Cost Guide

How Much Do Wedding Cakes Cost?

Though the wedding cake takes center stage after the ceremony itself, it’s actually one of the lesser costs associated with getting married. The average wedding cake costs around $500, but it’s not unusual to pay as much as $1,400 for a more elaborate cake. Broken down, wedding cakes generally cost about $4 or $5 per slice and yes the very same cake would be waaay less expensive if purchased outside of the wedding context.

On the other side of the spectrum, consider the price of the all-white, eight-tier wedding cake at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton: $80,000.

What Should You Ask Them Before Hiring A Cake Maker?

  • “Do you make vegetarian/gluten-free/etc. cakes?” (If you expect that your guests may may have dietary restrictions.)
  • “Is there a delivery fee?”
  • “What serving utensils do you supply?”
  • “What styles do you offer?”
  • “Can we see a portfolio of your wedding cakes?”
  • “Will the cake require special care, refrigeration, etc. on the wedding day?”

What’s The Deal With The Tasting?

When you’re looking for the cake maker for your wedding — several months out, of course — you’ll end need to attend a few cake tastings. The baker makes smaller versions of potential cakes for your wedding, which you and your partner (and often family members and close friends) sample, either at the bakery or your own home. That way you get to see if you like the style and help narrow down what flavors you like. It’s common for wedding cake places to charge for the tasting, but that cost is subtracted from your bill should you hire them for the wedding.

One Flavor Or Many?

Some wedding planners suggest you purchase at least two flavors of cake, too, so that everyone attending will be happy. This may also add to the cost.

What are the most common flavors? There are always fans of classics like vanilla and chocolate. More creative cakes flavor include funfetii (think: sprinkles), lemon-poppy, red velvet, apple spice and almond. Also note that you could technically vary the cake, filling and frosting flavors. Work with your baker.

Do You Need A Groom’s Cake?

A Southern tradition that’s making its way up north, the groom’s cake is a second, smaller cake that served alongside the wedding cake and can be a completely different style and flavor. It’s often the more “fun” and personality-driven of the two cakes. It’s up to you and your partner whether you want to include a groom’s cake — it depends on your cultural backgrounds and whether you can come to a compromise on the wedding cake, If you do opt for this, then you’ll count the groom’s cake when estimating the number of slices you’ll need, meaning you can go smaller on the main wedding cake.

What Do We Do About The Top Tier?

The tradition of saving the top tier in the freezer to enjoy on your first anniversary is fading, but wedding cake makers and wedding caterers will accommodate this — just be sure to tell them that you’re saving it, and the appropriate person will whisk the top tier away to be wrapped up and saved for your journey home. Another option that many bakers will honor is to forgo saving the top tier and having them simply make a new top tier for your first anniversary. That way you keep to the spirit of the tradition while not having half your freezer taken up for a year by a freezer-burned frosting monster.

What Can You Do To Get A Cheaper Wedding Cake?

Smaller slices mean there’s more to go around. Speak to whoever’s cutting the cake for the guests (caterer, wedding planner, etc.) about how big you want the slices to be. Unfortunately, our modern appreciation of healthy eating doesn’t extend to wedding cake, so you’re still going to have to give almost all the guests something to dig into. “People wait to eat till they see the cake, and then they dive in,” says veteran wedding planner Ashlee Voda, of Mrs. Planner.

The price rises as the cake gets more elaborate (think several tiers; bouquets of delicate, hand-formed sugar flowers; gold leaf; and even drapings of platinum jewelry). And you’re going to pay more for fondant (edible icing that allows for fancier designs) than the usual buttercream. If you don’t need visual dazzle, ask for a buttercream cake with an elegant and classic (read: simpler and cheaper) design.

Using a fake wedding cake is a time-honored hack at weddings. Only the top tier of the cake is actually edible, with the rest being mostly decorative layers over styrofoam. The bride and groom bite into the real top tier during the cake-cutting ceremony, while the caterers cut off slices from less expensive (but not necessarily less delicious) sheet cake in the kitchen to serve to the guests. This wedding cheat both cuts down cake costs and allows the baker to try more elaborate and fantastical designs on the styrofoam that wouldn’t survive on a fragile cake base.

Caterers often tack on a cake-cutting fee — which can run from $1.50 to $10 per person (yes, seriously). Bring your own cake cutter or use your wedding planner’s — they’re bound to carry an emergency cake cutter in the car. And cut the cake yourself to avoid that fee.

Finally, don’t feel obligated to have a wedding cake. More and more weddings are opting for alternatives, from cupcakes to cookies and even pies or gelato. All will cost less and, in the case of cupcakes and cookies, make it easier to control serving portions. You’ll still probably end up having a cake to satisfy the traditionalists in either family, but it can be much smaller and less involved than a full-blown wedding cake.

The Biggest Mistake People Make:

Don’t wait too long to book a cake maker. Wedding cakes aren’t easy to make and take a hell of a lot longer to make than a non-baker might think. You’ll find that wedding-cake bakers’ schedules get filled with wedding gigs pretty damn fast. You should be thinking about who you want to book a year ahead of time. Nine months is a fairly safe cushion for booking someone and arranging a tasting. After six months, you need to start worrying. And if you’re in the territory of thinking about your coming wedding in terms of weeks rather than months, then you’re going to have to consider the possibility of buying a Costco sheet cake and hoping for the best.


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