Whether you’re hiring a planner or going the do-it-yourself route, you’ll need to know some do’s and don’ts for modern wedding reception ideas. Trust me, I’ve been to some weddings where the theme was off, the colors and flowers didn’t mesh, or the decor just didn’t seem to work.

Here is my sage advice for decorating based on the ceremonies I’ve seen recently:


DON’T make it too messy: During the beginning stages of planning your wedding ceremony decorations, it’s important to not go overboard. I know, you just got engaged and you’re super excited, and you should be! But the best way to think about this wedding is to relax and plan a fun party that YOU would like to go to. Taking a laid-back approach, rather than trying to stuff too many decor ideas into one theme, is always a smart platform for a ceremony from the get-go. Too many knick-knacks can create clutter and get lost in the decor. Instead, express the wedding theme with colors, your menu, the music you choose during the ceremony and reception, and statement objects such as your centerpieces.

DO think about the lighting: Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, lighting is going to play a role in your decor, flowers, clothing, pictures and just about everything else you can imagine. Start with the lighting of the entertainment at the reception, the dance floor and then the tables. You might also want to consider the perimeters of the room and the cake table. If the wedding is outdoors, think about times of the day that would be best for pictures. In the late afternoon or near sunset, shadows can create some memorable effects for your photographer.

DON’T go overboard with the flowers: I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and there’s a fine line between tasteful and tacky with blooms. Too many arrangements at the ceremony can distract guests from the processional and nuptials. Remember: You’re decorating a wedding ceremony, not trying to duplicate a garden. During the reception, too many flowers or certain types of blooms, like lilies and hyacinths, can overpower the taste of the food due to their strong scents. To minimize problems, be sure to walk your florist through the ceremony and reception space. He or she should know what arrangements will work best with the venues you’ve chosen.

DO be original: Modern brides and grooms are all about less stuffy traditions, and more creative and informal activities. Set the laid-back tone of your wedding with your stationery and invitations using all lower-case letters, bold type or an interesting font. Mix and match round- and square-shaped tables at the reception. Use different chairs (who says they all have to look the same?). Wear a blush wedding dress if you want (and don’t worry if it doesn’t match the decor perfectly). Have craft beer and pizza at the reception, or serve you and your fiance’s favorite pie if you aren’t fans of cake. Do whatever represents you and your fiance, and ultimately, what makes both of you happy. After all, it’s your day!