Deciding on a wedding cake can be quite daunting: What do I want it to look like? What flavor(s) should I choose? How many guests does it need to serve? How much money will it cost?

Depending on the type of cake (flavor, filling, fondant, shape, number of tiers, decorations, etc.), one serving could cost well over $4 per person from a professional bakery.

Thankfully, there are some options that can help save big money in the end:

Hire a Licensed Home-Baker

Hiring someone to bake the cake from their home can be beneficial in more ways than one. But first, find out if your state has a Cottage Food Law, which allows citizens to become licensed home-bakers and legally sell baked goods for profit. If licensing is allowed in your state, get a couple of quotes from licensed bakers in the area. If baking occurs inside the home (and not from a rented commercial kitchen), you will save even more! Because of firm licensing regulations, certified bakers are required to follow strict food safety and handling practices in a clean environment. In addition, many venues will not allow any outside food into a reception unless it comes from a licensed baker.

Have a Friend or Family Member Make the Cake

If choosing this option, be aware that in order to legally have a friend or family member make the cake, you cannot pay them unless he/she is a licensed home-baker. Again, refer to the Cottage Food Law website for more information on your state's law. The good news is that if a friend or family member can (and wants!) to make the cake, this is undoubtedly the least expensive option! Just make sure it's okay with your venue. Some wedding venues prohibit food from an unlicensed baker to be served on their premises (for liability reasons).

Choose a Small Cake for the Bride and Groom

Another option is purchasing a small, beautiful cake for the bride and groom and serving sheet cake or cupcakes to everyone else. Choose a variety of flavors to please the guests, and save more per serving compared to a larger, tiered cake! Sheet cakes are easily constructed and don't require a  look that is as elaborate as a traditional wedding cake. Cupcakes come in all varieties and can be relatively easy to make and display.

Make Your Own Cake Decorations

Save a lot of money by keeping cake decorations simple or by making your own. Most costs associated with a cake come from labor (not ingredients). Want sugar snowflakes on your cake? Or fancy ribbon around each tier? Or flowers? Get on the email list for Michael's or Jo-Ann to receive coupons and really save on homemade cake decorations. While sugar-based flowers can be extremely costly (again, because of the amount of labor it takes), it is possible to alternatively use a selection from your own wedding flowers to place on the cake. Just make sure to follow food safety guidelines when using fresh flowers. Keep it simple for your baker and add your own unique, decorative touches.

Borrow As Much As You Can

What's a wedding cake without a beautiful display stand or a knife the bride and groom can use to cut the first piece? Some venues and bakeries offer these otherwise expensive items to borrow (or rent) on your wedding day. If you hire a licensed home-baker, they will likely have a stand that can be used (and possibly for free). Don't be afraid to ask! Another inexpensive option is using a cake drum in place of a traditional cake stand. Customize it with matching ribbon or select a decorative foil-covered drum. These are available online or at crafts/party/restaurant supply stores.

Stay Within Budget

A wedding cake can easily creep outside your budget, so shop around! Always be conscious of the pricing structure. You want three tiers? Well, here's the base price. Oh, and you want fondant? Raspberry filling? Decorations on your cake? The price just increased by $100. Just like that! So check around, comparison shop, and find out who can offer the best cake for your money.

More savings tips:

  • Contact your caterer and see if they offer wedding cakes for a reasonable price.
  • Ask if you can get a discount by paying upfront and in full. If they won't give a discount, ask if you could instead borrow a cake stand and cutting knife for free.
  • Have several smaller cakes instead of one large cake.
  • Inquire at the nearest culinary or confectionary arts school and see if a student can make the cake as part of their curriculum.
  • Check Etsy for unique and budget-friendly cake toppers.

 This is a guest post by Shauna from Salt Lake City, UT
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