I had my first wedding-dress fitting last week. The process itself is pretty routine—it’s just a matter of trying on the dress before an initial round of alterations—but how I came to buy the dress is anything but. Not every bride-to-be has a wedding dress before she has a proper groom.

It all started back in February, when The Fiancé gave me a copy of the wedding magazine The Knot as a Valentine’s Day gift. I’m not sure he knew exactly what he was getting into.

With him filming away on his video camera, I nervously tore through the magazine’s glossy pages, looking for something—anything—that would indicate what his gesture really meant. There were no earmarks, no Post-its, no hidden notes tucked inside, asking for my hand in marriage. When I finally looked up through welling tears, I saw him standing there—not kneeling—holding onto that damn video camera. There was no proposal that night. Not that I had expected one. But you don’t give a girl a bridal magazine unless you’re planning to propose.

After a little nervous laughter (him) and tears (me), he told me the magazine was a promise—a symbol of what was to come—and that he was serious about our future together, replete with white ruffled dresses, three-tiered wedding cakes, and shiny diamond rings. Little did he know our future was about to be our present.

That’s when things went into warp speed. A couple of days later he asked my parents for their blessing; a week after that I was cleaning out the bridal-magazine section of my neighborhood newsstand. One magazine included pages of listings for local trunk shows. “We should schedule an appointment—just for fun,” my mom suggested. And that’s how my mom; my sister-in-law, Kim; my niece, Emma; and I ended up at Belle Vie and Vera Wang trying on wedding dresses before I was officially engaged. 

A couple of hours and what felt like dozens of dresses later—lace dresses, mermaid dresses, low-cut dresses, and flowy dresses—folks were starting to tune out. I even heard my mom ask the saleswoman if there were flower girl dresses for Emma to try on. Where were the chills these gowns were supposed to induce? Where were the tears of excitement and anticipation? Maybe I really am missing the bride gene, I thought. I headed into the dressing room one last time, a little dejectedly, to put my own clothes back on. As I started to pull on my True Religion jeans, the saleswoman stopped me.

“Try on this dress for me,” she said, fingering the only gown in the dressing room I hadn’t tried on.

“I can tell that one won’t look good on me,” I said. Hey, it was still winter, and I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in months.

“Trust me,” she urged. “It might surprise you.”

I slipped it on and walked out into the boutique, where Emma was playing with her Barbie and Mom and Kim were rummaging through still more dresses. My mom turned and looked at me, and that’s when I knew.

“This is the one,” she said, choked up. My mom never gets choked up.

As for the design, I have to keep some things secret—it’s supposed to be a surprise for The Fiancé, after all—but that’s how I came to buy my wedding dress, on the very first day I went looking, before I was even engaged. At last week’s fitting, I still loved it; it’s the perfect dress. It’s a good thing he finally proposed.

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Tune in Thursday for the scoop on the private opening of Pete Wentz’s new nightspot, Angels and Kings.