The cake cutting ceremony typically marks the last “official” event of the wedding—and then guests are free to flock to the dance floor for the remainder of the night. After the newlyweds slice into their confection, they traditionally feed one another a bite of the sugar-laden treat, which symbolizes their commitment to provide for their partner. Sometimes, however, once they gently hoist the fork up to each other’s mouths, someone goes rogue: They smear the rest of the dessert all over their new spouse’s face—frosting and all.
Meet the Expert
- Lauren Dickens is a wedding planner with 14 years of experience and the founder of Elle Audrey, a wedding and event planning company that serves New York, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia.
- Heather Anne Leavitt is the owner of Sweet Heather Anne, a wedding bakery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has 13 years of experience in the wedding industry.
Although wedding cake smashing has existed for centuries, to-be-weds have polarizing views on the tradition. While some concede that it’s messy and misogynistic, others find the ritual funny and actually want to be part of its long history. To figure out whether or not we should skip this custom, we asked the experts for their opinions. Below, we also discuss the origins of the practice and a few wedding cake smash alternatives to consider.
Read on to learn if it’s time to retire the wedding cake smash tradition.
The History of the Wedding Cake Smashing Tradition
The wedding cake smash tradition originated in Ancient Rome. After tying the knot, brides would have barley cake crumbled over their heads, which signified male dominance and the promise of fertility. During that time, brides in Yorkshire would also participate, but they took matters into their own hands: After tasting a piece of the cake, they would throw the rest of the slice over their heads as a way to kick off married life without the temptation of desire. Then, in medieval England, newlyweds would share their first kiss over a pile of buns to guarantee a wealthy future.
Over the years, this centuries-long tradition has evolved and is now a custom that some couples choose to include at their own wedding. Nowadays, the newly-married duo feeds one another a piece of their special dessert before smearing cake and icing all over one another’s faces.
Is It Time to Retire the Wedding Cake Smashing Tradition?
Although some couples want to partake in this long-held tradition, others are less enthusiastic about the practice, its original meaning, and its aftermath. Keep scrolling to find out what the experts think.
The appeal of the cake smash is that it’s lighthearted and funny, according to planner Lauren Dickens of Elle Audrey. Cake expert Heather Anne Leavitt of Sweet Heather Anne explains that some couples are drawn to the practice because it offers an opportunity for couples to connect with one another in a playful way. Plus, it often elicits a laugh from guests. Both experts find that the moment provides a fun and candid photo op as well.
While there are some benefits, the experts agree that smashing cake in your significant other’s face is predominately unpleasant and wasteful. “It can be messy and problematic, especially if both partners aren’t on the same page with how much cake they feel comfortable wearing,” Leavitt says. Brides spend a lot of money on their hair and makeup—between $500 to $1,000, according to Dickens. After getting pieces of cake and frosting in your hair and base makeup, you’ll be forced to wash off all of your vendors’ hard work. And, the rest of the night’s photos won’t show you in full glam.
Another costly part of weddings that the cake smash can soil is the couple’s attire. The average cost of wedding dresses is between $1,800 and $2,000, and if you opt to follow the cake smash tradition, getting icing on your outfit will ruin it—or require a trip to a professional cleaner. Not to mention, the wedding cake itself doesn’t come cheap—the typical cost is $350—so why waste a perfectly good slice?
What the Experts Really Think
In her experience, Dickens finds that most couples want to ditch the wedding cake smash tradition, mainly because brides aren’t on board with the disastrous effect it tends to have on their hair and makeup. So, she does think we should retire the custom. For that same reason, Leavitt skipped the ritual on her own big day. “It was one of the only days of my life when I had my makeup done to perfection, and I felt like an absolute goddess in my dress,” she recalls. That being said, Leavitt believes that the decision to end the practice is ultimately up to the couple. If it aligns with you and your personality, feel free to make it a part of your celebration. Otherwise, there’s no need to force a tradition that doesn’t feel authentic to you.
Alternatives to the Wedding Cake Smash
If cake smashing isn’t up your alley, there are plenty of other alternatives to consider. Of course, you can always exchange a bite of cake without smearing the dessert on your partner, which serves as a moment of connection and trust between newlyweds. For those who aren’t afraid to get a little messy, another option is putting a small dot of frosting or whipped cream on your significant other’s nose, which is seen as a romantic gesture. If there aren’t any previously established rituals that resonate with you, Leavitt recommends creating your own. “In my opinion, there are no mandatory traditions for weddings,” she states. “I love it most when couples make the day their own.”