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Wedding Cakes: Top Wedding Cake Etiquette Q&A



Timing the Cake Cutting

Q.When should we cut the cake?

A. Traditionally, the ritual takes place near the end of the reception, after guests have danced-off dinner. In fact, it's often a signal that the reception is coming to an end (usually there's 45 minutes left of dancing after the cake has been cut). Like other reception events, cutting the cake can be a clean, choreographed moment or a giggly, goofy one, depending on your preference. Customarily, the groom puts his hand over the bride's, and they slice through the cake's bottom layer with a fancy knife. After photos are taken, you two might want to serve slices to your in-laws before the rest of the cake is cut for all other guests.

Announcing the Cake Cutting

Q. How do we announce cake-cutting time and get everyone to focus their attention on the moment?

A. Enlist your DJ or band leader to make a friendly, casual announcement between songs at a designated time, or have a family member alert the masses. Guests will certainly clear the dance floor to gawk at you -- they won't want to miss this sweet ritual. Sometimes guests take this moment as a cue to say good-bye by giving their "thank you for coming to our wedding" speech. To make sure guests keep on partying, confirm that the band will crank out more dance tunes immediately after the event.

Serving Cake as Dessert

Q. My future mother-in-law thinks a separate cake should be served for dessert in lieu of the wedding cake. She says it is a custom -- people like to take a piece of the wedding cake home with them as favors. What's the proper thing to do?

A. The confection that is sliced up and taken home is more often the groom's cake. Superstition holds that if single women sleep with the slice under their pillow that night, they'll dream of their own weddings. The bride's cake -- the one the couple cuts at the reception -- is traditionally eaten as dessert. But bend the rules however they best suit your needs: You can serve both cakes as dessert so your guests have options; you can have your baker design mini versions of your wedding cake to be boxed as favors; or you can serve no cake at all (only other desserts such as pies and tarts and cookies).

Serving Cake at a Morning Wedding

Q. My fiance and I are planning a morning wedding with a brunch reception. We're planning to serve scones, muffins, eggs, and bacon. I still want a cake -- could you suggest something light, so people won't be consuming massive amounts of sugar that early?

A. Your guests won't mind consuming massive amounts of sugar around noon, no worries! Granted, you may not want a fudge-covered, dense chocolate ganache, but try a carrot, lemon, or angel-food cake, coffee cake, or even a cheesecake. Instead of sugar flower adornments, consider topping your cake with fresh fruit, which is both elegant and light.

Serving Dessert and Cake

Q. My mother insists that we serve dessert in addition to the wedding cake. But I think extra dessert is overkill -- and a waste of money. What do you think?

A. There is no strict rule. Many couples do serve dessert in addition to their cake, especially if they've been fantasizing about lemon squares or make-your-own sundae stations. But extra dessert is in no way mandatory. These days, wedding cakes are scrumptious -- they're not often just for show. Most cake designers and couples fully expect them to be the primary dessert. However, you could meet your mother halfway by having the caterer serve a light dessert in addition to the wedding cake; perhaps even something that complements the cake flavors. Consider things like sorbet, chocolate-covered strawberries, or even a plate of cookies or various chocolates and mints.

Cake Cutting Fees

Q. A friend of mine who recently married told me she got burned by a steep "cutting fee." We're on a tight budget and now I am worried -- what is she talking about? Will I have this fee?

A. Some banquet halls and caterers tack a cutting fee onto the bill to account for the labor of serving a large confection, setting out special forks, and other wedding cake duties. An extra fee is standard if an outside source provides the cake, although it's somewhat unfair. The going rate? About $1 per slice. Since you'll shell out a substantial amount for your cake in the first place, check to see if a cutting fee is itemized in your contract (read it carefully!). Try to have this fee removed: Argue that you're already paying big bucks for wait service. Besides, with all the requisite tips, everyone should be handsomely compensated.

Packaging the Groom's Cake

Q. We're having a groom's cake, and I want my guests to take pieces home with them, but wrapping slices in napkins seems so tacky. I'd like to package them in a classy way. Any thoughts?

A. Some couples package slices in personalized boxes and arrange them on the cake table after the cutting ceremony. Ask about bags or pouches; even colored cellophane with ribbon can look nice. Talk to your baker or cake designer -- he or she may be able to recommend vendors, quote prices, and maybe score you a discount. Make sure whoever is cutting the slices knows to tuck them into the little transports rather than serve them.

See More: Wedding Reception Ideas , Wedding Cakes