How to Pick What Kind of Wedding Cake to Have

The design matters almost as much as the flavors!

When it comes to choosing a design you love, there’s a lot more to consider.

Photo: Haley Ringo Photography

One of the most classic parts of a wedding is the cake. Even before receptions became the huge parties with sit-down dinners that many couples have today, the confections were still a factor. After all, a more low-key gathering is often called a “cake and punch” reception. Nowadays some pairs feel like the traditional dessert is unnecessary and prefer a sweets table, but usually at least a small cake will be available for the newlyweds to cut. 

For those who do go the traditional route, the cake tasting is often the most anticipated part of planning – particularly for grooms who otherwise chose not to be involved in the planning. Selecting the flavors for your confection is pretty straightforward: Pick your favorites as well as a crowd-pleaser. However, when it comes to choosing a design you love, there’s a lot more to consider. 

how to pick a wedding cake design based on your wedding theme

Photo by Rene Zadori; Floral Design by Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle and Design

The most obvious factor is the aesthetic of your wedding. A rustic theme implies a rustic cake, and so on. If you have a glamorous ballroom reception, a trendy naked cake may not be the best fit. On the other hand, that design may seem like a good choice for your boho-chic nuptials… until you find out your sweetheart loves frosting. Don’t sacrifice taste in order to fit the look you’re hoping for on the big day. Work with your baker to create a style that complements the décor. 

An exception to this would be fondant. Many people don’t like the taste, despite the beautiful designs that can be created with it. However, there are also practical reasons to go with fondant. If your reception will be outside or in a space without a controlled climate, a buttercream-frosted cake could melt before it’s time for the photo op, whereas fondant is more sturdy. 

Your guest list will also affect the look of your cake, as a five-tier masterpiece is much more than would be needed for an intimate wedding with fewer than 100 attendees. If you love the look of a towering confection but don’t have the amount of people to justify it, consider Styrofoam layers to supplement it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you prefer the delicate look of a single- or double-tiered cake, have sheet cake prepared for serving after you and your spouse take part in the ceremonial cutting.

For more ideas, see examples of cakes for every wedding style and tips for serving the confection. Don't miss out on ideas for non-traditional wedding cakes with beautiful modern embellishments. View the wedding cakes from real weddings in our photo galleries for additional inspiration.