There are unspoken rules of etiquette and often unknown financial responsibilities attached to being mother of the groom. Many people are unpleasantly surprised to learn that they should be footing the bill for certain flowers or booking the getaway transportation. And not knowing what’s expected of you as the mother of he groom can result in additional financial stress and emotional anxiety during an already stressful time. So we’ve gone to our local expert to get some clarity on the issue. Neillie Kirk Butler, owner and executive planner of Mariée Ami — a wedding planning studio in the heart of Mountain Brook — demystifies and decodes the unspoken rules of being mother of the groom. With these 10 rules — plus five more that will score you major mother-of-the-groom brownie points — you’ll gracefully coast through the complex wedding planning maze and impress your son’s new family with your thoughtful care and loving support!
Neillie’s Top 10 Tips From the Mother of the Groom Rulebook
1. Immediately connect with the mother of the bride.
Be the first to reach out and introduce yourself, or if you already know each other, simply share your excitement and happiness over the future marriage. Neillie explains that it’s the groom’s mother’s job to say, “We’re here to help in any way we can, and we will get started on the rehearsal dinner planning, but please be sure to let me know if you ever need anything from me.” Leaving open the doors of communication makes the bride’s mother feel that she can always go to the groom’s mother with questions, guest list requirements and expenses. “It’s just a supportive and responsible way to handle this large, important event,” says Neillie.
2. Be open and honest about financial abilities early on.
If the parent(s) of the groom are unable to shoulder any portion of their financial responsibilities, they should be open from the very beginning with the groom and the bride’s parents. “The mother of the groom needs to take the initiative so that her son isn’t put in an awkward position, saying ‘I don’t know. My mom hasn’t told me,’” says Neillie. “It’s just important to get it all out on the table so the bride’s family can make decisions based on that information.”
3. Ask how many guests the bride’s family would like for you to invite.
One of the most common difficult topics in wedding planning is the guest list. Sending in a list of 600 people when the bride’s side was expecting 100 creates so much stress and anxiety and it becomes hard for the families to address it. “Mothers of the groom need to understand that this is a very touchy topic, because every single guest costs a good amount of money and the bride’s family is putting lots of pieces together to formulate a budget, and the one driving factor in formulating a budget is the number of guests that they can invite,” says Neillie. “So, be the mother of the groom of the year and say, ‘How many people do you want me to invite?’ Get an honest answer and stick to that number.”
4. Know which flower duties you are fiscally responsible for and graciously address that with the mother of the bride.
The groom is fiscally responsible for some flower duties — the bride’s bouquet, the boutonnieres and the mothers’ flowers. “Now, paying for these items does not mean that the mother of the groom gets to choose them. That is a big no-no,” says Neillie. “The right thing to do is to tell the bride and her mother, ‘I want to pay for my responsibilities, and so pick out whatever you want and make sure the florist sends me a bill.’” Neillie adds that if you have a financial situation that makes it difficult to cover these costs, it is very fair to talk to the florist about costs ahead of time.
5. Offer to pay for the groom’s cake.
The groom’s cake falls into a gray area but it’s a nice gesture to offer to pay for the groom’s cake in those initial financial planning talks. Neillie warns that when it comes to the cake, make sure to take into consideration the bride’s color scheme and what she has in mind. “At the end of the day, this is the bride’s day and it’s her wishes that matter most,” says Neillie.
6. Plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner.
The groom’s family is financially responsible for the rehearsal dinner. If they don’t have a lot of money to spend, then that needs to be taken into consideration when planning the rehearsal dinner. That may mean that they need to have a small wedding-party-only rehearsal dinner that consists of barbecue in somebody’s backyard or maybe the bride’s family will offer to go in with them, maybe not. “Again, circling back to that first phone call and setting up those initial expectations, have the whole financial conversation at the beginning so there are no surprises and everything can go smoothly,” says Neillie.
7. Be proactive and know the wedding agenda.
Make sure you are well-informed about the weekend’s agenda, where you’re going, when you are supposed to be there and what is needed of you. “If you haven’t heard by the week of the wedding when you should be ready for photos, for example, then ask,” advises Neillie. “Be proactive and do you part to help. Be there with a smile on your face and roll with it.”
8. Compensate the minister.
The minister doesn’t give you an invoice or tell you his or her rate, so it’s just one of those things where the groom needs to ask around and find out the going rate or call the church and ask for the typical compensation for officiating a wedding. “It’s this unspoken code and the priest is never going to tell you, ‘That’ll be $600,’ unless he is a rent-a-priest,” says Neillie. “But I see it being anywhere from $400 to $800.” If you have a friend get ordained online to officiate your wedding, you are not hiring a true professional, so no payment is in order; however, a gift of thanks for your BFF-turned-officiant is a nice way of saying thank you.
9. Once the groom and his bride make their sparkler-flanked exit from the reception, the fiscal responsibilities shift to the groom and his family.
The groom is financially responsible for the getaway transportation from the reception, room and board on the night of the reception and the honeymoon. To be super considerate, check with the bride’s family to make sure that any flowers or decorations on the getaway vehicle are in keeping with the wedding decor. And while surprise honeymoon destinations are fun, make sure you do your homework and don’t take the bride on a week-long cruise if she gets seasick easily.
10. Check in with the bride and offer your time and support — but not your opinion.
Neillie has heard brides complain that they haven’t heard anything from the mother of the groom. So, it’s nice to call and put yourself out there. Offer to help without offering an opinion. “Most of the time, the bride and the mother of the bride want some involvement from the mother of the groom,” says Neillie. “Offer your time and your heart,and be understanding. You’re dealing with a very emotional bride and a stressed out mother of the bride, so choose your words carefully. Know that anything you say or do will be amplified.”
5 Ways to go Above and Beyond
1. Share flowers.
Offer to use the same florist for the rehearsal dinner so that the bride’s family can re-use the flowers as they see fit for the wedding day.
2. Offer to help with hostess gifts.
See if you can help pick out or shop for any hostess gifts!
3. Don’t be afraid to thank the vendors.
“A father of the groom recently came up to me and gave me the biggest hug and, with tears in his eyes, said ‘I cannot thank you enough. You and your company are amazing. I never dreamed my son’s wedding could be so fabulous and you made sure I was where I needed to be, when I needed to be there. I didn’t miss anything. From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank you enough.’ And, literally, that was all I needed for the whole weekend. That’s why we do what we do,” says Neillie. The caterer, band, florist and planners have all worked hard on the wedding with a lot of contact from the bride’s side so hearing that they were happy and thankful from the groom’s side goes such a long way.
4. Offer to coordinate and pay for your out-of-town guests’ transportation and hotel gifts.
Most of the time, all of the groom’s friends and family travel to the wedding, which is usually on the bride’s turf. “If all of the out-of-town guests are your friends, then offer to pay for and put together the hotel gifts. Or offer to arrange for the transportation for out-of-town guests,” says Neillie.
5. If there is no wedding planner, offer your help!
If the bride’s family does not have a wedding planner, then they’ll need to have one of the most crucial puzzle pieces to pulling off a successful wedding: an airtight wedding timeline of which everyone is aware. So, offer to draft a wedding timeline and even help manage it. Or, if the mother of the bride needs help in another area of wedding planning, then roll up your sleeves, put a smile on your face and get to work! You’ll be crowned mother-of-the-groom-of-the-year in no time!
Thank you to Neillie of Mariée Ami for sharing the secrets to winning as mother of the groom!
For more beautiful ceremonies, dresses and receptions, check out StyleBlueprint’s featured weddings!