedding says:

    Wow, cannot believe the dress was not opened since 1977 and what a good condition it was in. Amazing.

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      Yes. The dress is in perfect condition. Nobody short and petite enough in the next generation to wear it. Maybe one of the grandchildren. By then it will be really old and vintagey — and back in style maybe.

  2. Mary Ellen says:

    Funny, in the photo it looks like the dress DID fit, but maybe not close-up. After daughter Allegra was in the Links Cotillion in 1987, we stored her beautiful, custom-made dress in an air-tight box, too, in hopes that someone, someday could wear it again, either in a cotillion or a wedding. She’s a big girl so in order for someone to wear it again, it would probably have to be taken apart and taken in. So far, no luck, as the only candidates, my two granddaughters, ages 17 and 11, have evidenced no interest in either cotillions or, just yet, weddings!

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      Mary Ellen, The dress does fit Peter’s fiancee beautifully, but only if you don’t try to button it up the back! Have you looked at Allegra’s dress in its box? I was surprised to find that my dress had been stored in a box with two lids — a regular lid and a second one inside with a plastic window that lets you look at the dress, all stuffed and perky and sealed away.

      • Angela Blair says:

        I had my wedding dress made into a baptismal gown for my 1st granddaughter and hopefully will be passed down generation to generation. My viel I’m saving for her 1st Communion.

  3. Congratulations, Barbara! And as a new mother-of-the-groom myself, I can say that I agree with your conclusion: Enjoying our new daughters-in-law is what we mothers of the groom do best! Offer to help if ever help is needed… with paying for things, with running errands, with setting things up or taking things down . . . and give useful advice, but only when asked . . . and then the rest of the time just wait for the wedding and go with the flow. It’s lovely to have a married son and a lovely new daughter-in-law!


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