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Wedding Style: 10 Dos and Don'ts of Throwing a Modern Wedding

You love Mondrian's paintings, Mies van der Rohe's architecture, and anything sleek, simple, and bold. You know you want a modern wedding, but where do you start?

Do: The opposite of what your by-the-book friend would do. Bucking tradition is step one of throwing a modern wedding, says Ali Phillips of Chicago's Engaging Events by Ali. Today's modern weddings don't feel like staid, stuffy affairs -- they're more like fabulous, fun parties, she says. Skip the formality (sorry, royal wedding fans!) and get creative: Choose a blush wedding dress, ask your brother to be your bridesmaid, or skip the bouquet toss and give it to your grandmother.

Do: Set the tone with stationery. Your invitations will clue your guests in to the fact that this isn't going to be another average wedding. Try using just your first names with more casual wording: "Together with their families…" or even "Come celebrate Natalie and Patrick's wedding." Invites with all lowercase letters in a bold typeface can also help create that modern edge.

Don't:
Go overboard with flowers. Avoid clutter and stick to visually clean and chic decor. So instead of lots of garlands and centerpieces, which can look busy, keep it simple with a few large "wow" arrangements, like tall bunches of branches or strands of hanging orchids. Display them in highly visible places: on either side of the huppah, for example, or on the escort card table.

Do:
Pick a blank slate as a venue. Simplicity is key, so choose a spare, urban space to house your nuptials, Phillips says. Warehouse spaces, mod lofts, the top floors of high rises, and city rooftops provide the perfect backdrop for your edgy celebration. Some key features to look out for while scouting? Lots of windows, mirrors, exposed brick, and cement floors, says Christine Paul of New York City's Christine Paul Events.

Do:
Choose vibrant, striking colors. The blushy, muted tones favored by traditional brides won't pack the punch you want. Instead, pair a color that pops -- like hot pink -- with an equally powerful neutral -- like stark white or graphic black, Phillips says. Paul likes to pair deep oranges and reds with slate grays. A multiple-color palette will muddle your message, so keep it simple and chic by using all white (or black, or gray) linens and dishware with touches of your chosen hue elsewhere in the decor.

Don't: Feel stuck to the traditional wedding timeline. Ceremony, then cocktail hour, then dinner, then toasts, then dancing, then the bouquet toss…yawn! Play with the classic structure of a wedding and make it your own: Plan your big entrance as husband and wife for the cocktail hour, serve drinks before the ceremony, or skip assigned seating and rent lounge furniture to make your entire reception a free-flowing cocktail party. A relaxed schedule with a few surprises -- instead of numbered tables and a predictable program -- will feel fresh and encourage mingling.

Do:
Mix it up. Try mixing round and square tables at the reception. Lighting can also lend a contemporary ambience to your reception: Phillips suggests using LED lights that change color every 20 minutes (or whenever you want to set a different mood) or textured lighting projected onto the walls or dance floor.

Don't:
Order meat and potatoes. You might think that food is one thing you can't modernize, but think again. Instead of the traditional sit-down dinner, try a winding buffet that takes your guests on a tour through your favorite world cuisines, Phillips suggests. Add "action stations," like a live chef demonstration, a choose-your-toppings risotto table, or a dim sum cart, to up the intrigue factor. And in addition to a cake, consider setting out a dessert table with an array of French macarons, whoopie pies, candy, and cookies. (Check out our favorite modern wedding cakes and dessert bars for ideas.)

Do:
Update the music. For an edgier vibe, combine an instrumental band and a DJ who can play together and mash up your favorite tunes. If your budget won't allow both, hire a small ensemble, like a jazz trio or a funk band, for the cocktail hour and then let your DJ take over for the rest of the night.

Don't:
Forget to keep it romantic and intimate. Without restraint, modern weddings can easily skew stark. Give your guests the warm fuzzies with handwritten, individualized gratitude cards, an idea from Paul's own wedding. A few other ideas: Display your engagement photos (in modern frames, of course), rename your favorite cocktails (think Mandy's Mojito" and "Ben's Bloody Mary"), and have your monogram illuminated on the dance floor.

Special thanks to: Christine Paul of Christine Paul Events in NYC and Ali Phillips of Engaging Events by Ali in Chicago.

-- Vi-An Nguyen

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