Even though your wedding day is truly about the union between you and your new spouse, there’s a third party, which also—understandably—steals part of the show. The cake.

A wedding cake is a “sweet” tradition that plays a vital role in most wedding receptions. Cutting the cake is a heartwarming tradition that newlyweds get to share with their guests, and eating that first slice of cake is one of the most photographed moments of the entire day. So, it’s not surprising that wedding cakes are getting more unique and beautiful every year!

We spoke with Jennifer Swartz, the brains and talent behind Custom Cakes by Jen, and asked her just what couples need to know to get their perfect, picture-worthy wedding cake.

TIMING

Timing out your consultations and meetings with vendors is one of the more difficult parts of planning a wedding, so we asked Jen when she prefers to meet with couples about their wedding cakes.

She suggests that couples schedule their cake consultations 9 months prior to the wedding. This time frame gives cake decorators ample time to specially craft the decorations that will be incorporated into the cake design, but also helps ease the process for the couple as well!

Jen commented, “I find that sometimes if the appointment is too far in advance and not enough has been determined yet, it’s difficult to narrow down a cake design.” There are many moving parts to the wedding planning process, so don’t plan your cake consultation too early! Waiting to design your cake can be helpful to firm up a concrete idea of how you want it to look.

HOW TO PREPARE

When preparing for your cake consultation, you may not know exactly what to expect. You’ve likely been stalking Pinterest for cake inspiration. While you swipe through those hundreds of photos, make sure you save a few! If it helps keep you organized, start a private “cakes” board that you can pull up when you meet with your designer.

They will be able to incorporate the elements you like, but also be open to hearing their suggestions on design. (After all, you ARE paying them to design! They know what they’re doing, so you may find that they have some design suggestions that you never even considered!)

In addition to Pinterest, you can also look at the bakery’s social media profiles for past work. This can not only provide additional inspiration, but can show you exactly what to expect, should you decide to incorporate those elements in your own cake.

PRICING AND CAKE OPTIONS

There’s more than one way to feed a crowd! Some couples get a cake large enough to feed the entire reception, while others prefer to get a small cake and supplement with a sheet cake or a cupcake tower for guests. It all comes down to the budget and overall aesthetic that works for the couple.

Pricing changes from one bakery to another, but generally, pricing is per-slice. Some bakeries (such as Custom Cakes by Jen) will charge a base price for a one or two tier cake.

In addition to the price of cake and icing, bakeries typically charge additionally for intricate décor such as fresh fruit, fondant, or incorporating flowers or large amounts of chocolate.

Using a sheet cake or having cupcakes are a good way to either cut costs or provide more flavor options to guests, while still having a small cake to slice for the cake-cutting ceremony. Dessert tables are also a popular and cute way to provide sweets to your guests, so don’t think that having a big, multi-tiered cake is the only way to go. Your wedding can be whatever you want, so make decisions that match your ideas and budget—you have options!

A MESSAGE FROM OUR PRO

Jen has been a pastry chef for 18 years, and has had her business for the past 12 of those years. “I have a great deal of experience in all aspects of pastry, and have worked in catering, high end restaurants and a private country club as well as having my own business. I also have an art background (having gone to art school and worked in that field), which is very helpful in envisioning and executing cake designs.”

For more information on Custom Cakes by Jen, as well as some examples of her awesome wedding cakes, visit her site.