7 Popular Wedding Cake Traditions—and How to Make Them Your Own

We’re breaking down the most beloved wedding cake traditions, one tier at a time.
by Parker Butler
Bride and groom cutting a wedding cake
photo by Janet Howard Studio

From the bouquet toss and burying the bourbon to carrying your partner over the threshhold, lots of couples love to incorporate classic wedding traditions and superstitions into their weddings—and wedding cake traditions are no different. Cake traditions have come a long way since Ancient Roman times when a groom would break a loaf of bread over his bride’s head for good luck (seriously!). Here are seven popular cake rituals and trends you and your partner can include in your wedding. 

1. Cutting the Cake

Tradition: It used to be only the bride who cut the wedding cake—today, both partners share in the cake-cutting ritual. Family, friends and photographers alike look forward to the moment the couple joins hands around the cake knife and cuts the first slice. Not only will your guests finally get to taste the gorgeous creation they've been eyeing throughout your reception, it’s also a classic wedding moment (up there with the first kiss and first dance). 

Tip: Make sure your caterer gets a 15-minute lead time before you head over to cut the cake. They’ll need that time to refill champagne glasses and ready the cake table with all the necessary cake-cutting accoutrements.

Bride and groom smashing cake into each other's faces

2. Feeding the Cake

Tradition: The tradition of smashing the first bite of cake in each other’s faces has gained popularity in more recent years, and everyone has their own take on it. It’s completely optional, but it can be a great time for you and your partner to be silly and playful after a long day of formality—and don’t forget about the adorable photo op. 

Tip: If you don't want to risk staining your attire or makeup with crumbs and frosting, maybe leave this tradition out. But if you're both game, have a few extra napkins on hand and prepare to get messy. 

3. Saving the Top Tier

Tradition: Back in the 19th century, couples saved their top tier for the christening of their first child. Today, couples generally wait a longer period of time after their “I dos” before having children, so they’ll save a slice or tier of cake for their first wedding anniversary. 

Tip: While your cake can survive a year in the freezer (if it’s well wrapped in plastic and sealed in an airtight container) we advise eating it early (maybe your one month anniversary or while you’re reviewing your wedding photos three months later). If you do decide to save this layer, remember to remove all flowers, stems, leaves and other garnishes, and to wrap it carefully to avoid freezer burn. Rather a fresh slice? Have your baker make you a small cake—with the same flavors and frosting—on your first anniversary.

Single tier wedding cake with pink flower

4. Lucky Charms

Tradition: The custom of adding gold or silver charms into a cake is usually reserved for bridal showers, but you can also make it a sweet tradition at the reception. Each charm baked into the cake carries special meaning, and a different kind of luck will fall on the guest who receives it. For example, a rocking chair ensures a long, happy life, and an anchor or airplane symbolizes a fun adventure is in the near future.

Tip: Instruct your guests to pull on the attached ribbon to take the charm out before they bite. And keep an eye out for the little trinkets before diving into your slice. 

Southern wedding cake pull

5. White Wedding Cakes

Tradition: White wedding cakes were the norm for a while because the sugar used to make the icing was white. Today, your confection can be whatever color and flavor you want. 

Tip: While we love a classic white wedding cake, yours definitely doesn’t need to be—why not think outside the box? Beyond choosing unexpected colors and fillings, you can look to international wedding cake styles for inspiration, like the French croquembouche tower of cream puffs. Golden, statuesque and covered in spun sugar, the croquembouche is a delicious alternative (or complement) to wedding dessert.

6. Groom’s Cake

Tradition: Groom’s cakes started popping up in the 17th century as small fruitcakes given to guests as favors at the end of the night. Now, groom’s cakes are often a little richer than the wedding cake and tend to creatively show off the to-be-wed’s passions or favorite flavors not included in the first cake. 

Tip: Talk with your partner about including a groom’s cake at your reception. Consider a cake that's a playful representation of both of your interests. Don’t be afraid to get creative, especially if you plan to have a more traditional wedding cake. 

Croquembouche cake

7. Lots of Tiers 

Tradition: In medieval times, bakers would stack individual cake layers as high as possible for a couple’s wedding dessert. The newlyweds’ fate was then put to the ultimate test when the couple had to kiss over the towering layers. If successful, the couple was guaranteed a prosperous life together. Today, tiered wedding cakes are extremely popular, ranging from three to seven tiers. 

Tip: Design your dream wedding cake however you please—just make sure to consider the number of people you’ll be feeding. Three tiers will serve 50 to 100 guests, and you’ll need at least five layers for 200 guests or more.

Still looking for a cake baker? Find one here

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