RALEIGH, N.C. – When we were girls, my sister and I joked that we would marry our future husbands in the backyard, barefoot, and the reception would be a potluck. And though I filled a hope chest with doilies and cooking supplies, I never dreamed up any other details of that “perfect day,” such as a color scheme or a specific dress.

So when the Marine veteran I love proposed two months ago, I was caught somewhat unprepared. After flirting with thoughts of eloping that very night, we decided instead to have a proper wedding. We’d invite lots of friends, wed at my old country church and have a big feast.

That meant that I had better start to dream.

My mother and I plotted to alter her wedding dress from the 1980s – a Victorian-style gown complete with puffed sleeves. Not knowing what I wanted it to look like – except that I did want it to look unlike this one – I turned to Google images for ideas.

Gradually, my search for “wedding dress” became “chiffon wedding dress”; and finally, “chiffon wedding dress with cap sleeves.”

Then an image of a flowy, chiffon wedding gown stopped me in my tracks.

It was beautiful. A band of delicate flowers trailed from the left shoulder of the tulle cap sleeves down the front and around the back. The base fell into a subtle train. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

I clicked on the image.

Airuisha, a Chinese company, had posted it on I’d heard about Etsy, where small-business owners sell their creative, often handmade wares. Handmade? Off-the-beaten-track? Delightful.

And the price was incredibly low: The company wanted $252 and $30 for shipping for the custom order.

Cautious, I read all of the reviews of Airuisha on Etsy. Online scams were fresh in my mind after narrowly avoiding a travesty while buying a car on Craigslist. Some of the reviews of Airuisha were scathing, from “This company is bad news!” to “I didn’t get what I ordered.” Most, however, were favorable, and the company had a four out of five star rating.

I looked at the dress, looked at the reviews and looked back at the dress. Needing a sanity check, I called my fiancé.

“Well, for $280, what could you lose? And it might work out fine,” he said. With 10 years of experience in the military, he doesn’t tend to panic at the little things that rattle me. So I calmed down and ordered the dress.

I had questions about the logistics (and safety) of making the payment online, so I reached out to the seller, and we had a conversation over Skype.

By the end of our call, I was confident Airuisha was legitimate, and I made the payment over PayPal.

The dress came two weeks ago, sealed in a plastic bag. Alone in my apartment, I carefully cut it open and tried it on. The flowers droop a bit, but that’s nothing a needle and thread won’t fix. And it even zipped – barely.

It is beautiful.