A wedding hairstyle tells a lot about the bride—and the era in which she’s married!—so finding one both classic and modern is key

Other than the style of the dress, the hairstyle a bride wears tends to be the biggest indicator of just how retro that wedding photo is. Eighties? Big and feathered. Nineties? Big and permed. But even if you’re trying to sleek up your look, there’s still authenticity to think about. “A wedding is the biggest event in a woman’s life,” says Edward Tricomi, hair stylist extraordinaire and cofounder of Warren-Tricomi salons. “The most important thing to focus on is staying true to your personal style—you want to be the best version of yourself. If you choose a modern [hair] style you’re not 100 percent comfortable with, it will show.”

Since a focus on healthy, beautiful hair marks our present era, it’s shouldn’t be a big challenge to find a timeless look that still feels current. Everything old is new again these days, such as the bun. “Some looks inspired from past decades will eternally be in style,” says Tricomi. “You can never go wrong with a classic chignon. [For 2012, make it] a low chignon, off-centered at the nape of your neck.” Again, “the French twist is a classic—you cannot go wrong. If you want it more modern, have your hairstylist tease the pony before forming the twist to add extra volume or allow face-framing pieces to fall loose,” he offers. “The imperfection makes the style look fresh.”

And what about the seeming style of the moment: braids? “I think incorporating them into your wedding style can work, but the braid should not be overpowering. I would suggest small braids that complement your overall style.” One such small way is in a look Kate Middleton wore recently, that Tricomi says is an ideal style for a modern classic wedding. To achieve the simple, but intricate-looking style, part the hair where it naturally falls. Begin French braiding the hair loosely (“to keep the look modern and effortless”) at the back of the neck, and once it reaches the top of your back, twist it around into an oval-shaped bun at the base of your neck. Wrap the ends under the bun and secure with hairpins. “Kate has a mirror-like shine which I would use a glaze to achieve. To up the shine even more, use a shine mist after styling,” Tricomi adds.

It is still acceptable to wear one’s hair down—just not teased to a meringue-like peak! “Square face shapes should wear their hair down in loose waves to soften the edges of your face,” the stylist suggests. Meanwhile, those with round faces “want an up-do—I’d suggest pulling it up high with wispy side-swept bangs. Otherwise, wear it down to elongate your face.” Lastly, a deep side part and low chignon creates balance for heart shapes.

As for what to watch out for that might be laugh-worthy in decades to come, Tricomi only warns against oversized or overly intricate hair accessories that “will look outdated quickly,” despite the huge focus on them currently. Instead, “aim for delicate and beautiful. As long as it feels like you, the piece can add to the look.”