Wedding Etiquette For Dummies
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The wedding cake is usually displayed from the beginning of the reception, so choose a filling and icing that can hold up for the duration. If you're adding special lighting to the room, add a spotlight for the cake table. Otherwise, park it somewhere well lit and in full sight of the guests, but off the dance floor, or it might wind up on the floor during the first fast dance. Keep in mind the time of year and the length of time the cake will be on display so it doesn't begin collapsing by the time it's cut.

Cake table secrets

The base of the cake determines the size of the table. A huge, round table makes even the stateliest cake look minuscule. Make sure that the table is sturdy and is either on wheels or light enough with the cake for two waiters to carry it. To elaborately embellish the table, wrap picture wire (as if tying a package) around the tabletop, as shown in Figure 1. After the tables are covered, you can attach swags, garlands, and sprays with safety pins to the wires in the appropriate places. Layer sheets and/or tulle to give the tablecloth fullness and make it look more elegant.

Figure 1:Make sure your cake table is steady and in proportion to the cake before you decorate it.

Ask the bakery what kind of serving piece they deliver the cake on. Some provide a flat silver tray; others just deliver it on a plain piece of baker's cardboard that you'll need to cover. A sweet touch that also makes use of those expensive bridesmaid bouquets after the ceremony is to have the maitre d' or wedding consultant discreetly relieve the bridesmaids of their bouquets and arrange them around the cake with a studied casualness. The bridesmaids, incidentally, are usually grateful, being at a loss for how to balance the bouquets with drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and the arm of their significant other.

Arrange to have the cake delivered at least two hours before the reception begins. Cakes are rarely transported fully assembled. Make sure that you clarify specifically who from the bakery is delivering and setting it up. Tell your caterer of the delivery time so the cake table can be dressed and ready and so the delivery person doesn't just leave the cake in its box and disappear.

Cutting the cake

In the past, the cake ceremony was such an anticlimax that brides and grooms used it as an opportunity to act out some thinly disguised aggression by shoving cake in each other's faces. Thankfully, this (ahem) charming tradition has gone by the wayside and the cake cutting has become a sentimental and romantic moment.

Traditionally, the first shared piece symbolizes the couple's first meal as husband and wife. The cake cutting also used to signal the end of the wedding, as the bride and groom would then change and be off. More often now, the cutting is a natural segue after which people who want to leave may do so, but the newlyweds and the majority of their guests stay and take to the dance floor.

You can gracefully signal that cake cutting is imminent with a reprise of the first-dance music. The bride and/or groom often make their toast at this time, presenting a perfect photo opportunity. After the cutting and toasts are completed, the band plays quietly in the background until the bride and groom finish exchanging the first bites, whereupon the music swells into a full-fledged dance number.

When you create your wedding day schedule, put in bold type: "Entire band should be ready to play immediately after cake cutting." Many bands seem to think this is the perfect time for a break. Just the opposite — if the music ebbs now, your party is over.

The headwaiter should show you where to make the first cut, particularly if the cake has a dummy layer (a fake bottom layer that serves as support for the cake). To symbolize the couples' shared life together, the groom places his right hand over the bride's, which holds the knife. Together they cut a small piece from the back of the bottom tier. Traditionally, the groom feeds the bride first, a small mouthful easily washed down by a sip of champagne. Then the bride feeds the groom. Then, if they're feeling particularly nice, the bride and groom serve a piece to their new in-laws.

Yes, some couples find this ceremony antiquated and would rather skip it. Just realize, however, that guests do expect to see you cut your cake. They feel cheated if they don't. Some even believe the old superstition that the bride must cut the first piece or risk being childless.

That said, cut the cake, eat your pieces, put the plate down, and move away. After the photos, the banquet directors should have the cake taken into the kitchen to be cut quickly and efficiently without showing the guests the mess this work of art becomes during slicing.

Some places charge a cake-cutting fee — usually $1 a slice — allegedly to cover the cost of the "setup" (plates and forks). If you strongly feel that this charge is inappropriate, then you should attempt to expunge this clause from your contract.

If the idea of saving the top tier of the cake for future consumption strikes your fancy, take precautions to make the cake as palatable as possible one year later — no mold, freezer burn, or other delightful taste treats. Bring a properly sized box, lots of wax paper, bubble wrap, and an airtight plastic bag. Leave explicit instructions for airtight wrapping (freeze the cake first for a few hours before it's wrapped) and charge someone — a cryogenics specialist perhaps — with taking this precious cargo home and popping it into the freezer right away. Make arrangements to have it transported to your freezer upon your return from the honeymoon. In lieu of this rather complicated procedure, when ordering your wedding cake, you might cleverly put in an order for a small cake of the same flavor to be scheduled for baking and pickup on your first-year anniversary.

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