Some wedding traditions have withstood centuries of advancement while others (such as the groom breaking the entire wedding cake over the bride’s head) have (fortunately) been done away with. This breaking of the cake symbolised the husband’s new-found dominance over his new wife and the beginning of this life together. Another custom demanded that the newlyweds kiss in front of a pile of cakes or breads, stacked for the occasion. If the couple could kiss over the stack without knocking it over, the guests were confident that they would soon see many children from this pair. These traditions lasted from as far back as the Roman Empire (around the beginning of our Common Era) right up until the 19th century.
It is with these two traditions in mind that we are able to see from where the customs we see today originate. Modern brides and grooms cut the cake, often mashing it into one another’s faces (a remnant of the breaking of the cake over the bride’s head). This introduces a fun element of their lives together, but originates from the concept of establishing her biblical subjection to him. After each giving the other a piece of cake, they kiss, usually with their faces still covered in icing and crumbs. Kissing over the cake (or in its general presence) signifies their union and holds the promise of a big family. Feeding one another implies their commitment to provide for each other, despite possible hurdles.
In the 1600’s, brides could distribute some of the crumbs of their cut cakes to the guests, after passing these crumbs through their wedding rings. The guests would then put their crumb under their pillow during the night in the hope that they would dream of the future husband or wife. This tradition did not last for very long as brides became hesitant to remove their rings for reasons of luck.
Cutting the cake is actually the first job that the new husband and wife have to undertake as a team. However, in times past, it was only the job of the bride, but with the modernisation of gender roles and the notion of help and support within the marriage as well as the increased size of the wedding cake to cater for more and more guests, the groom now assists her in the preparation of the cake for distribution to the guests.
Sharing pieces of the wedding cake with all of the guests dates back to the time of the Roman Empire, some 2000 years ago. This tradition is a carry-over from when the cake was broken over the bride’s head and the guests would drop to the floor and seize whatever cake they could for fertility improvement.
There are a few tips that will ensure that the cutting of the cake happens as easily and orderly as possible. Cake plates, forks and napkins should be readily available as well as a jug of warm water so that you may keep the knife clean. The cake, whatever shape it is, should be cut from the top tier (excluding the one that is to be reserved for the couple’s first anniversary). However, if there are different sized tiers and there is any chance of leftovers, take each tier off and start with the largest one. If you have opted for a round cake, cut each tier into concentric circles and then slice these into smaller pieces or blocks. In fact, this method works for almost every shape of wedding cake, and ensures that the cake is evenly and neatly distributed.
Knowing the history and relevance of the wedding cake adds a certain romance and nostalgia to your exclusive day.
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