Wedding cakes are a time-honored tradition dating back to the Roman empire. The meaning of the traditional wedding cake has evolved over the course of history, as has the contents and style of the cake. While the overall appearance and customs of the cake have changed, one thing has always remained true: each culture celebrated with some form of cake to honor the bride and groom.
The history of the wedding cake goes back to ancient Rome. During the time of this empire a loaf of specially made wedding bread was broken over the head of the bride during the ceremony. This breaking ceremony was replaced by a kissing ceremony in medieval England. During their ceremony, the guests would stack small cakes into a pile and the bride and groom would kiss each other over the pile. During the 17th century bride's pie was served to guests. The modern wedding cake was introduced in the 19th century.
The significance of the wedding cake has always existed, even though its meaning has changed. In Rome, the broken cake represented the breaking of the bride's virginity and the headship of her new husband. For those couples who successfully completed the kissing ceremony, it meant that they would have many children. The bride's pie contained a glass ring. The person who found it was said to be the next who would be married.
Wedding cakes have not always been confectionery delicacies. The Romans used a loaf of barley bread for their ceremony. Medieval English couples received flour based, unsweetened cakes from their guests. The bride's pie was typically either filled with sweet breads, mince or mutton. The original wedding cakes were single-tiered plum cakes.
Wedding cakes have primarily served the function of providing a symbol of goodwill for the future couple. Historically the cakes represented fertility, purity and loyalty. The crumbs of traditional wedding cakes represented good luck for the guests when eaten. Today, the wedding cake serves as the centerpiece for the cake-cutting ceremony with its various symbols.
The modern cake-cutting ceremony holds many meanings dating back to these earlier cakes. The bride and groom begin the ceremony by cutting the cake together. This represents the couple's first joint act as husband and wife. The couple's action of feeding each other the first piece represents their desire to care for one another. The act of serving the guests each a piece of the cake goes back to the belief that eating some of the cake would bring good luck.