15 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

There are plenty of wedding traditions—but the most delicious traditions definitely have to do with wedding cakes.

There are a variety of ceremonial wedding cake traditions you may want to incorporate into your big day, such as feeding the first bite to your new spouse, or preserving a slice of cake to eat on your first wedding anniversary.

Want to include a wedding cake tradition into your wedding? Here are 10 wedding cake traditions, their significance, and wedding cake ideas on 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. Having A Tier For Each Partner

If you don’t want to do separate cakes for the bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom), another way to incorporate the tradition into your wedding is by devoting a tier to each person—for example, making the top tier the bride’s favorite flavor and the bottom tier the groom’s (or vice versa). That way, you don’t have to have two separate cakes (which might be too expensive for your wedding cake budget)—but you can take advantage of the tradition and have each half of the married couple represented with your wedding cake.

5. 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). Then, leave it in the freezer until your one-year anniversary—then take it out, defrost it, and enjoy a piece of cake with your spouse to celebrate being newlyweds and reminisce about your wedding day.

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

6. 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. (More on that in a bit.)

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.)

10. 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.

11. Kissing Over The Cake

In the middle ages, couples were instructed to kiss over the top of their multi-tiered wedding cake; if they could successfully smooch without damaging the top layer of the cake (or knocking the whole cake over!), it was a positive omen for a good luck, good fortune, and a long, successful marriage.

You and your partner will have a successful marriage whether you kiss over your cake or not—but if you want another excuse to kiss your new spouse on your wedding day, this tradition offers a great opportunity!

12. Sleeping With Cake Under Your Pillow

One of the potentially messier wedding cake superstitions has to do with sleeping with a piece of cake under your pillow. For this tradition, the night before the wedding, the bride sleeps with a portion of cake underneath her pillow—with the thought that it will inspire dreams of her future spouse.

This tradition dates back about 300 years, when fruitcakes were the go-to variety of wedding cake. With a modern wedding cake, this tradition is harder to pull off (you don’t want to wake up with icing all over your pillow!), so if you do decide to try this tradition for your big day, make sure to use a more durable cake—and skip the icing.

13. A White Wedding Cake

Back in the Victorian Era, the color white was the ultimate status symbol; it symbolized wealth, luxury, and social status. And, as such, white cakes with white icing became the most in-demand cakes of the Victorian elite.

Over time, white wedding cakes also came to symbolize the bride (as brides most commonly wear white wedding dresses). If you want to honor this tradition, make sure the base of your cake/icing is white—and if you want to incorporate color, leave it to the decoration.

14. Adding Sugar Flowers To Your Cake

Today, sugar flowers are a staple accessory of many wedding cakes. But this tradition didn’t start until the 1980s, when Sylvia Weinstock, a New York cake baker widely known as the “Queen of Cakes,” pioneered the edible pieces of art, making them an in-demand feature for wedding cakes across the country.

Weinstock passed away in 2021, but you can honor the tradition the Queen of Cakes started by incorporating sugar flowers into your wedding cake design.

15. Skipping Cake In Favor Of Another Dessert

A new tradition that’s becoming more and more common at weddings? Skipping wedding cake altogether—and going with alternate wedding desserts or confections that are more of a fit with the happy couple’s taste.

For example, if wedding cake isn’t your thing, you might consider serving donuts, pie, cupcakes, candy...whatever your favorite sweets, feel free to feature them instead of cake. Remember, your wedding should be a reflection of you and your soon-to-be spouse—and that extends to the dessert table!

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