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Debenhams reports monsters-in-law battle over wedding spotlight

Debenhams has revealed that, while brides and grooms are cutting back on spending, fashion savvy mums are spending more than ever on their wedding outfits.


Debenhams has reported that mothers-in-law have thrown out the wedding etiquette rule book, much to the annoyance of brides.

Thanks to increasing numbers of step-mothers-in-law now invited to nuptials, a new breed of thrusting, cougar-esque mothers-in-law have ripped up the first commandment for weddings; thou shalt not upstage the bride.

While the happy couples have cut back slightly on the big day to save cash, research for Debenhams has found spending by fashion savvy mums has soared to an average of £430. This is compared to five years ago when they paid out an average £190 - a 126% increase.*

By comparison the overall cost of getting married has risen by only 52% to £19,779**. This is a drop from an all-time high of £20,273 in 2008.

According to high street store Debenhams, the growth in sales has been driven by the increasing numbers of divorces and second marriages: when asked the reason for wanting to look extra special, 39% of mothers-of-the-bride or groom said they were competing with their ex-husband’s new wife or girlfriend.

Alain Mehada, Debenhams Personal Shopper, said: "It seems that brides are a casualty of the sartorial battle between wives past and present.

“In their determination to make an impact, mother-in-laws are regularly ignoring the main tenants of previous decades, such as do not wear white, do not wear black and do not wear anything low-cut, tight fitting, or which is likely to gain you more attention than the bride on her big day.”

Personal shoppers have dubbed it the ’Raquel effect’ after Raquel Welch’s famous thunder-stealing behaviour at her son’s wedding.

Raquel Welch, aged 65 at the time, turned up 12 minutes late to her son Damon’s wedding, wearing a skin-tight, little black dress with cutaway frontage revealing that famous décolletage, all topped off with a huge brimmed white hat and dark glasses.

Nearly 80% of women questioned said their main goal when dressing for their child’s wedding was to look younger than their years, with 63% of women agreeing that an expensive looking outfit was imperative.

Women agreed that figure accentuating dresses were the most important part of the look with eye-catching hats or fascinators, expensive-looking high heels and immaculate hair and make-up following accordingly.

Debenhams looked at spending through its personal shopper service and found the average mother of the bride outfits bought by style conscious mothers for weddings cost £130, handbag £40, shoes £75 and hat £60 and £50 went on new cosmetics.

This adds a new level of competition to the already existing, but less brutal contest between the mother of the bride, and mother of the groom.

’Ladette to Lady’ Social & Etiquette Expert, Liz Brewer commented: “The number one rule for mothers and stepmothers-in-law is not to do anything to draw attention away from the bride. Be as elegant as you like, but it is incredibly bad form to upstage the bride on her big day.”


Notes to Editors:
* Figures from Debenhams’ Personal Shopper Records
** RPI figures June 2001 to June 2011

About Debenhams:
Debenhams is the second largest department store chain in the UK with a strong presence in key product categories including womenswear, menswear, childrenswear, home and health and beauty. Debenhams is. Debenhams operates 167 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Debenhams also has 61 international franchise stores in 24 countries and six Magasin stores in Denmark. Debenhams’ online stores are available at and

Designers at Debenhams include Preen, Jonathan Saunders, Jonathan Kelsey, Roksanda Ilincic, Ted Baker, Jeff Banks, Jasper Conran, Erickson Beamon, FrostFrench, Henry Holland, Betty Jackson, Ben de Lisi, Julien Macdonald, Melissa Odabash, Jane Packer, Pearce Fionda, Janet Reger, John Rocha, Lisa Stickley, Eric Van Peterson and Matthew Williamson.

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