It’s an image we all know very well: a bride and groom, standing over their wedding cake, lovingly feeding one another. But then—BAM—the cake is smashed into each other’s faces! It’s a fun, playful moment that many couples look forward to…but it’s also a moment with its own set of rules.
Why Do We Smash the Cake, Anyway?
It’s unclear where the “cake smash” first originated, and most folks aren’t sure why the tradition exists at all. Some historians credit this tradition to ancient Rome, where newlywed grooms smashed barley cake on their bride’s heads at the end of the wedding festivities.
Why did Roman bridegrooms mess up their ladies’ hair with cake? The tradition was said to encourage fertility—though many modern analyses claim it was primarily a show of male dominance over the young wife. Regardless of intent, this tradition survived years of changing trends and sharing cultures, ending in the frosting-covered, egalitarian cake smash of today.
These days, the cake smash is not as common as it was in weddings past. Like many traditions, the cake smash is hardly a requirement, and whether or not you have one on your wedding day is totally up to you and your partner. But whatever you do, make sure you stick to these simple dos and don’ts.
DO Plan Ahead
Perhaps you think the cake smash is a silly, somewhat gross tradition and you don’t want any part of it. Perhaps it’s the moment you’re looking forward to the most, and you selected your cake specifically to see that colored frosting smeared on your sweetheart’s face. Wherever you stand on the cake smash, it’s absolutely critical that you and your partner are on the same page.
Talk about this moment with your future spouse before the big day, and decide how you’re going to approach the cake cutting and smashing. Will you skip the smash entirely? Stick a dab of frosting on each other’s noses? Really go hard with that first slice? Come up with a game plan and make sure you stick to it.
DON’T Surprise Smash
Quite a lot goes into getting ready for your wedding day. Brides spend hours on their hair and makeup. Grooms get gussied up with a clean shave (or beard trim, if they rock the facial hair) and a nice new suit. And after spending all that time and effort to look their best, there’s one thing no newlyweds wants: an unexpected piece of cake in their face.
If you and your partner have decided not to do a cake smash, DON’T DO A CAKE SMASH. If you’ve decided to do something small, like a little icing on the cheek or nose, DON’T DO ANYTHING MORE THAN THAT! While it may seem funny to prank the love of your life with a faceful of vanilla frosting, this is one surprise that will almost certainly be unappreciated.
DO Warn the Photographer
The cake smash (when it’s expected) can be a really fun moment during the reception, and it’s definitely the kind of moment you’d want to be captured on film. This is why it’s very important to let your photographer know about the smash before the moment arrives. If he or she is aware of what’s coming, they’ll be ready to snap away as the smash occurs!
In addition to ensuring you get that perfect Instagram photo, warning the photographer about your cake smash moment is simply good manners. Your photographer’s equipment is very expensive—they need to know if there will be rogue cake flying nearby! Give your photographer enough warning so they can set up and take a photo that captures your moment and saves their camera.
DON’T Grab a Handful of Cake
Just as you put a lot of time and effort into your wedding day look, your baker puts a lot of time and effort into creating your wedding cake. Most wedding cakes are veritable works of art—only better, because they’re works of art you can eat. Which might be why I consider this the most important rule: cut yourself a piece before you start smashing!
Watching couples grab a handful of cake, like unsupervised toddlers at a birthday party, is a heartbreaking sight. Would you stick your hands all over the Mona Lisa like that? Of course not, so give that beautiful cake the same respect. If you decide to do a cake smash on your wedding day, cut a small, tidy piece for that purpose.
DO Have Fun
With all these rules, it may seem like the cake smash is serious business, but that’s not true. The cake smash is a fun, cute moment you can share with the love of your life (not to mention all your friends and loved ones)! As long as you plan ahead and stick to your plan, this experience can be the “icing on the cake” of your special day.