Wedding Planning Guide

what wedding cakes cost

white wedding cake

Photo: Jose Villa

One of the highlights of the wedding reception? The cake, of course! Displaying a gorgeous wedding cake for guests to admire is always fun, and the cake-cutting ceremony traditionally symbolizes the first task the newlyweds conduct together. But as wedding costs start to add up, many couples are caught off guard when it comes to what a wedding cake actually costs. To help you keep your budget on track, we’re giving you the scoop on how cake-pricing typically works.

How Much Do Wedding Cakes Cost?

Wedding cakes are usually priced by the slice and the range varies significantly—anywhere from $1.50 to $15 a slice. What you’re really paying for is the cake designer’s labor—the time spent constructing, icing, and detailing each cake—not so much the ingredients themselves. That means the more complicated the design and decorations, the more expensive the cake will be. So, before you start pinning cake images and thinking about your dream dessert, keep this in mind so that you don’t wind up with a wedding cake that busts your budget.

Also, some venues and caterers charge an additional per-slice cake-cutting fee if the cake does not come from them; this can be anywhere from $1 to $7 per slice, so be sure to read the fine print of your contract. To avoid additional fees, your best bet is to go with a dessert option provided by your caterer, or to negotiate with your caterer before signing if you feel strongly about bringing in a cake designed by an outside vendor. Or, better yet, hire a caterer who doesn’t charge a cake-cutting fee to begin with.

6 Ways to Save on Your Wedding Cake

We get it, wedding costs add up. Quickly. So if you’re suffering from a bit of wedding-cake sticker shock, don’t ditch the dessert entirely. Instead, get creative and follow the Dos and Don’ts below to save big on your wedding confection. That way, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

1. Opt for a smaller cake plus sheet cakes in the kitchen.

Instead of creating a single, towering cake to serve all your guests, have your baker create a smaller cake for displaying at the reception and the cake-cutting ceremony, as well as a separate undecorated sheet cake or two that can be cut and plated in the kitchen. No one will ever notice, we promise.

2. Decorate with fresh flowers, not sugar flowers.

Again, saving money on your cake is all about minimizing labor costs. As stunning as sugar flowers are, fresh flowers are much more affordable and look just as beautiful. Ask your florist to set aside some fresh blooms to use as cake embellishments. The design options are endless: Place a few flowers on each tier on alternating sides, go the minimalist route with blooms on just the top tier, or go all out with a lush floral cascade.

3. Choose buttercream icing instead of fondant.

Most of the cakes you see in magazines or on Pinterest are iced in fondant, which is a pliable Play-Doh-like icing with a super smooth surface, making it the perfect canvas for a variety of cake embellishments. However, fondant is more expensive than its icing alternative, buttercream, and talented cake designers are able to achieve a similarly smooth look using buttercream without the hefty price tag.

4. Stick to round or square cake tiers.

Resist the urge to request unusual cake shapes and choose round- or square-shaped tiers to maximize your dessert budget. Shaped cakes require more labor to create as well as extra layers that get carved away in the sculpting process, which means you’re basically paying for waste.

5. Go for a “naked” cake.

Skip the frosting altogether in favor of a “naked” or partially frosted cake. They’re very trendy right now and much more inexpensive since they take less time to make and require very minimal (if any) decorations.

6. Don’t go overboard with flavors.

Specialty cake flavors and fillings might seem to only add a nominal cost per slice, but it all adds up. Keep costs low by choosing from your baker’s menu of standard flavors and limiting it to only one to two cake-and-filling combinations. However, if you must have that specialty cake flavor, have your baker use it for the smallest tier. That way, you’ll still be able to enjoy it without it eating up too much of your budget.