True Tales of PNS: The Great Floral Massacre of 2004.

Those of you who have been with me since the beginning know a thing or two about the symptoms of and treatments for Pre-Nuptial Syndrome, or PNS (see Surviving PNS: Pre-Nuptial Syndrome, 2/24/09). Some might refer to those that suffer from this disorder as “Bridezilla”, “Bride From Hell” or just plain “Bitch!”, but I say these women are afflicted! PNS can so permeate the soul of a good and decent woman that she becomes unrecognizable to those around her. Stress kills, but PNS? That’s a horse of a different color. It’s stress drunk with power!

As an example, I will use a case study. A bride I knew back in 2004, a sweet woman on a mission – to have the most perfect wedding… EVER! DAMN IT!! We’ll call her Jody, because I don’t know anyone named Jody. Everything started out normal. Jody was like any other bride, excited, determined, thrilled at the prospect of celebrating her big day and starting her life together with her new husband. Let’s call him… poor bastard? I mean Jeff. Jody went through all of the usual steps of wedding planning. Chose the venue, chose the band (in my opinion, she chose the best one), picked out flowers, a dress, cake, champagne – all of it. Now, let me say, I’m not exactly sure what triggered Jody’s PNS. It could’ve been anything. Invitations, favors, anything. Until the day I saw her in action though, I thought PNS was abruptly cut off by, well – the wedding! Not necessarily.

Jody’s ceremony was at 5:30pm, with a cocktail hour to follow at 6pm and dinner and dancing from 7 – 11. It was at about 5:57pm that I witnessed one of the most perplexing and horrifying displays of PNS craziness that I’ve seen in over fifteen years in the wedding business. The ceremony had just finished. It was a beautiful afternoon on the water at undisclosed location in New Jersey facing the Manhattan skyline. The hard part was over, right? The fun was supposed to start. (You all know how I feel about the cocktail hour.) As the band was setting up in the main room of the venue, the cocktail hour was going on outside on the deck and in the bar area. Jody entered the main room, where the tables had been set and the flowers had been placed a few hours earlier. The centerpieces were a well put together mix of roses and lilies with sprays of dendrobium orchids. I never got a chance to ask Jody what the orchids had done to so upset her, but before anyone could stop her, she was attacking! The dendrobiums were her target. Jody proceeded to rip every orchid from its happy home amidst the other happy flowers there to make her day special and beautiful. The orchids ended up in the trash and Jody ended up missing about 25 minutes of cocktail hour. The photographer had been looking for her, Jeff thought she was fixing her makeup, her mother had given up on trying to stop the madness and all I could do was wonder why at that moment she would care about those bloody orchids.

It was PNS, but it carried through the actual nuptials to become something more complex, something more sinister in it’s effects on the bridal brain – RDD: Reception Dysmorphic Disorder. Jody was probably unclear with her florist about her extreme hatred of all things dendrobium. It’s possible the orchids were never discussed at all, and the florist took a little creative license, which would have been fine… any other day. Unfortunately, what looked like a stunningly decorated room to everyone else, looked like a giant crap-fest to Jody. She couldn’t help it. She had built everything up so much in her mind, that was the only thing it could look like. It’s like perfectly normal sized women that think their jeans make their asses look fat. The problem is, at that point in your wedding day, if you haven’t stopped yet to realize there’s something bigger going on than a party – no one can help you. Except maybe the bartender. Jody chose a time at which most of us would say “let’s party” or “whatever, I’m married now… champagne for everyone” to freak out. She was still in planning mode, and at that moment – the planning is over. Let go and let party, ladies.

By the end of the first dance Jody was fine. She was smiling, laughing, dancing and having a great time. The crisis had passed. She enjoyed the food, the music and her guests all night. The evening ended with hugs and best wishes, just as it should. So how can you avoid a floral massacre or ice sculpture decapitation or bridesmaids’ jewelry meltdown of your own? Keep the points below in mind, and they should help talk you down.
  • Put the elements together in advance and be specific.
  • Make sure you discuss your dislikes as freely as you discuss your favorite things with all of your vendors. This will help you avoid discovering something you find hideous (like Jody’s dendrobiums) at your reception.
  • Remember the difference is in the details, but your guests are nowhere near as picky as you are. Once you’re in it, it’s probably best to let it go and focus on the positive.
  • Your wedding should at least be as much about your marriage as it is about your menu.
  • Surround yourself with people that calm you, especially if you are a Type A person to begin with.
  • Hire people you trust. Find a wedding coordinator that you can communicate well with and let her handle it… you’ve got a party to get to!


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Everything I Ever Wanted to Know About the Party I Learned at the Cocktail Hour.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good cocktail hour to set the tone for an amazing reception. So often this wonderful little section of the event gets forgotten in the planning process. It can be thought of as an add on: passed apps, fondue fountain, martini bar bla bla bla. Worse yet, the guests of honor sometimes miss it completely in favor of photo ops. This is the golden hour when guests get to mingle regardless of seat assignment or family affiliation. The open bar has just opened. There are apps and snacks everywhere. It’s your first chance to party as a married couple! There are no real traditions to uphold during the cocktail hour, except cocktails. Which, after all, is one of everyone’s favorites.


My first bit of advice is try not to miss it. Your photographer will probably want to get a lot of pictures taken during this time, but make sure you get to enjoy at least half of the cocktail hour. I’m all for great photos, but you need to unwind after all the “I Do’s” and whatnot. How about having your photographer follow you around paparazzi style? When you stop to chat with a group of friends or family she can just ask you to pose for a brief moment, then you can all go right on chatting, drinking, mingling and most importantly  – eating.

Don’t forget to eat at your wedding, it’s key. You’ll need your strength. You don’t realize what a long day it is until you are in the midst of it. You can get a lot of this eating in at the cocktail hour, without having to slow down your interaction with all of your guests. Everyone will want a chance to talk to you and congratulate you. With one-bite passed apps and amuse bouche platters you can have practically a whole meal and you won’t have to stop the conversation. Which is good, because you probably didn’t get to eat lunch!

The cocktail hour is also an opportunity to show a little of your personal style in the food/drink department. My husband and I knew we had to have sushi at our cocktail hour. We went out for sushi on our first date, we both love it and it was a great story to tell our guests as we mingled. Everyone thought it was cute – people love a good tie in like that. It doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe you met in Buffalo – so you have wings. You beat him in a hot dog eating contest? Pigs in a blanket on a NYC style hot dog cart. Is your man from Maine? Mini lobster rolls. It works for drinks too. If you are going to Paris on your honeymoon – feature all French wines. Yankees fans? Beer bar with commemorative pinstripe cups. Big Sinatra lovers? Martini time! Really, I could go on all day. Take something special about the two of you and incorporate it. It will make the whole event more personal, and maybe some of your guests will learn something about you and your new spouse that they never knew before. Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer if they can provide something that isn’t on their standard menu, but make sure you discuss price – there may be some additional charge.

The same idea goes for music. It’s best to keep it low key, but low key doesn’t have to be boring. Turn the tables on tradition. Tie the music in with your food and drink selections, or ask the musicians to play your favorite genre of music only. Quesadillas? Mariachi. Champagne and Caviar? Strolling violins. Tandoori? Sitar. From steel drums to jazz duos I’ve seen it all. How about a string quartet that plays classic rock or a solo pianist playing all Broadway love songs? It really is up to you. For the most part the music at the cocktail hour is background, but when people stop to listen, it should be something worth listening to.

The cocktail hour is my favorite part of any event. What can I say? I love tiny food. Variety is great, but it doesn’t make up for putting real thought into it. Instead of having the endless buffet of everything you can imagine (unless of course, you met in Vegas) try focusing on a few items that will really tell your story. Tie in the music and choose a signature cocktail and you’re good to go. Think outside the box and you’ll have an hour of ice-breaking, party-kick-starting fabulousness!

I’ll look for my invite in the mail.