Wedding Traditions: The Wedding Cake

One of the most popular wedding traditions is to cut a custom made; multi-tier highly decorated wedding cake for the guest’s dessert.  And in some cases, watch the bride and groom smear each other with the cake in a friendly (or sometimes not so friendly) duel!

But this tradition did not start out this way.  The original tradition dates back to ancient Rome when it was considered good luck to break a dried cake or barley bread over the bride’s head!  It was symbolic of the breaking of the bride’s virginal state.  It was also thought to symbolize the groom’s dominance, over his wife (which may be why grooms still like to smear the cake!)  Later references state that the feeding of each other is symbolic of the commitment to provide for one another during their life together.

Other historical references talk about a stack of buns that was placed in front of the newly weds.  The idea was to kiss over the stack of buns and again gain good luck.  The buns were presents from the guests and ended up being the dessert!

Cakes in the past centuries were not topped with sweet confections, in fact sugar as we know it did not exist!  Also, since refrigeration did not exist, many of the cakes were brandied fruit cakes which could be stored for a long time.  In the 19th century iced cakes became popular but were typically simple single layer cakes.  White cakes were not common, as highly refined and thus, expensive, sugar was required to make a white icing.  Thus white icing was a sign of affluence!  Also, the “technology” to create a tall cake did not exist!

The first multi tier cakes presented themselves during the days of English royalty.  Of interest is that the top tiers originally were spun sugar because it was light and able to be supported by the cake below.  The idea of posts to hold up the top layers had not been discovered.

Cutting the cake is traditionally the first joint task the bride and groom participate in.  The bride holds the knife and the groom’s hand helps her cut the first piece of cake.  This tradition symbolizes the support the bride will receive from her husband throughout life.  Old Greek documents refer to the cutting of the cake as a good luck action meant to ensure happiness and fertility.

Today, the wedding cake is still a big part of the wedding.  Some of the cakes are enormous and can be extremely expensive.  New traditions are actually reflecting the old.  One new trend is to have a “stack” of cup cakes.  These are not really stacked together like the old tradition of using buns, but stacked on elaborate multi tier cup cake stands.

What ever you decide for your “cake” remember (GUYS PAY ATTEMTION!) that this tradition should be done to honor the bride and reflect the desire to love and support each other in your marriage!

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