The Wedding Cake Smash: The Tradition That Can Take Things Too Far
When it comes time to cut the cake at a wedding reception, some couples will gently feed each other, while others do the wedding cake smash. Even though the latter is a familiar wedding cake trend and scene we've watched in movies and television shows, is it still a tradition we should uphold? As someone who's seen this custom go wrong online and in person, I've begun to wonder if smashing cake at a wedding is bad luck. Curious if the controversial wedding cake smash is a tradition you should incorporate into your wedding? Keep reading to learn how the practice came to be, alternatives and wedding vendors' honest opinions.
Doing the wedding smash can be a funny and cute tradition, but it isn't one you should take lightly. After you find your wedding planner and cake baker on The Knot Vendor Marketplace, ask them for their thoughts on the cake smash to gain helpful tips and advice on the custom.
In this article:
What Is a Cake Smash at a Wedding?
The wedding cake smash, also known as the wedding smash, is a tradition typically done during the cake-cutting ceremony. After slicing the cake, newlyweds feed a piece of cake to one another, then take the frosting or a small portion of cake and rub it (gently or aggressively) onto each other's faces.
Why Is Cake Smashing a Wedding Tradition? The History
The smashing wedding cake custom didn't originally involve smearing dessert onto your partner's face. It's said that around the same time the tradition got its start brides in Yorkshire, England would throw a slice of cake over their heads to symbolize beginning the marriage without the temptation of desire. Another iteration occurred during the medieval period in England. Historians believe newlyweds had their first kiss as a married couple over a pile of tasty buns to promote a wealthy future.
Over time, as society changed and evolved, the wedding cake-smashing tradition replaced the ancient ones. This unique dessert-based custom usually involves both partners and is sometimes considered a playful moment during the reception.
Where Did Smashing Wedding Cake Originate?
The origin of the wedding cake smash isn't too far off from what couples do today, even though its symbolism has changed. Aubree Danielle, luxury cake baker and CEO of Aubree's Cakery, tells us how smashing cake in faces at weddings got its start. "The cake-smashing tradition, like other wedding traditions, has a bit of a dark [read: sexist] history. It originated in ancient Rome, where the bride would have barley cake crumbled over their head. This act was supposed to signify the promise of fertility and male dominance in the marriage."
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Wedding Cake Smash Alternatives
If rubbing cake into your spouse's face isn't your cup of tea, Rachael Soete, food expert and Managing Director of Culinary Canvas, has just the right thing for you. "One alternative to cake smashing is the couple's 'first bite.' You can make this as playful or as subtle as you want. Whether that's the couple taking the first bite of salmon nigiri after it's toasted in front of the guests or sitting down with their meal and acknowledging each other, it symbolizes their first meal as a married duo. Another alternative to the tradition is to do a cross hand-in-hand champagne toast to celebrate coming together. This is less messy and can make a great photo opportunity for the couple," Soete explains.
Danielle wants to-be-weds to know they don't have to do the wedding smash just because it's tradition. "I believe it's time to come up with new customs for a more modern generation. If you choose to participate in these traditions, don't feel bad about it, but it's totally understandable if you choose not to," Danielle says.
Should the Wedding Cake Smash Tradition Be a Thing of the Past?
When the two newlyweds aren't on the same page about whether they'll do the tradition and how they'll act it out, I believe the moment is doomed from the start. I've seen dozens upon dozens of viral videos failing at the tradition, where the bride or groom gets too excited and smashes the cake forcibly in their partner's face (sometimes causing hurt noses, feelings and the entire cake to fall over) or (what makes me really uncomfortable) one partner is clearly whispering to their partner to not do the cake smash, but the person goes through with it anyway. While watching all these videos, I continued to ask myself, "Why do couples smash wedding cakes still?"
Overall, I think a new sweet-related tradition should be introduced since I've seen more failures than successful ones. But I believe there's a way the wedding cake smash can be done gracefully. Simply sit down with your soon-to-be spouse before the wedding and talk about if you both want to do the custom and, if so, how you want to do it. Unless your partner is a prankster, you'll have a decreased risk of being surprised on your special day in front of all your loved ones.
Want to know what other wedding pros think about the tradition? Keep reading to see Danielle and Soete's takes.
"Overall, I would have to vote no on the tradition. There are many more cons than pros for me, and I think if not done tastefully, it can easily go overboard. I would take it in a different direction by feeding each other the cake, which is still fun and intimate," Danielle says.
"I think the tradition had its moment and that couples are stepping away from partaking and even avoiding doing the first cutting of the cake. With Millennials and Gen Z becoming the main demographic for couples getting married, we're seeing fewer traditions involved in the big day. I think we'll see less cake smashing at weddings soon, as couples explore different ways to be involved with their audiences, like the recent popularity of the silly bridal party entrance," Soete adds.
Pros of a Wedding Cake Smash
"The tradition is a fun way to celebrate the couple joining together and can be quite a playful moment between the two. It's hard to get those intimate moments as a couple while trying to entertain your guests, so the cake smashing is a way to share a sweet and silly moment with each other and the attendees," Soete says. Another pro of the tradition is that it's a great photo opportunity when done correctly. "If you're looking for authentic moments to capture, wedding cake smashing is an easy way to get the guests involved and catch some smiles among the crowd," Soete adds.
Cons of a Wedding Cake Smash
"As a makeup and cake lover, this has to be the biggest con of the tradition. My wedding day is something I've dreamed about my entire life, and I'd like to look my best all the way through. I also think the tradition can be taken too far. What's supposed to be a fun, intimate moment can turn into an embarrassing one, usually for the bride," Danielle tells us. Also, considering the average cost of a wedding cake and how difficult it can be to find a wedding cake baker you love, smashing the cake onto one another doesn't seem like the best move. "I've even seen some people take the whole cake or a large part of it and smash it into their partner's face and all over their dress. Of course, as a baker, I don't love this part as this work takes hours," Danielle says.
Another con some couples might not think about is how wasteful and outdated the tradition is. "Originally a symbol of the groom's dominance and assurance of fertility, some brides might not be comfortable upholding the tradition at their wedding. Plus, the cake smashing can get a little out of hand as the couple grabs more food than needed to get the visual effect of 'smashing,' so it can become wasteful (especially if it's with the actual wedding cake)," Soete explains.