Wedding Cake Traditions and Their Significance

Find out everything you need to know about wedding cake traditions from the experts at Zola! Read on to find out more.

By Jane Chertoff

Wedding Cake Traditions
Photo by Cinder and Co

The wedding cake is a delicious tradition to enjoy on your big day. Of course, you don’t have to go with a traditional wedding cake, as there are all kinds of cake options available. From cupcakes to a cake made from tiers of cheese, pizza, or even home-baked pies, there are endless options to choose from when it comes to your special day.

No matter which dessert you choose, you may want to follow some ceremonial wedding cake traditions, such as feeding the first bite to your new spouse, or preserving a slice of cake to eat on your first wedding anniversary.

Here are 10 wedding cake traditions, their significance, and how to include them in your celebration.

1. Cutting the Wedding Cake Together

Watching the couple cut the cake is one of the sweetest moments of any wedding reception. (Note that the baker may have sent specific instructions on how to cut your wedding cake correctly, so check with them before you dig in.) As your guests gather around, the couple will traditionally cut into the bottom layer of the cake together. Try to make a clean cut—about an inch into the cake—and make a single slice wedge with the knife provided. Then, slide the piece out and place it on a plate with the server. This is the slice that you’ll use to feed one another, if you wish to do so. (See below.)

As for the significance of the cake cutting, it’s the official first activity that you’ll do together as a couple. Historically, the bride cuts the cake herself to symbolize losing her virginity; however, this wedding tradition has evolved. Now couples cut the cake together. As the last official part of the reception, it also indicates the time when your older guests may want to go home. However, the time you cut the cake during the reception is up to you. You may want to do it immediately following dinner or a little later in the evening.

Wedding Cake Traditions Photo Credit // Rachel Lecrone Photography

2. Feeding Each Other Wedding Cake

The fun tradition of the couple feeding each other the first bites of wedding cake dates back to Ancient Roman times. It symbolizes the couple’s first feat together as a unified team. It also shows that you are committed to creating a sweet life together.

How seriously you want to take this tradition is up to you. Don’t feel like you have to really smash the cake in your new partner’s face (unless that sounds like fun to you, then go for it), as feeding them a few nibbles off a fork will work just fine, too.

3. Having a Groom’s Cake

A groom’s cake is a separate, smaller cake from the wedding cake. It may contain a groom’s favorite sport’s team’s logo or something else he loves, such as video game characters or his favorite type of beer. This tradition dates back to Victorian England, when there were three cakes served at weddings: the guest cake, the bride’s cake, and the groom’s cake.

You can partake in this tradition however you’d like. Whether that’s having a separate groom’s cake or a bride’s cake instead, there are all kinds of memorable ways to modernize this tradition of the wedding cake.

4. Saving the Wedding Cake for the First Anniversary

Saving your wedding cake to eat on your first anniversary is another tradition you may want to partake in. Historically, fruitcakes were eaten at Victorian weddings, so they were easier to preserve to eat on the first anniversary (or at the christening of the first child, which, in olden times, likely happened within the first year of marriage). Plus, it’s something sweet to enjoy on the first anniversary of your marriage.

To preserve your top cake tier, you’ll need to get it into the freezer as soon as possible after the wedding. Make sure that it’s completely sealed in plastic wrap, then placed in a cake box, and, finally, wrapped in more plastic (or a sealed Ziploc bag).

If the thought of preserving your cake doesn't appeal to you, you can get a mini replica of your wedding cake made one year later, instead. Or, just have some fresh cupcakes to celebrate.

Wedding Cake Traditions Photo Credit // Hailley Howard Photography

5. Have Multiple Tiers on Your Wedding Cake

You’ll likely choose a cake that’s multiple tiers. Having a multi-tiered cake is a tradition that dates back to medieval times when bakers would make wedding cakes with as many layers as possible and then have the bride and groom kiss over it. If they successfully managed to smooch without the cake falling over, they would have a successful marriage.

6. Wedding Cake Toppers

The cake topper is a chance for the couple to show off their personality. You may want to order a classic “LOVE,” or “Mr. and Mrs.” topper, or have a small replica of yourselves (and maybe your pets) made into a topper. You can also choose not to have a topper, depending on your wedding cake design.

7. Choosing a Cutting the Cake Song

Just like your walking down the aisle and first dance songs, you can choose to play a tune while you are cutting the cake, too. Popular choices include classics such as “How Sweet It Is,” “Sugar, Sugar,” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” or you can go with a more current option such as, “Cake By the Ocean.” Have a few options for your band or DJ to play throughout the cake cutting ceremony.

8. Wedding Cake Charms and Ribbon Pulls

You’ve probably seen wedding cake toppers, but what about wedding cake charms? Cake charms are baked into the cake and each has a special meaning. You can also attach them to ribbons for guests to pull out before the cake is cut. You may choose special people, such as bridesmaids, parents, or nieces and nephews, to pull out a ribbon. They may get a ring (they are next to be married), four-leaf clover (for luck), star (wish come true), or kite (for a leisurely life.)

9. Wedding Cake to Showcase Your Family’s Culture

The cake is also a chance to incorporate your family’s culture or heritage into the wedding reception. Whether that’s choosing a special color or a style (maybe a Caribbean rum fruitcake, Italian tart, or Indonesian kek lapis), be sure to choose something that’s meaningful to you and your family.

Need more ideas for your wedding cake? Click here.

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