Wedding Cake Traditions
There are several different wedding cake traditions that have passed over time. Many of these have survived and evolved while others are no longer practiced, and many brides may be thankful for that!
The Cake Itself
The wedding cake itself is a long-standing wedding tradition, which has evolved over time. The cake is to be served at what was originally called the “wedding breakfast.” The wedding breakfast was not necessarily a meal in the morning, but many brides and grooms would fast before their wedding. The wedding breakfast is what we would call the wedding reception today. This would be a breakfast as it would be the meal during which they would “break their fast.” The original wedding cakes were small wheat cakes that were brought by the guests and then broken over the head of the bride as a symbol of fertility.
Cakes were eventually made from fruitcake, as fruitcake can be stored for longer periods of time. These cakes would be covered in a frosting consisting of heavy fat and sugar, possibly to prevent spoilage, as refrigeration was not common during the era of the first wedding cakes. The tiered design is believed to have originated from the tiered spire of St. Bride’s church in London.
Cutting and Serving of the Cake
Traditionally, the first cutting of the cake is performed by the bride and groom with a ceremonial knife or even a sword. An archaic tradition is that the bride served all portions of the cake to the groom’s family as a symbol of the transfer of her household labour from her family to their family. The bride and groom are also supposed to feed each other the first bites of the cake to each other to symbolize a new family unit and the replacement of the old parent-child union.
After the traditional cutting and serving of the cake, guests are then allowed to partake in the wedding cake. Some couples will even ship portions to those who were unable to come to the wedding.
The top tier is traditionally saved by the couple for their first anniversary or the christening of their first child. Many people would have the top tier of the cake made of fruitcake so that it could be frozen, however, this is not very popular today and the top tier of a plain cake has been frozen and consumed without spoilage.
The wedding cake topper also has its own tradition. The history of the topper dates back to a baker’s daughter who wanted the perfect symbol of their marriage. The father placed two miniature figurines of the couple on top of the cake. This symbol is widely used today and has been experimented with to show the bride and groom dressed in cowboy boots and hats, Hawaiian shirts and more. Other toppers have featured doves, hearts, bows, and other mementos the bride and groom may have saved from a trip together or something they believe symbolizes their love.
The wedding cake will constantly evolve and it is okay to stray from traditions you don’t care for and keep the ones you like. If you hate fruitcake, have a chocolate cake or strawberry cake or a cake with a ribbon of fruit that is layered throughout the cake. It is your wedding, your special day and your wedding cake.