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Alternative Brides – Nix the Wedding Cake!

For most brides, the wedding cake is a non-negotiable. It’s an important, necessary part of the wedding reception and having an empty cake table would just look… odd. If you’re the type of bride who thinks outside the box, though, you may be wondering if there are other dessert options. Use any of these alternatives singularly or combine them to create a varied dessert bar.


On the table where the wedding cake would normally go, have tons of mini cupcakes fill up the table and a large, tiered cake stand. On the very top level, put a tiny, individual cake, the same size as the top layer of a traditional wedding cake. You can also have several cupcakes arranged to look like a true wedding cake – this is called a “pull apart cake.” The cupcakes fit together to form what looks like a flat sheet cake and it can even be decorated like a regular cake.
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Candy Bar

Set up a candy bar with either your favorite sweets or candies that coordinate with the colors of your wedding. You can either fill glass jars with candy or put candy in pretty bowls of assorted shapes and sizes. You can also choose candies from a specific era, like candies that were popular in the 80s or penny candies. If you’d like guests to load up a bag and take their treats home with them, supply scoops and cellophane to-go bags.


If there’s anything more delicious than cake, it’s pie. Offer an assortment of pies in all different flavors – there isn’t going to be a guest in the crowd who won’t be able to find something they like. If you want to have fruit fillings, stick to the fruits that are in season. For example, if you’re getting married in the summertime, ask your baker to prepare peach, blueberry and key lime pies. During the autumn and winter, apple, pecan and chocolate pies are rich and perfect for the cold weather. You can also order individual tarts in flavors like sour cherry, lemon chiffon and almond. Tarts can be made with all different types of fruit, jams, puddings and custards.


Italian or not, there aren’t many people who don’t love cannoli. You can have miniature cannoli stacked on tiered cake plates on each table; have each guest served one regular sized cannoli; or have your bakery bake a huge cannoli that you can cut into smaller pieces. The best part about cannoli is that they don’t just come in the one traditional flavor. You can order flavors like pistachio and chocolate, too. You can also have cannoli shells stuffed with cannoli cream-flavored ice cream.

Cookie Buffet

I’m partial to the idea of a cookie buffet because my brother had one at his wedding. Outside of the reception room, a long buffet table was set up with fresh coffee, to-go cups, coffee fixings, a variety of fresh baked cookies and small bags. Guests grabbed a cup of coffee and a few cookies each as the wedding was winding down or as they were heading out to their car. Between the cookies and the dessert that the caterers served, everyone had curbed their sweet tooth several times over.
If you want to set up the cookie buffet in the reception room and have it ready for dessert time, ask your caterers to spoon out French vanilla ice cream for cookies a la mode or cookie sandwiches. Even better is if you have rich and creamy gelato. To truly make the cookie buffet decadent, pair complementary flavors, like peanut butter cookies with dark chocolate ice cream or gingerbread cookies with pumpkin ice cream.
The biggest crowd pleasers when it comes to cookies are chocolate chunk, sugar, peanut butter, oatmeal and macadamia nut. Are regular ol’ chocolate chip and sugar cookies simply not fancy enough for you? Biscotti, sandwich cookies with cream filling, pinwheels with fruit filling and macarons (the charming French kind) are just as pretty as they are delicious.

Breakfast Dessert Bar

For many people, breakfast is the best meal of the day. Ask your caterers to man a dessert bar where Belgian waffles and crepes are freshly made and topped with fruit, berries, whipped cream and maple syrup. For decor, have colorful dry cereal poured into tall martini glasses and displayed on the table. For the boys, have your baker or caterer come up with sweet treats that incorproate bacon and brown sugar.

Dessert Shots and Miniature Treats

Order tiny dessert shots of strawberry shortcake, New York cheesecake, chocolate mousse, creme brûlée and key lime pie. Just about any of your favorite desserts can be somehow turned into a dessert shot or slimmed down to a bite-sized portion. Sometimes, it’s as easy as having a regular sized dessert cut into small bits. The best part is that your guests can try each and every dessert they want, twice.
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Cake Pops

Cake pops have all the goodness of a real wedding cake with the ease of a bite-sized portion. Have your waitstaff pass out the cake pops on trays. They can be adorably displayed by having a half-circle of styrofoam covered with a pretty fabric and sticking the pop sticks into the stryofoam. Your baker can make the pops suit your wedding color scheme or theme, too. Plus, you can choose a few different flavors instead of being stuck with just one type of cake.

Extra Desserts & More Ideas

Sometimes, getting rid of a gorgeous, triple-tiered, sugary sweet wedding cake is just too much to bear. If you can’t part with this part of your wedding, you can still mix things up a bit by adding in a second dessert or sweet treat for your guests.
You can also have a discombobulated cake that looks like a regular wedding cake that’s been taken apart. Every individual cake can be a different size, and even decorated and flavored differently. Place these individual cakes haphazardly on the cake table.
Hire a dessert barista to set up an area where she can make creamy coffee drinks, like cappucinos, chai tea and hot white chocolate. Have different pastries, cupcakes and cookies displayed so guests can nosh on something as they sip their latte. Let guests opt to perk up their hot drink with amaretto or bourbon.
Choose your flavors and types of dessert you serve based on the season in which you’re getting married. In the summertime, fruit tarts, truffles and sponge cakes are ideal. Flavors include cherries, peaches, grapefruit and passion fruit. In the springtime, the best fruits are citrus, apricot, pineapple, strawberry and melon, and a favorite seasonal sweet is the cream puff. During the fall, pastries with hints of cranberry, apple pie, pumpkin and ginger spice are perfect and during the winter, mint and rich chocolate are classic choices.

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