Tradition of Wedding Cake Cutting
It’s one of the big traditions of the wedding day – like the first kiss, best man’s speech and the first dance – that everyone looks forwards to. As a wedding photographer it’s one of those parts of the day I know I have to capture and document for your wedding story.
You will have spent time thinking about and ordering your wedding cake: the style, the flavours, the icing, the decoration etc. as well as including it as an important part of your wedding budget. But there’s one thing I do notice having been a wedding photographer at a lot of weddings now, when it comes to cutting the cake, a lot of wedding couples aren’t sure on the traditions and etiquette around cutting the wedding cake.
So I thought it would be useful and helpful to pull together 10 important things you need to know about cutting your wedding cake.
1. Wedding Cake Traditions
Wedding cakes are a tradition that grew out of the ancient ritual of baking bread as a ritual union. In fact, the wedding cake itself is a fairly relatively modern take on this ritual. For centuries it was bread that was baked for a wedding and would then literally be broken over the bride’s head to symbolise her break from life as a single woman. This tradition is still carried out in some parts of the world today, including Scotland where Scottish Shortbread will be used instead of bread. So that tasty looking wedding cake on your wedding day is there for good reason.
2. Where to Place the Wedding Cake
Something that is very often overlooked is where to have your wedding cake placed both before the cake cutting and at the time of it. Inevitably it tends to get shoved into a corner of the room, maybe to keep it out of the way and safe from accidents, but corners tend to be a drab part of the room where you find plugs, hooks, fire extinguishers and all other bits ‘n’ pieces also shoved out of the way – and as a wedding photographer I can assure you these can look quite ugly in your wedding photography…not ideal companions for your beautiful wedding cake!
Tradition dictates that your wedding cake should be visible during the speeches and toasts. Whether you choose to make it a feature of the top table, at the center of the room or elsewhere is a personal choice but you’ll have to consider if you will be moving it to somewhere else for the actual cutting – so think about the logistics and practical nature of moving it if required.
The important thing is to make sure its in a place that everyone can see it clearly when you do cut it and try to remember to stand to one side so your wedding guests can photograph and film this important part of the day. As your wedding photographer I will always suggest you find a spot that will give lots of creative and beautiful options for your final wedding photography. But as a wedding photojournalist I won’t dictate where that should be 🙂
3. When to Cut a Wedding Cake
Again there is a tradition for when a wedding cake should be cut, which is immediately after the main meal. This is because traditionally a slice of wedding cake was served as the actual desert to your wedding guests. These days though, separate desserts are usually part of the whole wedding breakfast meal provided by the wedding venue, so I find most brides and grooms will undertake the cutting of the wedding cake at the start of the evening reception. Either way, just be clear on when you will be cutting the cake and ensure the venue staff are clear and, of course, your wedding photographer – so he or she can be in place to ensure this important moment is documented for your wedding story.
4. Announce When the Cake Will be Cut
Having thought about where and when your wedding cake will be cut it’s important that you have an announcement made that the wedding cake is about to be cut. This will ensure all your wedding guests are there to see it and no one will miss out on a special moment of you big day.
Of course, you will want to consider who will be make that announcement. Again tradition would dictate that it is the job of the Best Man to make this announcement but this is simply because the cake cutting would come at the end of the speeches and the Best Man’s speech would traditionally be last. If you have a toastmaster you may ask them to make the announcement or the DJ/Band if it’s at the start of the evening reception. There have been occasions, as wedding photographer, I’ve made the announcement on behalf of the wedding coupe.
Whoever you choose, or whatever way you decide to do it, it’s just important to have it announced so no one misses the moment.
5. Making an Event of the Cutting
You may not want to make such an event of the wedding cake cutting, but some couples do like to have certain music played during the cutting or even have a special reading before (or after) the cake is cut. So if you want to make the cutting a big part of your wedding day then do think about the kind of music you want playing, how you will “turn up” to cut the cake (a big introduction to applause, fireworks, etc.) and any special speeches you will want to make – this would be nice if a relative or friend made the cake for you.
Of course, you may not want to make such an event of it which is more than fine, but its important to at least think about how you want to do it. It’s all too regular for wedding couples to think about it just moments before it’s about to happen and that’s never a good time to be making such a decision.
6. What to Cut a Wedding Cake With
This might seem an odd one – after all, you cut a wedding cake with a knife, right? So is that going to be any old knife that is lying around or do you want to have something a little more memorable – after all, with your wedding photography it’s going to be something that’s documentend for evermore.
Some couples have something special engraved on the blade – perhaps a loving message or something that records the place and date. Or you may think a keepsake knife is a nice touch…is there a family heirloom utensil that you could use. Keepsake utensils are lovely to get out and use again for future anniversaries and even, eventually, pass down as a new family heirloom. If you are using an old family heirloom to cut the cake, then be sure to let you wedding photographer know because, if they are like me, they will definitely want to get a wedding details shot of it earlier in the day as well as at the time of cutting.
7. How to Cut a Wedding Cake
Again this might be obvious, but believe me there is a traditional way and I’ve heard enough wedding couples ask the question “how do we cut it” just before they’re about to do it.
Traditionally the cutting of the wedding cake is seen as the first task you will do together in married life and is symbolic of your new life together – so obviously it’s something you need to both do together.
As I said in point 2 above, you need to make sure all your wedding guests and the wedding photographer can get a clear view of you both cutting it – so think about where you both stand, to one side or the another is usually best advised.
If you have a traditional tiered wedding cake, then start by removing the 6″ tier which is usually seen as the couple’s cake to be saved for later. Traditionally the bride would take the knife and the groom would place his right hand over hers. But either way, its important both of you appear to be holding the knife together.
Then cut, from either side, a horizontal line about 2 inches from the outer edge. Slice from right to left to make vertical cuts about one inch apart until an entire row is cut.
All that said, most couples tend to only cut one slice of cake which…
8. To Cakeface or Not to Cakeface
…brings us on to the question as to whether you “cakeface” or not. The wedding cakeface is a relatively new tradition of feeding one another a piece of cake after the cutting – again symbolising of how you will provide for one another in married life. There’s no agreed etiquette on this, it’s either something you choose to do or don’t.
If you do decide then cakeface is for you, then it’s decision time of how far you go with it. Like all these things, it’s best to have discussed and agreed ahead of your wedding day. You can enjoy a piece together using a fork. Or you can take it in turns to feed one another a small piece. Or you can go the whole way and shove a slice into one another’s face. This may seem like fun, but it’s messy, risks staining whatt you’re wearing and can mess up a perfectly made-up face!
If you are brave enough to go the whole way with the wedding cakeface, then make sure you have plenty of napkins to hand!
9. Who to Serve the Wedding Cake to First
So once the cake is cut and ready to be served, it’s traditional to serve both sets of parents their piece of cake first. This also gives you another opportunity of sharing a moment with them on your wedding day. Once again, if you are making a moment of it – then let your wedding photographer know so they are in the right place at the right time to capture such a moment.
It doesn’t just have to be your parents either. You may want to include your grandparents too, or other special relatives to enjoy a little family moment during your wedding day.
Once the first serving is done, it’s then time for the rest of the wedding guests to be served their wedding cake. Alternatively, the remaining slices of wedding cake can be utilised in an evening buffet if you are having one.
10. The Final Rule is That There Are No Rules
That’s the great thing about traditions – you don’t have to follow them if you don’t want to. Or you can change them to suit how your wedding day is going to be structured. You can do some and ignore others. In the end, it really comes down to doing what you want. These points are just here to let you know what the formal traditions are – but I think we all agree its much better to make decisions that are better informed.
So there you have it – all you need to know about cutting a wedding cake on your special day. I hope you at least find this post useful and helpful. If you enjoyed the photography and like my creative, candid and unobtrusive approach to documenting your wedding story, why not give me a call on +44 (0) 7920 422144 or, alternatively, send me a message via my contact page. I’d love to hear all about your wedding plans and discuss how my wedding journalism approach would work on your big day.