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

These treats are delicious and Instagram-worthy.
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
by Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon associate editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Associate Editor
  • Sarah is an Associate Digital Editor for The Knot, with special focuses in fashion, pop culture and wedding trends.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Feb 04, 2021

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 a variety 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 wedding cake alternatives  at their reception. According to The Knot 2020 Real Weddings Study, serving dessert remained a popular tradition, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. The study, which surveyed over 7,600 U.S. couples who set a wedding date for 2020, found that 69% of couples who had some type of wedding celebration served cake—but 53% also served an alternative wedding dessert

Individual wedding desserts are a major 2021 trend, meaning you have a great excuse to experiment with nontraditional sweets. If you're in need of inspiration for wedding cake alternatives, we've got you covered. Here, we're rounding up our favorite wedding dessert ideas for couples who want to serve something unique. From cheesecake platters to donut walls, these on-trend ideas are sure to make your mouth water. 

Cupcakes 

Perhaps a mini cake is your dream dessert. If that's the case, wedding cupcakes are the alternative choice 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—our study found that 25% of couples served them on their sweets table in 2020, making them a popular alternative to cake. 

Cookies 

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 cute wedding dessert idea for those who want to break with tradition. 

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.) 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. 

Donuts 

A donut wall is the Instagram-worthy wedding treat your reception needs. 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 wedding donuts.

Cheesecake 

Wedding cheesecake, anyone? If this savory treat is your go-to, you'll be pleased to know that it can serve as a modern wedding dessert option at your reception. Whether you opt for a tiered wedding cheesecake or mini bites that guests can take on the dance floor, this wedding cake alternative 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.) These inventive creations are a great option for couples who don't want to completely forgo tradition. Plus, cake pops are easy for guests to enjoy on-the-go while mingling with others.

Pies 

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.

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. 

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 

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. 

Pastries 

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?

Mousse 

Yes, mousse can actually be a wedding cake alternative 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 treat will be a standout option on your dessert table.

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