The first time I ever tried on a wedding dress, I was 22 years old and very, very single. I had never had a boyfriend, and the chance of me getting married that year (or the next) was confidently zero.
I was in the store to try on my very first bridesmaid's dress for my cousin's wedding. I should have just kept walking to that section. But I couldn't take my eyes off of this one white wedding dress.
Standing right beside me was my mom, who (more than anything else) loved to talk to me about weddings, dating and when the heck I was going to get my act together and meet the man of my dreams.
My response was always that I was too busy trying to find the career of my dreams. Unfortunately, that didn't make her smile as much as when I told her I had signed up for JDate.
But let's get back to the dress. Before that moment, I had never planned what my future wedding dress would look like. I wasn't the girl who daydreamed about her wedding or spent hours on Pinterest doing "research" for the future. I figured I'd just wear something white and call it a day.
Yet there I was, holding a silk, white dress, "oohing" and "ahhing" like I'd only done once before over a sequined number that was on sale at Alice + Olivia.
The sales associate came over and inspected my left hand for a diamond ring. She asked if I was looking for the bride or bridesmaid's section. It was like she had some sort of sixth sense that was telling her I was hopeless in the love department.
My mom swooped in before I had the chance to come clean and admit that I was prematurely falling in love with a wedding dress before falling in love with the person whom I'd one day wear it for. She asked if I could try it on.
The next thing I knew, I was in a dressing room zipping on a sleek white, sheath dress with a sweetheart neckline. Its crisscrossed straps left much of my back exposed. It was the kind of dress that was both elegant and simple — it could pass as a wedding dress, but also as a dress you could wear to a gala (if I was ever invited to one).
I walked out of the dressing room to show my mom, and the second her eyes caught her little girl covered in white, she beamed with pure happiness. She hugged and kissed me, letting out tears of joy. It was as if this was the real deal.
It was an emotional moment — a premature one, sure — but beautiful at the same time. I loved the feeling of trying on a beautiful white wedding dress I couldn't afford for a wedding I wasn't really ready to have.
I need to start dating again, I thought. Because I'm pretty sure after this, my mom will be planning every other detail of my wedding, including who the guy will be.
I knew if I didn't download some dating apps and go out on at least two dates a month, my mom would become my own personal matchmaker again. I wanted to avoid that as much as possible.
But overall, I loved sharing the experience with my mom and I had an urge to do this again.
Which is why I made it a tradition for myself.
From then on, whenever anyone asked me to be a bridesmaid and I had to go get a dress, I'd also go wedding dress shopping, too.
I've tried on almost every kind of wedding dress: Ball gowns that made me feel like a Disney princess, mermaid styles that made me feel like a Kardashian, plunging necklines that made me feel like I was exposing too much, long-sleeved ones that made me feel like I was exposing too little.
I became a wedding dress expert, trying on high-end designers like Vera Wang and Christian Siriano. I'd show up at David's Bridal or Boca Bridal (when I was back home in Florida), and try on wedding dresses before heading to the polyester bridesmaid section.
I stopped caring whether or not people were questioning if I was actually getting married, because most people were there looking for the dress of their dreams. They didn't have time to question whether or not I was too.
Why can't a girl who is completely single have the experience of shopping for a severely overpriced dress that makes her feel like a princess when she twirls around in it?
I love trying on wedding dresses, not because I'm obsessed with the idea of getting married, but because I can't think of a good enough reason to not.
That's why I've tried on 20 beautiful wedding dresses, and I still own zero.