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Episode 06: The Wedding Cake

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wedding cake traditions
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Episode 6 of The Bouquet Toss is all about the sweetest part of your wedding reception: the wedding cake! We’re sharing where the wedding cake tradition originated from and some fun facts to know. Plus, some unique wedding cake alternatives to consider. Subscribe to The Bouquet Toss Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app!


wedding cake traditions
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Listen to Episode #06: The Wedding Cake

This is the one where we talk all about wedding cake! Your mouth will likely be watering so consider this your warning. ? The wedding cake tradition dates back a long time so we are breaking down the progression from early bread cakes to the traditional three-tiered white cakes we see today. We also share wedding cake alternatives that are sure to get your thoughts reeling and your stomach growling. Did you know the different wedding cake tiers each have their own significance? Let’s dive into it.

Where did the wedding cake tradition come from?

This wedding tradition is far older than you might have thought. The first wedding cakes were seen as far back as the Roman Times, where the groom would break bread (ie, a “cake” of wheat or barley) over the bride’s head for good fortune.

This ritual was done to symbolize the end of the bride’s purity, as well as the beginning of her life of submission to her husband. The newlyweds would then eat some of the pieces of broken cake, while the guests gathered around to eat some of the leftover crumbs in hopes of good luck.

The Evolution of Wedding Cakes throughout history

The Roman tradition made their way to England in A.D. 43 after they invaded Britain, and the cake idea evolved into something more resembling a tower. In Medieval England, wedding cakes were made of small spiced cake buns that were stacked high atop each other to form a tower of sorts. The tradition then became for the newlyweds to try to kiss one another over the stack of cake buns. If they were successful, it was meant to signify that they would have a wealthy life.

Later, in the 1600s, wedding cakes further evolved into something known as the Bride’s Pie, which was a large pastry filled with minced meats, fruits and nuts, and decorated with pastry flowers. It became custom for a ring to be hidden in the pie and each guest would then eat a slice. The woman who found the ring in her slice of pie would be the next to be married.

Tiered Wedding Cakes

In the Middle Ages, couples began serving stacked wedding cakes similar to those we see today. It was said that if the newlyweds kissed over the stack of cake, they would be blessed with many children. It wasn’t until the nuptials of wedding trendsetter Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840 that the modern style of wedding cake was introduced. The royal wedding featured a four-tiered round cake with white icing, and thus– the tradition was started. (source)

Nowadays, wedding cakes are most commonly made with white icing and three tiers has become the norm. The three tiers were meant to signify the past, present and future. The bottom tier was meant to be served at the reception, the middle tier for distributing after the wedding, and the top tier saved for the couple to eat on their first wedding anniversary.

White icing became the norm, as icing is made from sugar which is naturally white. The more refined the sugar, the brighter white it would be, and also, more expensive. So over the time, it became even more important for couples to have the whitest of white cakes to symbolize opulence and luxury.

Why do couples cut cakes at weddings?

In older times, the bride would cut the cake on her own as a symbol of her losing her virginity and also becoming more submissive to her husband. But in modern weddings, the moment where the happy couple comes together to cut their cake has become an iconic tradition and photo opportunity. Family and friends will gather around to watch the happy couple complete their first task together as spouses.

The hand of the groom is meant to be placed over the hand of the bride when they cut the cake. This is meant to symbolize his support for his bride, and her promise to take care of her groom and their family. Cutting from the bottom of the cake is meant to symbolize the longevity and continuity of their relationship.

Feeding Each Other Cake

The happy couple also typically feed each other cake– which is meant to symbolize their commitment to provide for one another as a sign of their love and affection. While it’s meant to be romantic and sweet, some couples get silly, playful, or downright savage by smashing cake in one another’s faces. Unless you each agree beforehand to a silly or funny moment, it’s best to keep it sweet and gentle!

The Groom’s Cake Tradition

Back in the 17th century, there were two cakes served at a wedding reception: one for the bride and one for the groom. Eventually, the groom’s cake died out and the bride’s cake took prominence as the official dessert for cutting and eating. Groom’s cakes are still used in weddings, and the tradition is most popular in the Southern states.

Groom’s cakes often represent the style, interests, or hobbies of the groom. From favorite sports teams to favorite movies, the groom’s cake is often themed and decorated in a less formal way than the wedding cake. It also gives couples a chance to serve an alternative flavor for their guests as groom’s cakes tend to be richer.

Saving The Top Tier

It has become tradition for the couple to save the top tier of their wedding cake to eat on their first anniversary as a reminder of their wedding day. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you properly wrap your wedding cake for optimum freshness. If you want to learn how to wrap a wedding cake for freezing, check out this video.

Alternatives to the Wedding Cake Tradition

If you’re not keen on serving a traditional, tiered wedding cake, there are so many alternatives to consider to make it your own!

Choose an alternative dessert: Pies, tiers of cookies or macaroons, bundt cakes, cupcake tower with small cutting cake, croquembouche, etc

Create a “cake” out of something else: cheese tiers, waffle cake, rice krispie cake, pancakes (brunch wedding)

How to make it work for you:

  • Have a small cake for cutting, but serve a sheet cake for cutting for guests.
  • Host a dessert buffet instead with pies, cookies, etc.
  • Have a dessert potluck: guests bring their own desserts to share a variety of options with everyone.
  • To save money, opt for a simple cake made with buttercream frosting over fancy fondant.
  • Don’t like cake? Choose an alternative like the ones we previously mentioned or something even less cake-like, such as ice cream.
  • With COVID, more weddings are opting for single-serving desserts to minimize the risk for passing germs. Consider pre-boxed cake slices, stacked into a wedding cake shape!

naked wedding cake
Image via Canva

What is your wedding dessert plan? Do you plan to have a traditional wedding cake or a unique alternative? Join us in the community to chat about this!


Links mentioned in the episode:

The Bouquet Toss Podcast

About The Bouquet Toss Podcast

The Bouquet Toss is a wedding planning podcast that empowers couples to plan a meaningful, authentic, and affordable wedding celebration! On the show, we will have candid conversations all about weddings and why we do them the way we do so that couples can plan their weddings based on their own values, and not on the expectations of others.

In our Budget-Savvy Wedding Planning Community, we see the same questions asked over and over again. So many couples seem to be seeking permission to plan their weddings on their own terms, and we’re here to say go for it! We believe you should have your day, your way and our goal is to help empower you to plan a wedding celebration that actually feels authentic to you. 

This podcast is brought to you by TheBudgetSavvyBride.com and is hosted by the founder, Jessica Bishop, and real weddings editor Sari Weinerman. Subscribe on Apple or Spotify today!

In case you missed it, check out our other episodes:


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The Bouquet Toss Podcast Episode 06: The Wedding Cake

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The Bouquet Toss is a wedding planning podcast dedicated to helping couples plan a wedding day that feels authentic to them! We examine wedding traditions and trends so you can decide what to keep and what to toss from your wedding day plans! Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app!