Wedding cake photography is a necessity at any wedding. As a San Antonio wedding photographer I have the chance to photograph, and eat, many wedding cakes. I always like the part of the wedding reception where the couple cuts the cake. You can see the excitement of the newlyweds and also their childlike attraction to cake and the possibly of smashing it into each other’s face. Watching all of this wedding cake cutting led me to wonder about the history of this wedding staple.
The idea of having a cake at a wedding goes back to ancient times and the Romans. It was customary at the end of the wedding ceremony to break a sweetened cake made of wheat or barley over the bride’s head as a sign of good fortune. The couple would then eat a few crumbs of this bread as a sign of their new lives together. The rest of the crumbs would be gathered up by the wedding party as tokens of good luck. Eating some of these crumbs was to bring good fortune to those you did. Going along with the theme of sweets being good for happy occasions, guests were provided with a mix of dried fruits and nuts during the wedding banquet. This mixture was called confetto. It also started to become customary to throw this sweet mixture over the bride and groom and other guests. This evolved into the modern day practices of throwing rice, flowers, or confetti over the newly married couple. When the Romans invaded Great Britain their customs were transferred over to the new lands. When the Normans (French) invaded England in 1066 many of their wedding customers were further integrated into the wedding ceremony.
In the 17th century the sweet cakes developed into bride pies which were a savory mixture of meats, eggs, fruits, and nuts surrounded by a pie crust. Every guest was expected to eat a piece of this pie. To not do so was considered an insult. A small ring was placed into the pie and the lady that found it was to be the next to be married. This is the basis for the modern day bouquet toss. These cakes were mostly fruit and nut based and were seen as a sign of fertility and prosperity. Our modern Christmas fruit cakes are like these cakes were. At this time there were two cakes, one of the bride and one for the groom. The grooms cake was normally darker and hardier. Bride pie soon evolved into bride cake.
During Victorian times, the wedding cake began to always have white icing. This was seen as a sign of purity and virginal attributes. Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert in 1840 established many of the modern day wedding traditions, including the layered wedding cake, and the white wedding dress. I will be writing more about the history of the wedding dress in another post. Wedding cakes broke out their confines about 30 years ago. Now you can see all types of shapes and colors of wedding cakes. Some are elaborately decorated while some are very simple. Modern cakes are mostly covered with a layer of fondant and then embellished with piped royal icing and flower appliques. Enjoy the sweet photographs of the cake.
In the words of Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake.”
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