Andrea has been an online writer for 8+ years. She mostly writes about dating, couples, weddings, travel, interior design, and gardening.
Let Them Eat Cake!
One of the most exciting parts of hosting a reception is the cake. If there is one detail I think you should keep big and exciting, it is your dessert. You only get to pick a wedding cake once or maybe a couple of times in your life, so spend the extra money to get one done right. There are other details in a wedding that fair better cheap.
- Don't let a home baker who has never made a wedding cake offer to do one for you for free.
- Do a cake testing with your partner before the event. Most vendors will do a test with you to sample the cake and go over details.
- Bakers with contracts are a good thing. They ensure the baker and the wedding couple get what they want.
- Plan early. Several wedding planners suggest booking the cake out at least six months before the big date. If you wait too long, you'll have a harder time booking someone. (I booked mine about 2 months before the wedding date due to changes with the pandemic. Everything worked out, but it was stressful.)
Focal Point of the Reception
People look forward to the reception for the food. Weddings are a great date for people. You get to dress up, the event is planned, there is food, and there is dancing. You don't want to skimp on dinner or dessert. These are the two biggest staples of the reception. Your guests will grumble behind your back if you left them hanging.
- Pick a dinner that will appeal to a range of people. People like options.
- Pick a dessert that's memorable and comes with a bang.
- You want a photogenic cake for your wedding photos.
Selecting the Perfect Cake
Before you start talking to vendors, you should create a Pinterest board with all your favorite cake designs. Google different images and get an idea of what you want the cake to look like and what would be the ideal flavor.
- I recommend putting a board together of 50 designs you like and whittling it down from there.
- If you can think of it for a cake, it probably exists on Google: rainbow colors, sunflower designs, gothic and Halloween like, Van Gogh inspired.
- Some great key words for wedding cake image searches: rustic, elegant, creative, colorful, simple, memorable, Victorian, modern, round, square, layered, mirror glaze, fondant, buttercream.
- Definitely look at images of cakes under your desired color(s).
It will be far easier to your baker if you can send them pictures of what you like and if you can describe your ideal cake concisely. Your baker will likely ask the following questions:
- Do you want buttercream or fondant?
- Do you want flowers?
- Do you have any decorations to go with it, including a cake topper?
- Do you have any food allergies?
- How many layers do you want?
- What flavors do you want for the cake and the frosting?
- How many people do you expect will be at your wedding?
I recommend looking at the baker's designs before you start an inquiry. The fanciest baker in your area will get booked the fastest, so if you're dying to have one of their designs, you should book them early.
You can expect bakers to have at least chocolate and vanilla options. Other flavor profiles often cost more. There is nothing wrong with going chocolate or vanilla, but you should ask yourself what do people see out of you and what would they expect out of your wedding. If you're more of an eccentric person, then you should opt for a more creative cake. If people find you dependable and steady, then a simple three layered cake with a predictable flavor will come off elegant.
For my own wedding cake, I combined a few different designs. I wanted each layer to look unique. I didn't want it to be the most challenging cake either. Keep in mind the more challenging the cake, the more it will cost you for labor.
Selecting a Cake Topper
You can definitely get away with not having a cake topper, but they do add some fun to your event.
The best place I've found for cake toppers is Etsy. The online vendor market has just about every kind of decoration imaginable. You can also get something custom made that fits for you and your partner.
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Flowers can also look elegant in place of a cake topper, if you're worried about the price. A cake topper can set you back $25-70.
Selecting a Baker
You want someone who is local and near your wedding site. You may love a baker who is a two hour drive away, but you're putting your cake at risk. Most bakers will refuse driving a long way with a cake, which could get destroyed on the drive, melt, or have other problems.
Google "wedding cakes" and your city, town, or metro area. Pull up the different websites, read them carefully. Be honest to yourself about what you like and dislike about the bakers and their websites. This is a good activity to do with your partner. Picking a cake together can be exciting. Sampling the cake can also make for a good date night.
- Look for up-and-coming bakers who are presenting themselves on Instagram. These bakers might not have a storefront yet, but they're headed in that direction. They might not be as known, so they're easy to book.
- Consider carefully how the baker responds to your first inquiry. Did you use their website and not get a quick response? That could be a deal breaker in some cases. If they want to serve you, they should communicate with you in a reasonable amount of time. You need to have confidence in your baker. Their communication style is part of the package.
- I recommend sending out more than one inquiry to bakers to get a feel for them. You should expect that the baker you contacted may have a scheduling conflict and can't make a cake for your wedding.
You should have money setup for the cake in your budget. Once you start talking to bakers, you will likely put down a deposit to book them. Don't start talking to bakers until you have money to set the date. I would recommend budgeting $100-$300 for a cake, potentially more at $500 if you have a really big wedding. Again, the more labor intensive, the more it will cost.
Not all bakers will offer cutting services. This price can add up. They may charge $4 per slice cut and to plate it. Your reception venue may also offer cutting services. I recommend that you do have a professional cut the cake. These elaborate pieces can be challenging to cut, and if you're not experienced you could make a mess or cut way too large of pieces.
Cupcakes or Other Treats
It's perfectly okay to opt for other desserts at your wedding. Cupcakes are fun and great for a reception. Again, you need to do your research and treat it like if you were doing a big cake. You'll be asked about flavor, the style, and more. Cupcakes will be sold by quantity.
- If you want cupcakes, think of what kind of presentation you would like.
- It's recommended not to get too many different flavors of cupcakes: your guests will be too excited to want to try all the flavors and may over eat.
- Don't buy store bought cupcakes and try to pass them off for your wedding. You want a professional baker on this task who has experience and knows what works.
Select the dessert that works for you. I've been to weddings where they opted for doughnuts or pie, and they made it work. I went to one wedding where they asked people to bring pies, and all the different pies became the exciting part of the wedding.
It's a good idea to match your dessert to your wedding colors. Do think carefully about your colors: green and red may be your favorite colors, but it may look terrible and clashy. If you're not really sure if you have an eye for color, get a second opinion from a friend or a wedding planner. Some colors do not look so great in photographs and will command more of a feel than you may want.
Talk to your photographer about what colors work and expectations. If you love your cake design, you should give your photographer a heads up about it.
Critical Things Your Baker Will Need to Know
You will likely need to connect your baker to your wedding planner and / venue. The baker will need to arrive early to setup the cake and may need certain conditions for it to be stored. You should act as the middleman to help connect the dots for your baker and venue, or your wedding coordinator can do this.
- The baker needs to know the time of your ceremony and reception.
- The baker needs to know how many people the cake is supposed to serve.
- They need phone numbers to get in touch with you or other important people involved in your party.
- The baker will need the location of your reception and any parking conditions.
- The baker doesn't need any surprise requests the day of the wedding. Don't expect you can change your wedding cake on the day. It takes time to buy the ingredients and bake it, sculpt it, and decorate it.
- The baker will need to know what space is reserved for them, where they can setup the cake, and any rules the venue may have.
Make Plans If You Want to Save Part of the Cake
Traditionally, people save part of their cake and store it in a freezer for a year. They eat the cake one year later on their anniversary.
- You need to assign someone to save part of the cake for you whether in their house or yours. You don't want to be thinking about this on your wedding day and into your honeymoon.
- Wrap it up tightly with foil.
- A great cake piece is covered in icing; the icing protects it. A corner piece is best. Each cut in a cake acts as a wound, so a middle piece is more likely to decay.
Make sure to thank your baker after the wedding. Give them a good review if you were happy. A thank you card can go a long way. It can help encourage them to keep doing what they're doing.
A lot of bakers get recognition in their community through word of mouth. It's a good idea to put out business cards of your baker or a sign that lets people know where you got the cake, that way guests can contact the baker for their event.
You don't need to immediately contact your baker after the event to thank them. They expect you'll get back to them eventually. You should be busy living the newlywed life.
© 2021 Andrea Lawrence