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Save Money on Your Wedding Cake With These Simple Tips

There’s nothing quite as special as a showstopping wedding cake —but we get it, every budget has its limits. And if the price per slice of wedding cake is giving you budget anxiety, don’t feel like you need to nix the idea altogether. Instead, speak openly with your cake baker, tap into your creativity and use these straightforward tips so you don’t have sacrifice this sweet detail.

Order a small display cake.

Ask your baker to make a one- or two-tier cake for display and cutting, and supplement with sheet cake in the back to serve the rest of the party. This can actually save you around 20 percent per slice. And have fun with your table. Have a one-tier wedding cake surrounded by loads of cupcakes, macarons, doughnuts, cookies or a souped-up candy bar.

Keep it simple.

Sugar flowers, tall tiers and intricate piping can quickly jack up the price of your cake. That’s because most cake bakers price their work by “touch time,” which is the amount of labor and number of hours spent designing the cake. (There’s a lot that goes into this confection—it’s way more than just flour and eggs!) So when it comes to choosing your cake style, look for designs you love that don’t include any over-the-top add-ons.

Pare down your flowers (or choose real ones).

If your heart’s set on flowers, go with fresh blooms or choose flat designs such as painted flower motifs instead of ornate sugar flowers. Sugar flowers are very labor intensive—it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to mold and dust one pretty sugar replica. (Now you know why they’re so gorgeous.) To pare down the cost, choose a simple cake with one large stem or a spray of flowers on a single-tier cake. Another trick is to choose sugar flower types that don’t require as much time and detail. For example, skip the cascade of peonies and shoot for hydrangeas or calla lilies. But fresh flowers are one of your best bets for a cost-friendly alternative. Just let your florist in on your plans so they can source pesticide-free and food-safe buds.

Be resourceful with your cake display.

Some couples go all out buying or renting elaborate cake stands, which are pretty, but not really necessary. Besides, most bakers will provide a decorated base board you can place right on the table. Once you have your cake display, focus on adding to the space around it—choose a fun linen from home, lush greenery, old family wedding photos, candles or flowers to bring some life to the table.

Serve smaller slices.

Consider scaling back on cake slices and see if your caterer can also include a round of sweets to supplement (think: passed chocolate-covered strawberries, assorted cookies or mini truffles). Let your caterer know they should cut tasting portions to about three quarters of the usual amount, and plan to plate your cake slices with the other desserts. Ask your caterer to place slices on a buffet or cake table instead of serving a plate at every place setting—or have the staff bring bite-size pieces right to your guests on the dance floor so they can enjoy cake while getting down.

Choose buttercream.

In the world of frosting, there are two big hitters: buttercream and fondant, and there are pros and cons to each—including cost. Buttercream is typically less expensive. Fondant, on the other hand, requires extra steps and materials, and can be difficult to work with, making it more expensive. But do your due diligence regardless and don’t assume your cake will be less expensive with buttercream: You might want a smooth, seemingly simple appliqué finish on a buttercream cake, when in reality, this pristine style requires precision and time. Long story short, you may not save as much as you’d hoped. And some bakers may charge you extra for fondant, especially if you’re requesting a lace appliqué or a detailed pattern design, so it’s good to ask your baker these questions up front.

Go naked.

Another way to save money on your cake is to skip an outer layer of frosting. Naked cakes are not only gorgeous to look at, they’re actually pretty practical too. They’re a lot less expensive because they use less buttercream and take less time—it’s as simple as that. To make up for the lack of frosting on the outside, up the wow factor on the inside by experimenting with unique flavors and fillings, like lemon curd, champagne buttercream or chocolate ganache with toasted almonds.

Have your cake pull double-duty.

Here’s a fun idea: Instead of spending extra on your favors, have slices of your cake packaged in to-go boxes so your guests get their dessert as a take-home on their way out the door. You could also serve your cake first and use cake slices or cupcakes decorated with everyone’s names and table assignments as escort cards.

Choose a boutique bakery (or add a cake to your catering package).

You might not get tons of tiers, intricate patterns or realistic-looking sugar flowers, but if you love your local bakery, ask if they’d be willing to make your wedding cake. Because they’re not a wedding-specific bakery, you may have more limited design choices—but the savings can be big. Otherwise, ask your caterer if they include cakes in their packages. Sometimes if you order your cake from your caterer, the overall cost will be lower. Some caterers even require you to use them, and if you don’t, they’ll charge a fee for bringing in another baker. So do a little cost comparison to snag the best deal.

Ready for cake? Let’s find wedding cake bakers near you!

Want to save money on your wedding cake without sacrificing on style and taste? Here are 9 wedding cake budget tips you need to know.

Cheap Wedding Cakes

Wedding cakes don’t need to be expensive or extravagant to look amazing and taste great. In fact, having a cheap wedding cake can free up money to use elsewhere in the budget.

How Much Is a Cheap Wedding Cake?

The price of a wedding cake depends on a number of factors, from your location, to flavor, to design choice. Additionally, what one person considers “cheap” may still be expensive to another. A good average cost, depending on how you’re pricing the cake itself, is about $530 for a whole cake or just under $4 a slice. Therefore, anything below those numbers is a good deal — and anything around half of that would likely be considered cheap by most people.

Where to Get Budget-Friendly Wedding Cakes

Don’t sacrifice the cake if you truly want one just to save a few dollars. Instead, consider ideas for finding one that go beyond the boutique bakery and designer decorator.

Homemade Cake From Family or Friends

A “homemade” cake is usually made by a friend or family member of the bride or groom and provided in lieu of a wedding gift. Homemade cakes can be risky business unless the baker is a professional decorator, but you can’t beat the price of a free cake. The amount of design and flavor input you’ll have with a homemade cake can vary widely, depending on experience and skill level. To guard against any last-minute cake-baking catastrophes, have a backup dessert option ready to go if necessary and ask to taste samples of the cake and frosting recipes ahead of time.

DIY Wedding Cake

If you think you’re up for making your own wedding cake, give it a try. The added responsibility of putting together and decorating a cake right before the big event actually helps some people stay calm and focus on the task at hand rather than feeling stress because of everything else that’s happening. An even easier DIY option is buying a pre-made wedding cake from a big-box retailer or large grocery store, like cakes from Walmart, and embellishing the cake yourself. Add balls of white buttercream frosting, rose petals, edible flowers, homemade toppers, or fresh fruit.

Grocery Store Cakes

If you want to find a cheap wedding cake near you, the easiest place to look is your local grocery store. Grocery store wedding cakes may have limited flavors and designs, but what they lack in originality will be more than made up for in their savings. They generally taste good, and you can select from a select number of design options for a low cost.

Design and Size Matter

The bigger your cake, the more likely it is to cost more. Similarly, the more elaborate the wedding cake design, the more likely it is that you’ll pay higher prices. Keep your designs simple and the size manageable to make the most of your cake budget.

Simple Cake Decorations and Flavors

It follows that the more special requests and details a cake has, the more expensive that cake will be. Therefore, keeping decorations simple can shave hundreds of dollars off a cake’s final cost. In general, buttercream costs less than fondant or ganache, and basic flavors such as vanilla and chocolate cost less than fancier options. A tiered cake with vanilla buttercream and fresh flowers or simple frosting accents and borders won’t take a decorator nearly as much time to complete as a custom design, so it will be far more affordable.

Sheet Cakes

Multi-level tiered cakes almost always cost more than flat sheet cakes. Although they may not be as pretty to look at, sheet cakes can feed just as many people as taller cakes, and they can also feature many of the same decorations for a fraction of the cost. If you’re having a large wedding and can’t stand the thought of displaying a sheet cake at your reception, consider ordering a small, simple tiered cake for presentation purposes and for the wedding party. For the rest of the guests, ask the baker to make a sheet cake or two from the same recipe. Most guests won’t care that they’re not eating the tiered cake as long as their slice tastes the same.

Small Cakes or Cupcakes

While the price for one large cake can be staggering, the quote for cupcakes or a group of small wedding cakes is usually much friendlier. Using small cakes at a reception can actually be more advantageous than serving slices of a huge wedding cake because it allows couples a chance to experiment with more flavors and decoration styles. Wedding cupcakes also have a leg up over the competition because they’re self-serve, eliminating any potential plating, cutting, or serving fees.

How to Save Even More Money on Your Cake

Flavor, size, baker skill, and design all factor into the cost of your cake. Save even more with these ideas:

  • Buy a plain cake from a bakery and add your own wedding cake topper.
  • Slice cake into smaller sizes than recommended to stretch the cake serving numbers.
  • Consider buying a cake from a licensed home baker rather than a traditional bake shop.
  • Purchase a simple cake through your catering service rather than outsourcing to a designer bakery.
  • Look for a baker whose “secret ingredient” is boxed cake mixes; s/he will likely charge far less than cakes made from scratch.
  • Skip buying or renting a wedding cake stand; instead, borrow from family or friends.
  • Pick up the cake yourself and see if you can save on delivery and set up fees.
  • Decorate the cake display table rather than spending money on extravagant cake designs.
  • If plating and serving are included in your catering, have the kitchen slice and serve one piece to each guest, eliminating waste.

Pretty Yet Inexpensive Wedding Cakes

Cutting cake costs can help keep the overall wedding budget in line while still providing a traditional dessert for the bridal party and guests. With a little imagination, you can have a lovely cake and still stay within your wedding budget.

Wedding cakes don't need to be expensive or extravagant to look amazing and taste great. In fact, having a cheap wedding cake can free up money to use …