Updated date:

The Cookie Table: A Pittsburgh Wedding Tradition

Claudia has lived in Northwest Pennsylvania for over 10 years and enjoys visiting Pittsburgh as often as possible.

A traditional Pittsburgh cookie table at a wedding.

A traditional Pittsburgh cookie table at a wedding.

What Is a Wedding Cookie Table?

You have your best dress or suit on, and you are ready to dance the night away, but instead of looking for your assigned dinner table at your cousin's wedding, you are looking for tables filled with cookies. To be more specific, you are looking for the tables piled high with thousands of beautiful handmade treats. When you find them, you know you are at a wedding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

If you have ever been to a wedding in Pittsburgh, then chances are great that you know what a cookie table is. If not, then you have missed out on something special. Once you have experienced this sweet wedding tradition, you'll be looking for the cookie table no matter where the wedding takes place.

Laden with tray after tray of homemade cookies, these tables range from a small table with a few hundred cookies to elaborate spreads that span the wall of an entire hotel ballroom and hold thousands of cookies. Not only can guests sample all of the sweet treats at the wedding, convenient take-home containers are also provided so no one leaves empty-handed. And we are not talking about a few chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, either. People spend weeks making their special delights for the big day. From pecan tassies and dainty lady fingers to that special family cookie that has been made for generations, you name the cookie and it will probably be on the table.

Cookie tables, a long-held tradition at weddings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are a sight to behold and one that many wedding guests look forward to more than the wedding itself.

A Pittsburgh cookie table favorite, the pizzelle.

A Pittsburgh cookie table favorite, the pizzelle.

History of the Tradition

While no one is really quite sure when the cookie table tradition began, the general consensus it that immigrants started it out of necessity. Elaborate wedding cakes were expensive and many immigrants were unable to afford them. Cookies could be made for the wedding by grandmothers, mothers, and other family members at a relatively low cost that was spread out among many people. By bringing old-world cookies to weddings, the tradition was also a way for immigrants to honor their heritage in their new country.

Historically, cookie tables were found predominantly at Catholic and Eastern European family weddings. Today, the famous tables can be found at almost any Pittsburgh wedding. Other areas in Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, and New York all have their own version of this tradition.

How to Set Up a Cookie Table

Cookie tables are easy to set up, and most wedding venues in the Pittsburgh area are well prepared for the occasion. Even in other cities, where people from Pittsburgh have moved, tables can be set up.

Whether your wedding reception is at a hotel, or you are doing it yourself in a local church hall, there are a number of things to remember when planning and setting up a one of these treat buffets. The following tips can help you if you decide on including this sweet tradition at your wedding.

TipsFor weddings at hotels and banquet hallsFor do-it-yourself weddings

Recruit plenty of bakers. Baking hundreds of cookies takes many days. Set aside a couple of days for a baking party with friends and family.

X

X

Recruit bakers early. Make sure your bakers know when the cookies are needed, how many are needed and what kind they are baking.

X

X

Figure out how many cookies you want at your wedding.

X

X

Provide take-home containers for guests. They can be fancy embossed boxes or plain freezer bags. Whatever fits the wedding.

X

X

If necessary for allergy concerns, label the cookies.

X

X

Make sure there are enough tables for the cookies.

X

X

Discuss cookie presentation and table setup with staff.

X

 

Appoint a family member or a friend to oversee the table, refilling when necessary.

 

X

Once word gets out that you are having a cookie table, friends and family will be more than willing to help out. Chances are that a few extra trays of cookies will show up on the day of the wedding. Make sure to include those special family recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation as well.

For hotel and banquet hall weddings, be familiar with their outside food policy. Some locations do not accept food from outside sources. Luckily, most hotels in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area are familiar with the cookie table tradition and will accept trays of goodies a couple of days in advance of the wedding.

Consider Having One at Your Wedding

Wherever you may live, if you are interested in something a little different at your wedding, consider having a cookie table. It's a fun and easy addition to the festivities and it is always a hit. Friends and relatives who bake will enjoy knowing that they made a contribution on your special day and who knows, you may just start a new tradition where you live!

Nut Horn Cookie Recipe

A great addition to your treat table is this fancy nut horn. The recipe, from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (published September 6, 2012), makes 70 to 80 cookies.

Ingredients for the Dough

  • 2 pounds (8 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 pound (2 cups) sour cream
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 3 teaspoons yeast, diluted in 3 to 4 tablespoons of warm water
  • 8 to 9 cups flour

Ingredients for the Filling

  • 3 cups walnuts, finely ground
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for rolling out
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Vanilla

Instructions

  1. Make the dough: Place butter, sour cream, egg yolks and dissolved yeast into a large mixing bowl and mix until creamy. Add flour slowly while mixing and add until dough is soft and elastic. Roll dough out into balls about the size of ping pong balls. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Make the filling: Place dry filling ingredients into a bowl and slowly mix in the vanilla until mixture forms a paste.
  3. Working with a few dough balls at a time, flatten balls into small circles and spread approximately 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center. Roll them up, then roll in sugar and place them, seam side down, on an ungreased cookie sheet. Shape into crescents. Bake in a 350º oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

© 2012 Claudia Mitchell

Comments

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 08, 2018:

I love the idea of smiley cookies! I wonder if they could even match wedding colors? Thanks for reading.

Cara Kohler from South hills, Pennsylvania on August 26, 2014:

She had a HUGE cookie table! I totally agree that they should be a requirement! I would rather have cookies than the cake! Thank you for the great article. Thanks for posting it!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on August 26, 2014:

Hi Cara - Cookie tables are the best! I think they should be a requirement for every wedding (just kidding). Sounds like your cousin had a table. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

Cara Kohler from South hills, Pennsylvania on August 24, 2014:

This is so true! My cousin that just recently got married had a huge cookie table! I love this page. this is awesome!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on March 14, 2013:

Thanks so much PaoloJpm - Glad you enjoyed the hub.

John Paolo B.Magdaluyo from Philippine on March 13, 2013:

so interesting! great tradition too. Never been with that type

Claudia Mitchell (author) on March 12, 2013:

Hi ajwrites57 - Thanks for the great comments. It's been a little while for me to. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

AJ Long from Pennsylvania on March 12, 2013:

Glimmer Twin Fan--the cookie table is soooo awesome! Haven't been to a wedding for awhile. Need to get an invite soon so I can get me some snowballs and nut horns 'n 'at! hafta go Dahntahn I guess! Thanks for s delicious hub! Shared!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on January 19, 2013:

I appreciate it Kathryn Stratford. Some folks just have cookies, but many have the cake too!

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on January 18, 2013:

This sounds like a wonderful tradition. Is this instead of the wedding cake? I have a lot of family that love making cookies...

Hannah Claire from Los Angles on January 06, 2013:

My pleasure Glimmer.... this one is such an amazing....

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on January 06, 2013:

You're welcome. Check out some of my daughter's hubs: carnelian. She writes about her adventures there. I used to live there (6 yrs) while married to a 'Yooper' I hope you get back...it is a piece of heaven on earth.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on January 06, 2013:

Thanks so much Thelma. There are so many delicious german cookies, I bet this would be a great tradition there. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on January 06, 2013:

I have never heard of this Cookie Table tradition, but I know that when it´s Christmas time in Germany, lots of mothers and grannys are baking cookies for relatives and friends. I have done that, too. Baking 200 pieces of different cookies just for my family and friends for this occasion as a gift or when visitors came.

Voted up and very informative. Thanks for sharing.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on January 05, 2013:

That is very funny. I think I like cookies better too! I do love the Upper Peninsula though. We have been there once and I was blown away by how beautiful it was. We really want to go back. Thanks Denise.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on January 04, 2013:

In the weddings in Upper Michigan there is often 'potluck' and the joke there is that you can't have a wedding without serving 'ham rolls' Slices of lunch (boiled) ham stuck between a buttered dinner roll.

So, one day I got to talking about my kids visiting their dad to my new co-workers and the one lady I sat across from asked where. When I told her the U.P. she had relatives there and we both said at the same time, "ham rolls!" I like the cookie table much better, lol

Claudia Mitchell (author) on January 04, 2013:

Thanks so much Denise! I love that this idea could be used at any event! I appreciate the support.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on January 03, 2013:

What an awesome and interesting hub! I've never heard of this, nor have I been to a wedding that had this. I recently went to a baby shower, however, that had something similar-a cookie/chocolate covered pretzel table. They also chose cupcakes in lieu of a sheet cake. Rated up/I/U/A will Pinn.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on January 02, 2013:

I appreciate the visit DReilly. It's nice that the tradition is spreading around and nobody can resist all the goodies on a cookie table.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on January 02, 2013:

Thanks alexandriaruthk. You are right. Everybody loves cookies! I appreciate the comments.

DReilly8 on January 02, 2013:

My cousin had a cookie table at her wedding in Fort Wayne. The aunts had made an amazing variety of cookies. The family is from Pittsburgh. I didn't realize this was a Pittsburgh tradition. Thanks for sharing.

alexandriaruthk from US on January 02, 2013:

Nice! I learn something new. Who does not like a cookie? Nice insight into the wedding tradition in Pittsburgh too.

Good work :-)

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 31, 2012:

Thanks ElleBee! It is definitely good for folks on a budget. Most people are happy to bake a big plate of cookies for a special occasion like a wedding! I appreciate the comments.

ElleBee on December 31, 2012:

I have never heard of this tradition but it looks like an awesome one! And i agree with cybershelley on loving the lights under the table skirt. This would be a great option for a DIY wedding as well, assuming you have enough friends and family to recruit as bakers this could be a good way to cut costs for a couple on a budget.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 31, 2012:

Thank you hannahclaire! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

Hannah Claire from Los Angles on December 30, 2012:

its an awesome cookies .... This is an exact weeding celebration for me....... I love it....Thanks for sharing this

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 30, 2012:

Thanks so much for sharing CyberShelley! This is definitely a fun tradition that I hope other people try! Happy New Year!

Shelley Watson on December 30, 2012:

A wonderful tradition that deserves to be spread. The lights under the table's skirts is awesome. As for the recipe, its definitely another one of your keepers. Sharing the fun!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 10, 2012:

I appreciate the comments vibesites! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 10, 2012:

Thanks Sharyn. Ha - you are right, 2 lbs of better can't be wrong...Hopefully more people will do something like this at their wedding.

vibesites from United States on December 10, 2012:

This sounds new to me but it's a great idea for a dinner setting, a table just for cookies. Awesome pics, the cookies really do look yummy. Voted up and interesting.

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on December 09, 2012:

I never heard of this tradition but it is awesome! And that nut horn recipe, oh my, that is something that I would love. Heck, it starts with 2 lbs. of butter! Interesting and fun hub GTF!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 07, 2012:

I appreciate the comments pstraubie. I think it a great tradition for any wedding. Who does not like cookies?!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 06, 2012:

What a lovely tradition. Your photographs share the story nicely. And you gave us detail after detail to draw us into this world of cookiedom. It seems like a tradition that we should borrow and use for holidays and birthday celebrations. Thank you for sharing this. :) ps

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 05, 2012:

Thanks so much shiningirisheyes! I appreciate the comments and it definitely a tradition that everyone loves!

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on December 05, 2012:

Fantastic tradition I would gladly be a part of! This is a great hub as well. From the stellar descriptions, the recipe, the ingredient caloric count to the delicious looking pictures, you covered it all!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 05, 2012:

Thanks so much Eddy! I appreciate the support. I have to make Christmas cookies all day, not nearly as fancy as these though!

Eiddwen from Wales on December 05, 2012:

So very interesting and here's to voting across/up and share. Enjoy your day.

Eddy.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 05, 2012:

Thanks teaches. Most people do head to this table first although sometimes they don't wheel it out until dessert time. It's also really hard not to keep going back, just to make sure that all the cookies have been checked out.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 05, 2012:

Thanks vespawoolf! The best part is definitely sampling the different cookies. I bet you would have some great ones at the table!

Dianna Mendez on December 04, 2012:

This is so awesome! If I ever get to go to a Pittsburgh wedding I will certainly head for this table first. What a wonderful idea and I'm sure that it is a tradition well kept by many couples.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on December 04, 2012:

I've never heard of this tradition, but I'm all for it! I definitely want to try it someday. I'm afraid I'd have to sample every cookie, though! What an elegant and fun idea. Thanks!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 04, 2012:

Hi ESPeck - I think that is an awesome idea for a wedding vow renewal! And depending on your plans it could be really formal or nice and laid back. Thanks for commenting!

Emilie S Peck from Minneapolis, MN on December 03, 2012:

What a cool idea! I've always liked the idea of the whole family contributing to events like weddings.

Maybe we'll go for something like this for our vow renewal!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 03, 2012:

I'm always fascinated at the different things people do at weddings. This is one of the sweetest! I appreciate the comments GiblinGirl!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 03, 2012:

Thanks ignugent! I love traditions too. They are so much fun, especially when I learn a new one.

GiblinGirl from New Jersey on December 03, 2012:

I've never heard of this but it sounds awesome. I wish we had had something like that at my wedding - although our reception venue did provide a really nice spread for us.

ignugent17 on December 03, 2012:

The display looks so elegant. Thanks for sharing this wonderful ideas.

I admire the beauty of traditions.

Enjoy your day! :-)

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 03, 2012:

Thank you PaisleeGal. As for other cakes, it depends on the wedding, many now incorporate a wedding cake and sometimes a grooms cake as well. Interesting about the kids's cookie table. I would think a lot of adults would go try to sneak a few cookies too. I appreciate the comments.

Pat Materna from Memphis, Tennessee, USA on December 02, 2012:

I've never heard of this tradition. But it sounds like a lot of fun and family involvement. Is there also a wedding & groom cake? I did go to a wedding once and the couple were both involved in children's ministries. They had a separate reception area for the kids and had mounds and mounds of cookies. Good hub .. voted up !

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 02, 2012:

Thanks so much Stephanie. I agree with you that it is nice to include many friends and family. Went to a cookie exchange the other day so between writing this and exchanging cookies I am all cookied out for the time being.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on December 02, 2012:

I've never been to a wedding with a cookie table, but I LOVE the idea! What a great way for friends and relatives to contribute to the celebration, and I'm sure the guests just love taking some samples home. Your lead picture is lovely with the twinkling lights beneath the table skirts!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 02, 2012:

Well - if you have a cookie at your last family wedding fpherj, then I should probably be invited LOL since I reminded you of this tradition. Or at least you could send me a cookie! Glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for commenting.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 02, 2012:

Thanks mhatter. This would be a great tradition to start anywhere! I appreciate the comments.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 02, 2012:

I appreciate the comments tillsontitan! A couple people have mentioned the Venetian hour on here. That sounds intriguing and very similar. You can't go wrong with tons of cookies and I'm glad this brought back "sweet" memories

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 02, 2012:

Hi Bill - You just need to get more wedding invitations. This is definitely a fun tradition, albeit a little fattening! Thanks for commenting.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 02, 2012:

Thanks so much Jeannieinabottle! - Candy tables are awesome too. I am with you, anything sweet is great.

Suzie from Carson City on December 02, 2012:

How YUMMY! I have been to a couple of weddings that had a cookie table......not quite as elaborate as the one pictured (That's quite a gorgeous table!!) but, just as delicious I'm sure. I don't think I ever ate as many cookies in one sitting in my life....But how can you help it? They're THERE and just calling out your name.

This is a lovely tradition, that I intend to keep in mind for what will be the LAST wedding in my family. We might as well do it up SUPER huge!

Thanks for this TREAT of a hub, Twin......but you have forced me to bake, now. I'm easily tempted. :)

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 02, 2012:

Hi Jackie - It is a good tradition. Too bad there are not more of them like this! I appreciate the comments.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on December 01, 2012:

What a delightful tradition. Thank you for enlightening me. I have never heard of this before.

Mary Craig from New York on December 01, 2012:

Memories...I had a Venetian Hour and my daughter had the Candy Hour! Either/both are a great way to end a happy day. Everyone was filling take home bags at my daughter's wedding to beat the band ;)

I love the way you provide so much information with the Tips Table, and Cookie dough recipe! I'll be using that recipe for sure!

Voted up and awesome....pinned too!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 01, 2012:

I've never heard of this, but then I don't remember the last time I went to a wedding. Pretty interesting information my friend. Maybe I need to get out more. :)

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on December 01, 2012:

This sounds like the greatest tradition ever! Now I want to go hang out in Pittsburgh. Recently, I went to a wedding that had a "Candy Bar." I was not familiar with this tradition either. The entire table was filled with bowls full of candy and bags so you could take as much as you wanted for later. I think a Cookie Table and a Candy Bar at a wedding would be the greatest event ever. Thanks for sharing! Voted up!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 01, 2012:

Mm, only now do I know of this! Love the notion and thanks for the recipe and great info and photos!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 01, 2012:

Thanks for the comments Carol! They definitely serve dinner too. The cookies are usually after the dinner, although, unless there is a big unveiling, people go up to take a look and maybe snag a cookie. They even serve wedding cake too (not always, but a lot of the time).

carol stanley from Arizona on December 01, 2012:

This is really fascinating and I have never heard of this. Do they serve regular food also or just millions of cookies. Great mouthwatering photos.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 01, 2012:

I really appreciate the support Lord. You definitely know your cookie tables if your ex is from this area. It's one of those great traditions that everyone loves and remembers. Thanks!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on December 01, 2012:

Hi Janine - Thanks so much for commenting. I'm glad I could bring back some memories! I love chocolate fountains. Greatest invention in a long time!

Joseph De Cross from New York on December 01, 2012:

Thanks to Janine for bringing me uninvited to this party. My ex wife is from Washington PA and have seen these parties taking place in Slovakian social clubs and other Eastern churches neat Donora and Charleroi PA. Love the history intro and the recipe. Now I'm pretty much hungry! The lay out is perfectly done Glimmer Twin. Thanks and sharing as well!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on December 01, 2012:

Awesome Glimmer Twin Fan, we had the Venetian Hour at our wedding and we had tons of cookies and even a chocolate fountain, too. You truly just brought back some wonderful memories from that day for me. Thanks seriously for sharing!!

Related Articles