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How to dress for each bridal pre-wedding event, according to experts

Here's every style you need leading up to the altar.
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Now that they popped the question, it's time to officially embark on your bridal journey. But before walking down the aisle, there are a slew of pre-wedding parties and events to dress up for. While your wedding day is the main event where you get to flaunt your dream dress to all your loved ones, there are other fashion opportunities to look forward to during the planning process.

According to Pinterest x Zola's 2023 Wedding Trends Report, the average cost of weddings will be approximately $29,000 in 2023, with 19% of couples opting for sustainable and thrifted elements into their wedding looks and decor. That doesn't mean that brides aren't investing in style when it comes to pre-wedding activities!

Shop TODAY talked to experts on what you should wear to help you budget every stage of the shopping process. Plus, we put together different looks to inspire and embrace your bride-to-be title.

How many pre-wedding events are there? | Outfit ideas for engagement party | Outfit ideas for bridal shower | Outfit ideas for rehearsal dinner | Outfit ideas for post-wedding brunch | Meet the experts

How many pre-wedding events are there?

Whether you're having a destination wedding or keeping it local, there are traditionally four pre-wedding events to look forward to:

  • The engagement party
  • The bridal shower
  • The rehearsal dinner
  • The post-wedding brunch

Some couples may also host a cocktail hour before the wedding day or, if they're traveling with family or friends, plan a full-blown itinerary or personalized events while they're there. It can come in the form of a lavish bachelorette/bachelor party or even as simple as an intimate bridesmaid luncheon.

Outfit ideas for engagement party

The engagement party typically happens a month after the couple gets engaged. But if it's a surprise engagement, the event tends to be more informal with immediate family members or close friends in attendance.

New York-based bridal and personal stylist Liza Lieberman recommends the bride-to-be wearing white to this event because "it is the start to their journey to becoming a bride. It's also their opportunity to step into their bridal identity". Lieberman suggests wearing a mini dress or jumpsuit and something not as revealing since the bride will be surrounded by family members.

"The most important thing is to feel comfortable and not try to squeeze in an uncomfortable dress," emphasizes fashion influencer and designer Aimee Song. "Know what type of silhouettes are flattering to your body and how they make you feel."

Thinking Out Loud White Backless Jumpsuit

The back of this jumpsuit is daring but the front showcases a more reserved look. This sleeveless jumpsuit features a fitted bodice and cross-over wide straps that hug your curves, while the wide legs make the fit more relaxing yet alluring. This is also a a great look you can wear post-wedding — you could easily throw a blazer on top of it for a more professional style.

Pearl Embellished Strappy Sandals

One thing to keep in mind during wedding-related events is to wear comfortable shoes. "It’s nice to have more stability in the shoe, a block heel or small platform when you’re walking the room," shares Lieberman. These strappy sandals add a sophisticated element to your attire without being too high and limiting while mingling (aka standing) for hours.

Aspen Shirred Dress

Elegance is never overrated when it comes to a midi dress. This one features a lightweight cotton blend and a low-cut back with spaghetti straps, along with a shirred side seam and a fitted silhouette that looks super flattering. You can wear this look at a beach resort or city when you're celebrating your new bride-to-be status.

Madeline Pearl White Feather Trim Blazer Dress

Feel elevated and luxurious in this blazer dress from Miss Circle. This brand offers high-quality gowns for your most special events and this design will grab the attention of everyone in the room. With feather details on the sleeves and a glamorous cut, this is the ideal dress to welcome your fiancé's family during the engagement party — think boss girl meets Mrs. Right.

Outfit ideas for bridal shower

Usually hosted three months before the wedding (preferably not too soon or too far), the bridal shower is when the bride gets to celebrate her upcoming nuptials with games, food and drinks. Lieberman suggests wearing something white and flowy that feels ethereal and romantic. "That's usually what a bridal shower is about, emphasizing the romance of it all and not leaning too sexy when it comes to dresses," says Lieberman.

However, according to Emily Forrest, director of communications for Zola, bridal showers are becoming more casual in nature. "Even if you want to play into the color of white, your look doesn’t have to be super traditional."

Draped Rhinestone Split Thigh Dress

The asymmetrical silhouette and dainty rhinestone details of the dress feel graceful and elegant. It also has a slit on the front for a peekaboo moment and features a lined body that avoids transparency. This is a fun dress that can be worn during spring or summer and paired with strappy sandals.

Pearl Drop Pierced Earrings

Pearl details are trending in 2023 and this pair is the perfect accessory to match with your white ensemble. It features a matte gold finish that contrasts well with any neutral or white-hued dress.

Mrs. Glitter Clutch Bag

Be loud and proud with your title change with this fun accessory from Kyha. The clutch features a Mrs. in gold or silver and is a piece you can wear beyond your wedding day.

JJ's House Sheath One-Shoulder Knee-Length Cocktail Dress

With a flowy silhouette and elegant cut, this dress will make you feel like an angel. It features a one-shoulder design and ruffled details made from chiffon that exudes exquisite glamour.

Margot Ruffle Hem Midi A Line Dress

According to Lieberman, brides are looking for "something simple but luxurious where the silhouette is simple but the fabric is luxe and looks expensive." This midi dress perfect embodies that sentiment, featuring adjustable straps and ruffled details on the hem that add structure and movement to the piece.

Azazie Justina A-Line Dress

You'll feel like a princess in this maxi dress made from chiffon. This design comes in 20+ colors and you can even customize the size depending on your bust, waist and hips measurements. "It was extremely comfortable, survived two ceremonies and a lot of dancing, and I plan to wear it later this summer as a wedding guest!" said one customer.

Outfit ideas for rehearsal dinner

Since the wedding is for a more classic and timeless outfit, the night before the wedding is a great opportunity to be more daring with your outfit choice. "The best you can do for a rehearsal dinner is to try something trendy and cool. This is an opportunity to put more of your personality at the current moment into your outfit," says Lieberman.

One trend that is resonating with couples this year is the maximalist trend. According to the Pinterest x Zola 2023 Wedding Trend Report, searches for maximalist weddings increased by 1900%. Couples are now dressing for the theme of their wedding and planning a whole outfit rotation with that theme in mind, including for the rehearsal dinner.

Lieberman encourages her clients to get out of their comfort zones and do something fun during this shindig — think stilettos, fun colors and unique silhouettes. In addition, Forrest mentions that today's generation is opting for custom sneakers or more casual wear when it comes to pre-wedding events.

Ruched Bodycon Dress

With over 3,000 verified five-star ratings, this is one of Amazon buyers' favorite styles. The dress is great for most curvy women and it offers a classy silhouette with a silky touch.

"It's not actual satin but has a lovely soft feel and didn't wrinkle in my packing cubes. It was very flattering while covering all the important parts," said one verified reviewer.

Perla Textured Cowl Neck Maxi Bodycon Dress

If you want to be bold, wear this maxi bodycon dress featuring a high stretch and cowl neck. If you don't want to wear white but still prefer to keep the wedding theme, Lieberman advises wearing a blue tone for the classic 'something blue' tradition.

JJ's House Bodycon Off the Shoulder Knee-Length Dress

Keep the bridal theme going before the big day with this bodycon dress featuring feather details. The best part is that you don't need to worry about your intimates since this comes with a built-in bra. It gives bride vibes and will set the tone for your upcoming nuptials.

Birdy Grey Elle Chunky Heel

You can also play into your bridal status with your accessories and shoes. "I would do something blue for the shoe or incorporate something metallic or pearl for the accessory," says Lieberman. This pair is so comfortable, it could be something you can wear every day.

Asymmetric Square-Toe Heeled Mules

If you're a stan for heels, these mules have an asymmetric design that will match most of your outfits. The crisp cream-white iteration will elevate any dress or ensemble. Best of all, this is a pair you can repurpose and wear with jeans, suits, pants and other outfits after you say, "I do."

Mini Crescent Hobo Bag

The right bag can zhuzh up any outfit. This brand is favored by celebrities and is a classy option to wear to all your events. The mini crescent design features gold clip accents and a gold chain that adds glamour.

Outfit ideas for post-wedding brunch

Post-wedding celebrations are great because the bride gets to finally relax and show off her new Mrs. status to the world. The brunch is a great opportunity to be laid-back and wear an outfit that feels relaxed. Lieberman's clients "would wear a floral dress, jeans loafers and light-colored sweater. It’s all about coming into your normal identity and not being the bride anymore."

Another way to elevate this moment is to wear laid-back luxury. Song thinks it's "so chic and elegant when brides do a matching moment with a suit instead of a dress for a breakfast. Why not do a white blazer and crinkled silk shirt with matching pants?"

Since this is the most casual of all the wedding events, Forrest suggests planning your outfit in advance, but ultimately it's best to wear what feels comfortable and true to you.

Tunic Dress V Neck

Feel relaxed with this tunic dress during your post-wedding brunch. The style features ruffle details on the sleeves and is made from a high-density chiffon that feels breathable.

A Line Flowy Long Dresses

Over 4,600 customers gave this flowy dress a thumbs-up for its relaxing and feminine fit. Reviewers rave about how comfortable and lightweight it feels. Coming in more than 25 colors, it's a dress you can wear on a beach vacation, casual party or at the breakfast table with your spouse.

Tencel Jersey Fit and Flare Dress

There's nothing more relaxing than a flare dress made from a soft fabric. This one is breathable and is made from a stretchy material featuring moisture management. "It's buttery soft, has stretch which makes it extra comfy and has pockets!!!" said one reviewer.

Reef Cushion Cloud Roa

These slides are made for all-day comfort and are a great post-wedding choice when you've danced for hours. They're made with padded jersey and molded EVA featuring anatomical arch. You can wear them to the beach, pool and all your outdoor adventures.

Braided Halter Maxi Dress

Whether you're going to brunch or heading straight to your honeymoon, this dress is a comfortable yet elegant choice. It's a great option for your destination wedding and a design you'll wear on repeat. The pleats, braided trim accents and fitted waist add an elegant touch to your brunch affair.

Meet the experts

  • Aimee Song is a fashion influencer, stylist and designer of her brand Song of Style. She partnered with Marshalls to launch The Edit by Marshalls. She's also the author of the New York Times bestseller: "Capture Your Style."
  • Liza Lieberman is a New York-based bridal and personal stylist with eight years of experience in the fashion industry. She has established relationships with brands, designers and dealers of all calibers from high street to luxury.
  • Emily Forrest is Zola's director of communications. She previously spoke to Shop TODAY about what to gift for your 20th anniversary and what to wear to a black tie wedding.