Origins of Wedding Cake Traditions and Customs
BREAKING “CAKE” OVER THE BRIDE’S HEAD
This tradition has its origins in the Roman empire. The groom would eat part of a loaf of barley bread and break the rest over the head of the bride as a symbol of fruitfulness and good fortune. As time passed, icing (originally plain lard) was used to keep the cake moist, and the custom gradually fell out of practice.
GIVING PIECES OF CAKE AS GIFTS
Also started in the days of the Roman empire. Guests would pick up pieces after the cake was broken over the brides head. It was said that you would dream of your future spouse if you slept with a piece of wedding cake underneath your pillow.
Since Victorian times, white icing color has been used to symbolize purity. Before that era, white icing was valued for a different reason. Refined sugar was hard to acquire and expensive; the more pure the sugar, the whiter the cake, and therefore, the more affluent the families involved were perceived to be.
CUTTING THE CAKE
The tradition symbolizes the first task in the couple’s life together. After the cake is cut, the bride and groom feed each other the first slice. This action symbolizes the commitment to provide for each other. In some American weddings, feeding the first slice looks more like a food-fight (ours did). Either way, be sure your photographer is ready, as this tradition makes for memorable photographs.
The origins of the groom’s cake are not known. One theory says that it is to be served to the bridesmaids by the groom with a glass of wine. Others state that it is to be shared with friends after the honeymoon. The cake itself usually reflects a hobby or interest of the groom, and the colors are made to contrast the white of the wedding cake. The groom’s cake is less common today, and are more frequent in southern weddings. We would be happy to provide you with a groom’s cake if desired.
SAVING THE TOP TIER
In the 19th century, grand cakes were made for christenings. It was expected that the christening would follow soon after a wedding, and later generations combined the wedding and christening cakes. The bottom tier was for the wedding reception, the middle tier was for giving away, and the top was for the christening. Today, newlyweds are less likely to have children right away, and most couples save the top layer for their 1st anniversary. We will provide instructions for preserving the cake as best as possible so that you may enjoy it on your anniversary.