The cutting of the cake is a main part of every wedding ceremony. It’s a moment, usually before the first dance, where both the day and evening guests gather around to watch the bride and groom make the first cut. But why do we cut the wedding cake in front of all our guests?
As you can imagine, the wedding cakes in medieval times were far from what we have today. They were a symbol of fertility and prosperity, and made of wheat. Rather than being cut, these wedding cakes were then thrown at the bride to shower her in their gifts.
This theme was continued by the Romans. Rather than throwing the cakes at the bride, the groom would take a bite before breaking it over her head. The guests would try and catch the crumbs that fell so that they might share the bride’s good fortunes.
As wedding cakes developed (and wedding guests stopped throwing them at the bride) the role of the hostess came into play. The bride was seen as a guest of honor, but it was also her duty to ensure the wedding guests were kept happy. Part of this meant cutting up her wedding cake to share with everyone.
It wasn’t until Victorian times that the groom began to help with this task. The introduction of icing meant that brides might not have the strength to cut the cake herself, so the Groom would assist. The growing number of wedding guests also meant that the cake distribution was a two person job.
Weddings have changed unrecognisably since the medieval times. We now have venues, staff and catering companies to help with almost every part of the day. More often than not the venues even provide the knife that the cake is to be cut with.
So, why do we still cut the wedding cake? Put simply, because it’s heaped in tradition. And while we may not have as strong beliefs on fertility and prosperity, cutting the cake still remains as one of the first tasks the newlyweds carry out together, and shows no signs of fading from our wedding days just yet.
Next in our Wedding Traditions Explained series, we’re talking about Something Old