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Baking Your Cake (and Eating it, Too)

Homemade wedding cakes can be beautiful, and you can make the cake that you've always wanted. This photo from projectwedding.com

Going into a wedding is, in many ways, like declaring your bid for presidency. Suddenly, there are people around you eyeing VP, Secretary of State, the head housekeeper at the White House or Presidential Palace. Everyone wants to make posters and help you campaign. The immediate world seems to zero in on your event.

The feeling, I imagine, is similar in planning your wedding. People close to you begin to wonder what their roles are. Will I be an usher? Will I be his best man? Will she ask me to be a bridesmaid? People also offer up their skills to sing at your ceremony, host guests overnight, throw you an engagement party. The climb in popularity is quick, and, for the most part, exciting.

And then there’s money (how does someone manage to run for President without it?). I consider myself to be a very lucky woman. My father offered me a very generous donation to help with the wedding costs. It will be used to book the venue and pay for most of the catering. That burden, borne by so many, has been lifted from our shoulders and I know we can rest easy. The remainder — the dress, the favors, the decorations, the flowers, the invitations, the programs — will be our responsibility and, true to my independent nature, I have welcomed it.

Homemade wedding cakes can be beautiful, and you can make the cake that you've always wanted. This photo from projectwedding.com

I firmly believe, as I go through the process myself, that couples should pay for at least a portion of their own weddings. I think it is a good lesson in financial responsibility that any couple planning to spend the rest of their lives together should get a head-start on. The cost of an average wedding these days in the United States is around US $27,000, which is half the median annual income of US households. Can you imagine spending that much money for one day of your life? Unfortunately, many people do, regardless of how much they earn.

To me, starting a marriage in the red is not a great way to begin. This is best evidenced by my choice of wedding cake.

I have made two major decisions about my wedding cake. Both of these decisions were directly related to money.

The first decision is that I will have a small cake to cut at my wedding, with cupcakes for the guests. I decided this after I learned that our venue charges $1.50 per person to serve cake. Though this pales in comparison to the exorbitant $5 per person that some caterers charge, it’s still not worth it to me. With 200 people at our wedding, that means that we will need to pay $300 on top of the price of the cake just to cut it!

I could see how some people would consider the charge “petty” in comparison to the thousands of dollars shoveled out for other things. But when it’s your own money, you think twice. I could have my cake be cut, or I could buy a 32″ flat-screen TV. See? Now you’re thinking about it, too.

The other decision I recently made was to bake my own wedding (mini) cake and cupcakes. This sent my nine bridesmaids reeling, especially the ones who are married. Some exclaimed that I would be so busy I wouldn’t have time. Others worried that the pressure would be too much. Even my fiance went nuts.

When I talked to my mom, she didn’t flinch. “Sure, you could do that,” she said. “I’ll help you, too.”

Cupcakes and a mini cake, from pinkfrostingcupcakes.com.au

Like mother, like daughter.

Imagine we were to buy cupcakes for 200 people, plus a mini wedding cake. Without the cake cutting fee, that would still cost about $500 (maybe $2 per cupcake at minimum, plus another hundred or so to have a bakery make a cake), and this is a very conservative estimate. Sure, it’ll look nice, but is it really worth it to spend $500 (an iPad, for example) on a dessert that the guests probably won’t eat much of? Not to mention that the guests will simultaneously be provided with another dessert from the caterer as part of the meal? I don’t think there has been one time in the history of weddings that I have had a piece of cake and eaten the whole thing. Most of the time, I’m too stuffed to bother.

Not to mention that I’m pretty handy with decorating cakes. Granted, the cake itself will probably be a $1 box of Duncan Hines, but I have made a couple of tiered mini cakes in my day and do believe that they turned out quite marvelously. So I’m not worried.

When the financial analysis was over, I convinced Marvin to help me. If we plan ahead and know what we’re in for, then we’ll block out enough time to make our own wedding cake. My mom will help us, making the wedding cake even more special. And the best part is, it will cost us about fifty bucks.

 

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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4 Comments

  1. Good for you! I wish more couples kept their wedding expenses down. Remember how I went to a family wedding the day before Erica’s wedding? Well, I’m pretty sure that the family wedding cost a lot more. It took place at a country club, the dress was quite ornate and expensive, the open bar didn’t seem to have a limit, there were so many guests that we all felt very cramped. and yet Erica’s wedding was, in my mind, much more enjoyable. (Never tell the family in question that I said so). Erica’s wedding was still really nice, but some things were kept simple, and in my mind that simplicity was much more charming.

    But I’ve always had a different perspectives on weddings, because Mormon weddings are unlike any other weddings I’ve attended. As far as venue goes, the ceremony itself takes place in a temple, which greatly limits guests, so brides and grooms invite a lot of guests to a reception. Receeptions are consequently less pressure, because guests haven’t been hanging around all day, in need of food. When my sister got married, we all went out for pizza in between the ceremony and the reception. At the reception, we used the cultural hall in a nearby church (complete with basket ball hoops that had been raised to keep them out of the way). There were light finger foods, as well as cake. And the photographer that my sister’s in-laws had hired also took a series of family photos while he was there.

    And here’s the thing – my sister had one of the more expensive LDS wedding receptions, because her mother-in-law hired a lady in her church who earned extra money by decorating and catering receptions. As a result, the decorations were gorgeous. But still, there was no thought of hiring a DJ or a full-on catered meal. And even though her dress was gorgeous, it had been passed down to her from another sister-in-law, so she only had to pay a seamstress to take in a little. And when she had a second reception in NH, a friend of the family hosted it, and it was gorgeous because her house is surrounded by gardens. My mother paid for finger foods, and we borrowed folding chairs for the guests.

    It looks like I’m writing a novel now, but I really think it’s great when couples don’t bankrupt themselves over an expensive wedding. After all, isn’t the marriage the most important part?

  2. Good for you! And good luck!

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