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More couples saying 'I don't' to wedding cake

The wedding cake has gone stale for many couples. Instead, they're trying to make their celebrations more personal with other sweet expressions.

Left: Glasses of gelato at the wedding of Elena Flores and Jeff Breese in Phoenix. Right: Mini cupcakes at the wedding of Michelle Nizich and David Olsen in Los Angeles.
Left: Glasses of gelato at the wedding of Elena Flores and Jeff Breese in Phoenix. Right: Mini cupcakes at the wedding of Michelle Nizich and David Olsen in Los Angeles.Read more

The big, white wedding cake has gone stale for many couples who have tasted too much bad buttercream and seen too many slices left untouched on the table.

Instead, they're trying to make their celebrations more personal with other sweet expressions of their union.

For Elena Flores and Jeff Breese, there was no question that their 250 wedding guests would be treated to their favorite dessert — gelato — which they eat together once or twice a week.

"Neither of us are cake eaters," said Elena Flores Breese, 27. "In our opinion, wedding cake ... sometimes it isn't good."

After guests finished a Southwestern meal at the couple's September wedding in Phoenix, servers scooped four flavors of the Italian ice cream into martini glasses, and the bride and groom fed each other a spoonful.

"Good friends of ours and family know how much we love gelato. We wanted to share it with them on our day," said Flores Breese, who also had a sweets table and churros with several sauces.

A long-standing symbol of a wedding, the tall, tiered cake is often part of the decor, a centerpiece for the room. It's the cutting of the cake that traditionally signals the time when guests can leave without seeming rude, notes Chicago wedding planner Marina Birch.

The retreat from cake is part of a larger trend: Many couples are dropping wedding customs that don't suit them and are adding personal touches instead.

Taking the place of the iconic cake is everything from pies, cheesecakes with sauces, fresh doughnuts with toppings, and cupcakes — lots and lots of cupcakes in different flavors and sizes, arranged in cascading tiers to look like, yes, a cake.

There are desserts that guests create themselves: an ice cream sundae bar, candied or caramel apples with toppings, a fondue station or a candy table. Bite-size sweets — brownies, creme brulee, cream puffs, cheesecake lollipops, and warm chocolate chip cookies and milk served in shot glasses — are also popular.

Some couples are keeping the cake for tradition's sake but shrinking it to make room for different desserts.

"Most don't like cake, and others are wanting to personalize the wedding experience a little bit more and are finding that dessert is the easiest way," said Melissa Lee Sylvester of Rincon Beach Club and Catering in Carpinteria, Calif., where about 40 percent of the weddings are cakeless.

Although some couples may think an alternative dessert is less expensive than cake, that is not always the case. Planners say a cupcake that has to be individually decorated can cost the same as a slice of cake, while a candy table can cost less. Gelato is more expensive than a traditional buttercream-frosted cake with fresh flowers.

Cost aside, no-cake couples want their after-dinner treat to represent them.

For Lindsey Mallow and her fiance, Truett Sage, of Tulsa, Okla., their thing is pie — the peach pie they eat every Tuesday night at a favorite dive.

"My fiance and I were really set on our wedding reflecting us and not just traditional wedding things like having a cake," said Mallow, 24, who is planning her wedding for next fall. "We just thought we should have pie at our wedding because it's so much more us."

Couples are also using dessert to honor their backgrounds. Planners cite an Italian-American couple who will serve cannoli, Southern couples who have chosen mini pecan pies or red velvet cupcakes, a Maine bride who went with mini blueberry pies, and a Michigan wedding with cherry pies.

Many brides and grooms who opt out of a wedding cake do keep the tradition of feeding each other a bite of something sweet, mindful, perhaps, that their parents might miss the photographable moment.

"I could have left it out altogether, but we're doing that for my mom," said Mallow, who plans to exchange bites of pie with her new husband.

Sometimes, the pressure to have a traditional cake is too much to resist. With 350 people coming to her wedding in Los Angeles in October, Michelle Olsen wanted to have several desserts. She didn't care for the look — or price tag — of a cake big enough to serve all the guests.

So she chose five flavors of mini cupcakes and a candy bar with sweets in her wedding colors of black, white and kelly green. No cake. But after hearing from her future husband's stepfather that wedding cake was the only reason he goes to weddings, they added a three-tiered cake in white buttercream with green trim.

"We didn't want to offend anyone, so we figured we would have a small one for the tradition and to take some pictures," said Olsen, 29. She made sure they cut the cake early to keep the party going.

Another bride wanted only cotton candy and candy for her wedding last June.

"Once we informed the moms, they were not happy campers," said Evora Alvarez-Deily, 35, of Margate, Fla. She added a wedding cake — blue icing with brown lacy swirls — to appease them.

Alvarez-Deily said her nontraditional choices were wildly successful, however.

"Everybody loved it and went crazy over it," she said of the ring pops, candy necklaces and cotton candy. "I barely had any kids there. The adults were all over it."