13 Wedding Cake Alternatives For Couples Who Want to Serve Something Unique

These treats are delicious and Instagram-worthy.
by Sarah Hanlon

Calling all nonconformists: You don't actually have to serve wedding cake at your reception if you don't want to. Plenty of couples are making their own traditions by serving a variety of mouthwatering wedding desserts instead. If a four-tier sugary confection doesn't sound appealing to you, there are plenty of modern wedding dessert ideas to take your reception menu to the next level. 

In fact, it's becoming quite common for newlyweds to offer something other than cake at their reception. According to The Knot 2019 Real Weddings Study, which surveyed over 27,000 recently married couples, 76 percent of respondents did serve wedding cake—but 61 percent also served an alternative wedding dessert (or two), and 44 percent had a dessert table for their guests to graze. So if you think that a macaron tower is way more appealing than a sheet cake, you should feel empowered to have it at your party. (It is your wedding reception after all.) Here, we're rounding up our favorite alternative wedding desserts. From cheesecake platters to donut walls, these on-trend ideas are sure to make your mouth water. 


Wedding cookies were the most common cake alternative in 2019. They were so popular, in fact, that nearly one in two couples included this delectable treat on their sweets display. From icing monograms to state cutout shapes and, yes, even designs with your faces printed on them, wedding cookies are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth and add an element of personalization. Arrange them on a towering platter for the ultimate wow factor, or serve them with a shot of milk to fuel your nostalgia. No matter what way you like your cookies, they're a great wedding dessert idea for those who want to break with tradition. 


Perhaps a mini cake is your dream dessert. If that's the case, wedding cupcakes are the alternative for you. Get creative with cake-and-icing combinations or keep it classic with the basics. (Chocolate and vanilla are always great flavors to satisfy a sweet craving.) Cupcakes still rank high as a beloved wedding dessert alternative—39 percent of couples served them on their sweets table, making them the second most popular option. 

Candy Bar 

Love is pretty sweet, so celebrate accordingly by offering a wedding candy bar at your reception. Whether you pair it with other wedding desserts or let it shine on its own, guests will love creating a custom bag of their favorite sweets. (Psst: this can also serve as a wedding favor for your guests.) Just under 20 percent of newlyweds arranged a candy display on their dessert table in 2019, so if Swedish Fish, Hershey's Kisses and Sugarfina rosé gummies outrank wedding cake in your eyes, you can serve all of it as a fun alternative. 


A donut wall is the Instagram-worthy wedding treat your reception needs. It's one of the most beloved wedding desserts, with 18 percent of couples offering a mouth-watering donut spread at their reception. Not only are wedding donuts easy to eat, they're easily customizable too. Get them iced in your wedding colors, or arrange them on an interactive wall with your monogram on it. Regardless of the way you display them, your guests will devour your wedding donuts.


Wedding cheesecake, anyone? If this savory treat is your go-to, you'll be pleased to know that it's rising in popularity as a modern wedding dessert. One in five couples served cheesecake on their sweets table in 2019, making this a great wedding cake alternative. Whether you opt for a tiered wedding cheesecake or mini bites that guests can take on the dance floor, this confection will be sure to please. 

Cake Pops 

If you like the idea of a wedding cake but want to give it a fresh upgrade, consider having wedding cake pops instead. (Or, serve them in addition to a tiered confection for a variety of wedding desserts.) While just 11 percent of survey respondents had them at their wedding, these inventive creations are a great option for couples who don't want to completely forgo tradition.


Thanksgiving-lovers, this one's for you. Substitute wedding cake with a variety of pie flavors for a truly personalized wedding reception menu. Whether you crave pumpkin pie all-year 'round or a crisp apple alternative is your go-to, having wedding pies instead of cake is a no-brainer. Even ask Lauren Conrad, who baked 50 apple pies for her 2014 wedding reception to William Tell (who bears the same name as the folklore figure). In 2019, 15 percent of couples included this LC-approved treat at their reception. 

S'mores Bar 

Want some more wedding desserts at your reception? Consider having a S'mores bar as an after-dinner activity. While you might want to forgo a bonfire (unless that's totally up your alley), give your guests the surprise of the night by offering a S'mores station. It's a treat that'll make everyone happy—after all, gooey marshmallow and melted chocolate is an iconic combo that's a crowd-pleaser. In fact, 15 percent of couples chose this dessert route in 2019. Can you blame them? 

Ice Cream Bar 

If you scream for ice cream, a build-a-cone station is an absolute must. Not only is a wedding ice cream bar a great interactive experience for you and your guests, it'll be a treat to remember. Get creative by offering a variety of unique flavors, and make it even better by having an extravagant topping table as well. 


Macarons are one of the most elegant (and delicious) wedding desserts. Ask your local pastry chef to arrange them in the form of a cake as a nod to tradition, or get creative with your dessert table arrangements instead. No matter what option you choose, wedding macarons are sure to be a well-loved option at your reception. 


Believe it or not, assorted pastries fell among the top three most popular dessert table options. Just over 30 percent of couples served these creations at their wedding, and it's likely because the possibilities are plentiful. From homemade cinnamon buns to fruit tarts and even breakfast classics (like a homemade poptart), wedding pastries would be excellent offerings on their own or in addition to a traditional wedding cake. Who says you can't give your loved ones (and yourself) a variety of sweet choices? 


Yes, pudding can actually be one of your wedding desserts if you so desire. Whether you give your guests dirt in a cup (pudding with crushed oreos and a gummy worm for effect) or layers of delectable flavors, this unique option will be a standout option on your dessert table.

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