How much should a mother of the bride or groom outfit cost?

There are ways to save money on mum’s outfit. Rosie Patrick talks budget tricks with Scottish occasionwear stores

The outfit my mother wore to my wedding cost a total of £7. Yes, my jaw dropped too when she told me. She’ll probably kill me for sharing that (sorry Mum), but even I, bargain queen extraordinaire, was impressed.

What exactly is the price of a typical mother of the bride outfit? How much does mum need to save? What should you budget for? Grab your purse, ladies. It’s time to hit the shops…

two ladies wearing floral dresses
From left: RSVP dress in Cordie Roses Voile, £269, and RSVP dress in Navy Roses Voile, £269, both Bombshell London

The truth? There’s actually no standard figure or quantifiable bottom line when it comes to occasionwear – sorry. But there are many, many variables, starting with you.

“Ideally, you should begin by considering whether this is a dress you’re planning on wearing again,” suggests Katya Wildman of Bombshell London. “This will have a bearing on your spending. Are you looking at this as a once-in-a-lifetime purchase for the nuptials only, or are you searching for a hardworking wardrobe staple that’ll serve you well for lots of different events in the future? This can be a helpful way to work out what to buy.”

ladies wearing occasionwear
From left: Knee-length tiered dress in Navy/Shortbread Spot (style ISE950) by Ispirato, £399, and Tiered knee-length dress in Mauve/ Ice Cream (style ISE828) by Ispirato, £399, both The Dressing Rooms

Don’t rush yourself. “I would advise giving yourself at least six months to search,” recommends Kayleigh Kerr, who owns two stores in Kilmarnock: Serendipity, a traditional occasionwear boutique, and The Dress Exchange, an innovative concept that sells pre-owned designer pieces. “This allows you to peruse the shops and get an idea of what you like, which colours appeal and which silhouettes suit you. It also allows time for any possible alterations.”

This research period will also give you an insight into price tags. “With most brands, a dress or outfit (dress and jacket) will be priced at between £500 and £900,” Kayleigh says. “But there are many designers now whose beautiful outfits retail at just £200 to £400. If you want a dress that’s not readily available on the high street but you don’t have £500 to spend, there are still plenty of options available to you.”

When you shop is also important. “The best time to hunt for a wedding outfit is when the new-season collections start to arrive in store,” says Louise Brown of Falkirk’s Catwalk and its sister boutique The Dressing Rooms, where you can pick up ex-sample and past-season looks.

“For spring and summer big days, this would be from around December or January, followed by the high summer and autumn lines, which land around June or July. Our special occasionwear ranges are ordered six to nine months in advance of the season. We only receive one sample per size, and when it’s sold out, it can’t be reordered,” she says.

ladies wearing dresses
From left: Pencil dress (style 9012) and matching jacket (style 9009) in Mango by Michaela Louisa, £POA, and long brocade cocktail dress with sleeveless halter neckline and high-low skirt (style 4U1B6) by Aire Barcelona, £POA, both Serendipity & The Dress Exchange

We don’t want to scare you, but working out the dress budget is just the start. The sheer volume of finishing touches can be totally overwhelming. Bespoke hats can be especially spendy. “Buying hats off-the-peg can result in a massive saving: we sell soft, luxurious styles for £49,” says Katya.

Many boutiques will offer incentives where accessories are concerned. “Any mother of the bride or groom who purchases her outfit from Catwalk will benefit from a 10% discount on her shoes and bags,” says Louise. “These are usually around £80 for a co-ordinating set.”

If the money’s too tight to mention keep your eyes peeled for sample sales, or, better yet, pay a visit to stores that specialise in slashing prices. “Here at The Dressing Rooms, we’re always on sale,” points out Louise. “The outfits are either a sample or from the past season, but they’re in pristine condition. Plus, we have a wide range of headpieces and matching shoes to complete the look.”

ladies wearing occasionwear
From left: Open-backed jacket over pleated dress, £POA, Gold lamé dress with gold guipure top, £POA, Bardot collar dress, £POA, and Beaded lace sheath dress, £POA, all Joyce Young Design Studios

The Dress Exchange in Kilmarnock is another destination for your radar. “Don’t rule out buying a pre-loved outfit,” Kayleigh advises. “We take in immaculate worn-once garments and sell them at 50% (or sometimes less) of their original cost. We only accept as-new items and some of them are still current season and selling at full price elsewhere. In stock at the moment, we have outfits that would have cost £850, along with matching £300 hats – we’re selling them together for £399 to £450.”

Regardless of what the price tag says, if you’re not smart about your search, you could find yourself out of pocket. Be wise when it comes to the web. “There’s a saying: buy cheap, buy twice,” cautions Katya. “Be really careful online, particularly with size and fit, and beware of sites where you can’t pick up the phone and have a chat. Stylists should have all the time in the world for you. Don’t ever feel coerced into buying – that’s my golden rule.”