wedding dresses
Elizabeth Fogarty

If you’re not yet engaged but already thinking about your dream wedding dress—you’re not alone! According to the 2019 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, 35 percent of millennials look at wedding dresses and attire before getting engaged. While we don’t recommend actually purchasing a dress until you’ve set a date and a venue, there are still ways to start the browsing and shopping process before you’ve said “I will!”.

Here’s how to start wedding dress shopping before getting engaged.

Take a look at your closet.

It sounds a little silly, but a good first step to finding the perfect wedding dress before getting engaged is to go shopping—in your own closet! Examine some of your favorite every-day and special-occasion outfits and find attributes they have in common. Is there a neckline that you find particularly flattering? Do you prefer more form-fitting attire or looser silhouettes? This will help you narrow down the myriad necklines and silhouettes out there and start pinpointing wedding dresses that would look best on you.

Think about your future wedding’s style.  

It’s essential that the wedding dress you choose matches the style of your big day. For example, a dress for a summer beach wedding will be quite different than one for an indoor winter event. While you can’t predict the future, think about what your dream wedding would look like. Is it outdoors or indoors? Which season? Is your style more relaxed or formal? These details and more will help you narrow down the many dresses out there.    

Start a (secret) Pinterest board.

According to the Newlywed Report, 30 percent of millennials start a wedding-related Pinterest board before getting engaged. Pinterest is a great tool when it comes to collecting and saving inspiration, whether it’s dresses, décor, or other wedding details. We recommend keeping all wedding-related Pinterest boards private until you’re actually engaged (and even then, it might be a good idea for your boards to remain private to keep your wedding details a surprise). You can find photos of wedding dresses in a variety of places online, from fashion galleries to real wedding photos, and pin them to your Pinterest board. Once you’re ready to shop in earnest, you’ll be able to easily access these inspiration images to share your style with your salon consultant.

Pinpoint a few favorite designers and research bridal salons.

As you peruse wedding dress photos, you may notice that you’re favoring styles by certain designers and brands. Take note of these designers and look at their websites to view more of their creations. You can also find out if their dresses are sold in bridal salons in your area. Then, research the salons on a site like WeddingWire and read reviews from past customers so you’ll know exactly where to shop when you’re ready. You can also find out if the salons are having sample sales or trunk shows in the near future—these events can mean big savings if you’re on a budget!

Choose your dress-shopping crew.

The friends and family members who accompany you while dress shopping can make or break your experience. Before getting engaged, you can start thinking about whom you’d like to bring dress shopping with you when the time comes. Do you want a small crew, perhaps just your mom and a close friend (our recommended route)? Or do you think a larger crew might make the process more fun (just remember, more opinions could mean more stress!)? It’s a good idea to start thinking in advance about the loved ones who will help you say yes to the dress so you won’t agonize over the decision later on.

Do not, we repeat, do not buy anything.

Yes, it is super-tempting to venture into a bridal salon and start trying on dresses, especially if you know an engagement is in your future. However, we recommend holding off until after the proposal, and preferably, after you’ve set a date and venue. We’ve seen too many brides purchase a dress for a beach wedding, only then to book a ballroom for their big day. And while you might think that there’s no harm in simply trying on a few dresses at a salon without buying anything, know that it can be a very slippery slope. Salon consultants can be very persuasive and you might find yourself falling in love with your dream dress and being pressured to purchase it on the spot. To avoid this, try to stay away from bridal salons until there’s a ring on your finger!