Often, one’s first inclination about desserts for the wedding is to go to the most popular local bakery that specializes in wedding cakes and order a cake large enough to feed everyone at the reception. While you can be assured of plenty of high-quality cake, it may also cost more than you have to spend. There are a few different approaches to “having your cake and eating it, too,” so to speak.
If you look at most price lists, you will see the smallest two-tier cake is considerably less than the larger ones with more tiers. By going the smaller route, you can still have professional decorations but pay much less. On the other hand, unless your wedding is very small, the smaller cake won’t feed everyone. So what to do about dessert? There are two alternatives:
1. In addition to the wedding cake, serve a second one with the same flavor and frosting but baked in a large rectangular pan (refer to it as a “sheet” cake when ordering) instead of tiered. Same cake, same taste, less cost.
2. Have additional desserts, as well as wedding cake, either at a separate station or as favors or centerpieces at the guest tables. Guests can choose the dessert they want. If you are worried too many will want cake, make sure to cut the cake into small pieces.
Those elaborately embellished cakes decked out with carved flowers and other decorations come with equally elaborate price tags. The time, costly ingredients, talent, and expertise needed to make them cost real money. Consequently, the first rule of thumb when deciding on how your cake will be adorned…
3. Choose butter-cream frosting instead of fondant. The more traditional “cake frosting” is easier to work with and requires less talent to make than the fondant-enrobed specimens you will likely see at bridal shows. If you do decide on fondant, think minimalistic and use color instead of design for a less costly yet still extravagant look.
There is also the option of decorating all or part of the cake yourself. For example:
4. Use real flowers, either to top the cake or between layers. For the latter, order the cake with space between the tiers (in essence, have them use a stand with a plate for each tier, leaving space between the layers). Then, before the reception, fill the empty space with flowers.
5. Get a plain, iced cake and add rhinestone mesh ribbon around each tier. Or go the same route as with real flowers, except surround the empty space with the ribbon. You can use the rest of a roll to decorate bouquet handles, make display table borders, put around pillar candles or votives, or beautify those plain glass containers you bought at the dollar store. (You can find a selection of rhinestone mesh ribbon here.)
6. Decorate a plain cake with fruit, such as berries.
7. Instead of having the bakery replicate your wedding decor, carefully trim your cake with the real thing. Lace, ribbon, raffia, burlap, and reception decorations are all candidates for use on the cake (be sure to back fabric with wax paper to both protect the material from picking up grease from the icing and avoid contaminating your icing).
The above is an excerpt from the Dream Wedding on a Dime; 7 Secrets for the Budget-Savvy Bride ebook.