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Wedding planning with Marcy E. Thornton
Let them eat cake (but not your budget)
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    In my last column on wedding catering, I left out the biggest part: the cake! It’s not that I forgot this wedding essential, but that the wedding cake is in a category by itself. Think of it this way: everyone will complement the bride’s dress, even if she looks like a poodle in a hammock, but everyone will be honest about the cake.
    The bad news for those affianced among us is that the average wedding cake costs between 500 and 1,000 dollars, as caterers charge by the slice. So, assuming 150 guests, that’s anywhere from three to six dollars per person. If you’re bringing the cake to a reception at a hotel or country club, expect another dollar or two tacked on as a “cutting fee,” which is really just a way to punish you for not using an onsite cake.
    Back in the olden days, when GSU students’ mommies and daddies were getting hitched, cake taste was not as big a factor as it is nowadays. It is a twenty-first century phenomenon that more couples are opting for “gourmet” cakes with all sorts of different frostings and fillings and sugary décor. Just remember that before your pastry chef makes all those hand-sculpted gum paste pansies, he crafts a hefty price tag to match.
    ‰ Try this: Denise and Alan Fields’ “Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget, 8th ed.” ($10.17 at is a must-read if only for the authors’ delightful ability to call the wedding industry on all its fouls. Their take on the wedding cake is particularly refreshing.
    “Yes, they are just made of flour and water, but the average wedding cake still runs hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars,” the Fields said.
“Many banquet halls, hotels and caterers will suggest you buy a wedding cake from them. Do they bake the cakes? Nope, they go to an outside bakery and order one of their cakes—and then mark it up to sell to you!”
    The biggest cake “pitfalls” according to Bridal Bargains come with all those little extras, like a first anniversary cake topper (one-year-old cake? Eew!), the (totally unnecessary) Groom’s cake, or those too-pretty-to-eat decorations.
    Anyone familiar with the Food Network’s cake-making competitions has heard of fondant, an alternative to traditional royal icing or butter cream that is made of sugar, gelatin, and corn syrup. Fondant-rolled cakes have perfectly smooth surfaces that allow really intricate decorating, but it tastes terrible! People often describe the taste of fondant as super-sugary gum paste.
    “All the labor that goes into making and rolling out fondant onto cakes (not to mention hand-tinting) means higher prices — most bakers charge at least $1 to $2 extra per serving for fondant cakes. That’s a 30 percent hike over average prices,” the Fields said.
    Your best bet with a wedding cake is get creative. A big celebrity trend right now is mini-cakes, so each guest can have their own. Why not just order a couple hundred monogrammed cupcakes, or better yet, make them yourself! Another trend is the “deconstructed” wedding cake, with individual tiers occupying different cake stands of varying heights. Why not just buy some individual sheet cakes? You could have something fancy like different flavored fillings for each different “tier,” and it would still be less expensive than the traditional “constructed” cake.
    Regardless of how you and your sweetie ultimately decide to create your wedding cake, be sure to go shopping for a baker that will make you happy. That includes tasting! At least three months before the wedding, (longer if a bakery is fairly popular), spend a day trying out different bakeries’ confections. You might have to pay a small tasting fee, but any respectable baker should be proud enough of their product to let you try before you buy. According to “Bridal Bargains” the deposit for a wedding cake is about 50 percent, and you should pay the balance about a week or two before the wedding.

    Marcy E. Thornton is a senior English major at GSU, and is engaged to become Mrs. Carl W. Bonebright in September of 2008.  She welcomes any tips, comments or questions via e-mail at SobriquetF1@yahoo.
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