The good news first: Your wedding cake will probably be one of the least expensive items in your wedding budget. But even though it’s generally considered one of the cheaper items you’ll have at your wedding (compared to wedding invitations, wedding venues, and wedding dresses), it can still amount to one of your bigger ticket items the fancier you go. The bad news? The average wedding cake cost is rising, just like that dough!
In fact, over the past few years we’ve seen it go up about 14%. The average cost of a wedding cake in 2021 was over $450. And that’s just the average. Depending on the type of design you choose and the size, a wedding cake could cost you more than $1,000.
So, how do you design your dream wedding cake while sticking to your budget? Read on to find out!
DON’T MISS: 6 Easy Ways to Save on Your Wedding Cake
How to Figure Out Your Wedding Cake Pricing
Before you go wedding cake shopping, it’s important to know not only what kind of design you want (like our favorite rustic wedding cakes), but how much you’re willing to spend. To do that, you have to know just how wedding cakes are priced.
Below is a look at a sample wedding cake cost. While the price will definitely vary by bakery and design, this helpful illustration might help make sense of how the price of a wedding cake is calculated. Note that the wedding cake cost is calculated PER SLICE and not PER CAKE.
Pricing for a 3 tier wedding cake with buttercream frosting for 125 guests:
- $3.00/slice for the base tier
- +$0.75/slice for the 2nd tier
- + $0.75/slice for the 3rd tier
- =$4.50 per slice x 125
TOTAL WEDDING CAKE COST: $562.50
Note that most bakers will charge per slice, but some might have a minimum price that’s added to based on your design and how much work is involved (more on that below).
Also Read: The best wedding dance songs of the year.
How Much Wedding Cake Will You Need?
This simple graphic also shows you how many people a wedding cake tier will typically feed. As you can see, a 16″ tier can serve nearly 4x the amount an 8″ tier can.
- 6″ tier: 12 slices
- 8″ tier: 24 slices
- 10″ tier: 38 slices
- 12″ tier: 56 slices
- 14″ tier: 78 slices
- 16″ tier: 100 slices
5 Ways to Save on Your Wedding Cake
So, how can you bring down your average wedding cake cost but still get the design you want? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Go Easy on the Sugar Flowers
Most bakeries and cake decorators will charge by the amount of labor required for the cake design. Elaborate designs (such as those stacked with sugar flowers) will definitely provide the drama you’re after, but will also drive up the cost. If you’re looking to save money on your wedding cake, get a similar effect by simplifying the design. If there’s a ornate or difficult wedding cake design you’re lusting after, consider asking your baker to modify it to help reduce the price. For example, choosing one large statement flower as a focal point can really make an impact. Or, ask for a few larger flowers such as calla lilies or hydrangeas, which will be a less expensive alternative to smaller, time-consuming blooms. These require less work, and therefore less money!
2. Use a Kitchen Cake
If your guest count is in the hundreds, you may have thought you need to go all out and display a six-tier cake at the reception. However, remember that each tier requires more time and will add to the price per person. If you’re looking to cut back on costs, reducing the amount of tiers will definitely help your budget. Your best bet is to display a smaller version of your favorite cake design, and use that for the cake cutting. In the back, your caterers will have secret kitchen cakes prepared by your baker with all the same flavors, which can then be served to supplement the main cake. This works best with weddings with more than 150+, otherwise the cost savings isn’t really there.
WGM Says: You’ve probably heard of the term “sheet cake” when it comes to saving money on your wedding cake. However, a better option if you have the budget is a kitchen cake. Unlike a sheet cake (which is one layer), your cake baker can make a kitchen cake has the exact same number of layers, fillings, and even frosting, but aren’t decorated. Once they’re sliced, your guests will never know the difference!
3. Use Buttercream Instead of Fondant
In the past, most bakeries preferred to use fondant (a thin, moldable paste) because it’s more pliable and produces a super smooth, elegant finish. However, it can often cost more than $0.75-$1.00/slice than buttercream. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Most skilled bakers have found ways to work with buttercream so you still have that perfectly refined look. Plus, most people agree buttercream tastes way better than fondant (and you have more flavor options), so you’ll not only save money, but your guests will enjoy a more delicious cake as well. A win-win!
4. Serve Smaller Portions
By the time your cake cutting rolls around, your guests may have already enjoyed a cocktail hour, first course, second course and entrée at your wedding reception. Plus, you may even have another plated dessert waiting at their seat. In other words, your wedding guests are NOT starving. Cut back on costs by serving portions one half or a third of the standard size. Many guests won’t even notice the difference, and they will still get a taste of those wedding cake flavors you spent so much time picking out.
WGM Says: A lot of venues and caterers will charge a cake cutting fee of $1.50-$2.00/slice if you’re bringing in an outside cake. This is one charge I always try to negotiate or have them remove if you have any bargaining power.
5. Dress it Up!
Picking up a plain white store-bought wedding cake might sound boring, but once you realize how many things you can do to dress it up, you might be running out to your nearest Kroger or Publix to buy one. By adding real or faux/dried flowers (such as lavender) or greenery to a plain white cake, you can make your wedding cake look way more expensive than it actually is. Just think of it like throwing on a sparkly top and heels with your favorite pair of jeans! This would be a perfect solution for a rustic barn wedding or even a dressy garden or estate wedding venue.
You should also keep these budget tips in mind when it comes to your wedding cake:
- When it comes to your wedding cake design, avoid weird shapes. Square and round are going to be your best bets.
- Vanilla and chocolate cakes typically cost less than red velvet or carrot. Just remember that the more ingredients you have, the more it may cost you.
- High end design items like gold leafing can push your budget over the edge. Be sure to go over what’s contributing to your cake’s cost during your design consultation.
- Groom’s cakes are great, but it’s an additional cost that can be avoided if you’re on a tight budget. If you can’t decide on a flavor together, consider doing a mix (IE: One tier is chocolate raspberry, the other is vanilla lemon!).
- Dessert tables are great, but they’re not always a less expensive option. Those doughnuts, pies, cookies, pastries, cupcakes and cake pops can add up to over $10/pp!
- It’s not just the cost of your wedding cake you’ll have factor in. There will be also be a delivery fee, plus the cost of cake stands (which you normally have to rent or buy), cake toppers, and serving utensils. Some bakers also charge for the cake tasting, which can run around $50, so be sure to ask any wedding cake bakers you visit what their fee is.
Need a humor break from all this cake talk? I found this hilarious video about ordering a regular cake vs. a wedding cake which seems like it could be totally true.
What kind of wedding cake are you going to have? What are you plans to save money on it?