Let’s be honest…the most any of us know about wedding cakes is that there is always one displayed somewhere at weddings. If you’re planning a wedding, you have no doubt already given the cake at least some vague consideration, but I don’t imagine that consideration has gone too much further than “we need a cake because you have to have cake at a wedding”. Am I right?
Yes. Our modern day reasoning behind the cake is likely no more complex than “just because” but traditionally the wedding cake wasn’t so much an over-priced table decoration as it was used to bring luck to the couple and the guests at a wedding. Doesn’t that sound like a much lovelier sentiment?
The cutting of the cake is also a tradition steeped in symbolism and not merely a good photo opportunity or a good reason to smear icing all over your significant other. The traditional white of wedding cake symbolizes the bride’s virginity and purity (not sure why the groom’s virginity and purity is never called into question!) as it is meant to be a reflection of the bride. Cutting the cake together symbolizes the couple’s union and then sharing a piece of cake symbolizes the eternal promise to provide for one another. Traditionally the bride would distribute cake amongst her guests as a symbol of fertility – so if you’re superstitious and don’t want children you might want to leave that part out!
While wedding cakes have been present at wedding celebrations for centuries, they have not always been a focal point, and they have also not always been cake! At one time it was a Roman wedding tradition to break a piece of barley bread over the bride’s head to symbolize the breaking of her virginity as well as the groom’s dominance over her. Luckily the feminist movement has helped us get rid of too much enthusiasm over that idea!
Today not much symbolism goes into the wedding cake. Cake choices depend far more on taste and budget. The fruit cake has mostly been exchanged for simpler cakes like carrot or chocolate cake. Everything about the traditional wedding cake has changed and wedding cakes have become quite the art form. Cupcakes are even used instead of big elaborate cakes these days, making the tradition of “freezing the top layer of cake for a year as a precaution against bad luck” a lot simpler since you would basically just freeze one cupcake. The only problem with cupcakes is that guests can’t really put them under their pillows in the hopes that they will dream of their future husbands, now can they?
Happy Wedding Planning!