A wedding day is always filled with traditions. These can be your own, or age-old ones that come from, who knows where!? What’s great is as a modern wedding couple you can pick or choose which to feature in your big day and which you’d rather replace.
I always say to my wedding couples that your wedding is ‘your day’ and it’s important to create your own traditions, rather than follow others for the sake of it. Here I have put together some historical wedding cake facts and traditions, where and when they come from and some of them are sure to raise eyebrows!
It used to be bridal pie, not cake
During the 16th century, the “bride’s pie” was served at most weddings. Different from the modern sweet wedding cake, bride pie is savoury. Bride pie is a pie with pastry crust and filled an assortment of oysters, lamb testicles and pine kernels. Delicious!
Traditionally white because of Queen Victoria
Originally referred to as the bride’s cake, it was first thought that wedding cakes needed to be white to reflect the bride and purity. But around about the time of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding covering fruit cake in heavy white icing was a symbol of the expensive ingredients the family were able to afford, so making it more a of a status symbol. Back in this time sugar was too expensive for most people and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding cake was the first tall, white wedding cake of its kind that the general public could see drawings and pictures of.
The cake symbolises prosperity and good luck
It is thought that wedding cakes were originally a symbol of prosperity, luck and fertility. Using the highest quality ingredients available was meant to ensure a long and happy life together with many children.
The traditional tiered cake style was first created in London
The tiered wedding cake style we all know was apparently inspired by the unusual spire of St Bride’s church in The City of London. The story goes that, towards the end of the 18th century, an apprentice baker named William Rich who worked at premises at nearby 3 Ludgate Hill, fell in love with his boss’s daughter, Susannah Prichard. In order to impress her (and, presumably, his future father-in-law) Rich decided to make an elaborate cake for his nuptials. Looking around for inspiration, he caught sight of the nearby steeple, and the rest is history.
The cake cutting represents the first activity done as a couple, although historically the bride did this act alone to symbolize the loss of her virginity. Considering that’s not a very modern way of looking at things, I’m glad this is a tradition that has changed over time.
Photo by Amy Faith Photography
Feeding the cake to each other
The Bride and Groom Feeding Each Other Cake. The second act of the traditional cake cutting ceremony is when the bride and groom feed each other a small bite of cake. This symbolizes a commitment to provide for one another and a show of love and affection.
If you want to get married, sleep with a piece of the cake under your pillow
It is said that if you place a piece of take-away wedding cake under your pillow, you will dream of your future spouse! This piece of folklore dates back as early as the 17th century. Maybe with hardy fruit cakes this was possible, but imagine trying this with sponge cake filled with buttercream or ganache? Not a pretty sight by the morning I’d imagine!
Cake toppers were first used only as recently as the 1950s in the US where the traditional bride and groom topper first came about and which represented togetherness. Now, of course, you can get cake toppers in all shapes, sizes and customizations to suit your wedding cake style.
A very modern wedding cake topper on this heart-themed wedding cake
Kiss over the cake for a long and happy marriage
In medieval times, wedding guests would stack small cakes as high as possible before they teetered over. The bride and groom would then try to kiss over the stack, and if successful, it was believed they were guaranteed a lifetime of prosperity. This is where the tiered-cake tradition began.
The Romans would break cake over the bride’s head
Like many wedding traditions, the history of the wedding cake goes back to ancient Rome. The Romans would finish the ceremony by breaking a cake of wheat or barley over the bride’s head, which symbolised good luck. The married couple would then eat a few crumbs of it together, and the wedding guests would gather up the crumbs as tokens of good luck. Floor cake! Yum!
A slice of Royal wedding cake
According to Guinness World Records, a slice of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s 1937 wedding cake was sold for $29,900 on February 27, 1998 at Sotheby’s. It is the most expensive wedding cake slice ever sold. Probably inedible by that point though, I would think!
The most expensive cake ever wasn’t even a wedding cake!
The most expensive wedding cake ever commissioned cost $30 million! The cake was made by Buddy Valastro (better known as Cake Boss from the famed TLC cake show) at the request of NYC socialite Devorah Rose for her diamond gala event. According to reports, $30 million worth of jewels — including sapphires, emeralds, rubies and diamonds — adorned the cake. So, not really the cost of the wedding cake as much as just forking out $30 million on jewellery. Still, I hope the cake actually tasted good for that price!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these surprising wedding cake traditions as much as I have enjoyed writing them! As a modern wedding cake designer in London, I like to advise my wedding cake clients to shun the traditional white wedding cake and opt for something much more modern in style. This doesn’t mean you can’t apply some of those more modern traditions around your cake on the day though.
To learn more about my modern wedding cake designs you can view my gallery here.