Wedding Traditions: The cutting of the cake

WEDDING CAKE TRADITION

The wedding cake tradition has been around for many hundreds of years and is believed to have started with the Ancient Romans breaking a cake over the bride's head, for good luck. Similarly, in Ireland it was traditional for the groom’s mother to break an oatcake over the head of the Bride as she enters her house after the wedding ceremony to ensure good relations with her new daughter in law. For the new mother in law this was very much seen as the best part of the day! In Medieval England cakes were stacked as high as possible for the bride and groom to kiss over. A successful kiss meant they were guaranteed a prosperous life together.

The cake was originally intended to be distributed among the guests by only the bride, because it was believed that consuming the cake would ensure fertility. As weddings grew and the number of guests increased this task became a joint venture, bigger multi-tiered cakes became the norm so the groom needed to help cut the growing cake and distribute it among their guests. Layers of cakes began to pile up and the icing would need to support the weight of the cake making is very difficult for one person to cut. Once this tradition began the bride and groom would share a piece of cake each before distributing it to the guests to symbolize their union and their promise to forever provide for each other. This image below was taken by us at a reenactment of a traditional Irish wedding a couple of years ago at the Ulster American Folk Park.

irish traditional wedding

TYPES OF WEDDING CAKES

In the U.K, the traditional wedding cake is still mainly made from a rich fruitcake using ingredients that are long lasting. This allows the top tier to be stored after the wedding, to be eaten at the christening of the couple’s first child. Popular alternatives these days include wedding cakes made up from stacked doughnuts and cupcakes or naked cakes with no icing.

traditional wedding cake
cupcake wedding cake
wedding cake tiers

WEDDING CAKE TOPPERS

Traditionally wedding cake toppers are of the couple in formal wedding attire and are often the only part of the cake which can be kept over the years, apart from the photographs of course. Today there are many more designs available. You can use specific ones for the style and theme of the wedding, for instance, traditional toppers for a very formal wedding, or for less formal ones, many couples use comical wedding cake toppers sometimes based on the couple's hobbies.

wedding cake toppers

STILL RELEVANT TODAY

Customs have evolved with the times, and today the ceremonial cutting of the cake has become one of the classic elements of most couple’s wedding receptions. In addition to providing an opportunity for photographs, it is still symbolic as the first task the newlywed couple complete together as man and wife.

bride and groom cutting the wedding cake