Cake cutting is one of the most iconic wedding photo ops. Tradition positions the cake cutting ceremony as the first task you complete together as a couple. It’s more of a symbolic task than it is a functional one—since the couple stops after just a single cut or two and the caterers take it from there. But then, the newlyweds feed each other a bit of cake as a gesture of their enduring commitment to care for and support one another. Or—maybe—you end up with cake smeared into your professionally styled makeup and hair.
In the age of DIY weddings, it’s perfectly acceptable to let go of certain traditions if they don’t resonate with you. If you’re one of those couples who have been resisting the cake-cutting rite of passage, we’re ready to talk about some unique and realistic alternatives. In fact, we’re inspired to nudge you in the direction of creating your very own personalized ceremony—one that will feel authentic and representative of who you are and what your partnership is really about.
What to Do Instead of Cutting a Cake at Your Wedding
I asked my dad what he remembers about cutting the cake with my mom at their wedding. He got right to the point: “I remember it as being fun! It was like this fun little milestone within the bigger wedding process. We were kicking off something to share with our guests.” His relationship to the tradition is quite a bit different than the original intention, but isn’t that what it’s all about? Every couple is different, so why shouldn’t every ritual to initiate their lives together be unique and personal? Design your own ceremony from the ground up with one of these templates as your guide:
<> Bring two elements together
<> Work to complete a task as a couple
<> Seal or release something
The following ideas are intended as jumping-off points. If you feel a connection with one of the activities, then run with it. These ideas can also be easily revised or altered to fit your unique style as a couple.
Design a Ritual to Signify Your Coming Together
One approach to planning out a personalized ritual from scratch is to follow the concept of union, blending, merging. Start out thinking of simple possibilities and if your ideas get more complex, make sure you’re mapping out the realistic path to pull it off.
- Beer Blending
The traditional blended beer beverage is the Black and Tan, combining a pale beer like the Irish lager Harp with a dark beer like the stout Guinness. But, again—your day your way, so initiate some taste tests to find the combination that you’ll be excited to blend together in front of your guests. The final result doesn’t necessarily have to be the split-level look of a classic Black and Tan, but if that’s what you’re going for, be sure to practice together ahead of time, layering a lower density beer on the top. For this ceremony, you can choose beers with personal significance, such as two from your respective hometowns or from the city where you met or a place you visited together.
- Cocktail Mixing
Similarly, you could initiate a cocktail mixing ceremony if beer isn’t your thing. You can easily wrap this into your signature drinks. With this option, you can really infuse it with whatever kind of style you want—from rustic to clean and classy. You could choose liquors for their flavors, colors, or symbolism. One of our favorite ceremonies of this kind is a sangria mixing. The couple gets to open a special wine bottle and add that to a pitcher full of brightly colored fruits. Meanwhile, we already have a supply of sangria ready for the whole party to share.
- Move Two Fish into the Same Tank
We once had a couple bring a simple but elegant fish tank with gravel and imitation coral that matched their wedding colors and style. For the time leading up to the reception, we kept the fish tank out of sight with two plastic bags in it, each with an individual fish inside—so the water in the bags would reach the temperature of that in the tank. Just before the ceremony, we pulled the bags out and carried the tank to a dedicated table where all the guests could see. The couple each released the twist ties from their bags and, at the same time, tipped their fish into the new home tank.
- Unity Candle Lighting
Another very simple unity ceremony is to each hold a lit candle with an unlit candle on a table between you. Simultaneously, you touch your flames together and light the wick of the candle on the table. This ritual makes way for some beautiful symbolism as you commit to light each other’s paths on the journey ahead. You could extend this ceremony by having grandparents pass a flame onto parents and then onto you, on either side of your families, before you bring your flames together to light the central candle, vowing to pass that light and love onto future generations.
Work Together to Accomplish Something Meaningful
Another approach would be to complete a basic task together—one that is truly meaningful and memorable for you. The wedding tradition of smashing a plate makes way for the newlyweds to then clean up the mess together. Some venues may prohibit this destructive kind of ceremony, but you can probably come up with an alternative ritual that is equally symbolic or fun.
- Plant a Tree
A planting ceremony can be really beautiful, especially in the spring and summer, and the memory can be present and lasting if you proceed to grow that tree at your home, indoors or outdoors. Set yourself up so the ceremony is fairly simple. If most of the dirt is already in the pot, you won’t need to get dirty in the process. You might simply drop seeds into the dirt, cover them up, and add some water. Or you might transplant a young tree shoot that adds a more visual element for you and your guests. Vow to care for this tree even as you nurture your relationship into the future. You could even send your guests home with trees seeds of their own to plant.
- Draw Blind Contour Portraits of Each Other
Do you remember that activity of sketching something in front of you without ever lifting your pen from the paper and without ever taking your eyes off of your subject? Well, this actually makes for a really sweet and humorous activity that you can do in front of your guests. Set up two chairs facing each other, then sit with a pad of paper and pen each. Touch your pens to the paper and then gaze at each other. Begin to draw your partner’s portrait without ever looking away from them—never looking down at the paper. It can be an intense stretch of time, having your partner’s attention always on you and vice versa, and then the resulting drawings are always funny to see and share—and to keep as a wedding memory!
Initiate a Ceremony of Sealing or Releasing Something
Think of the classic scene when doves are released into the sky. Now, redirect your thinking a bit, because involving captive animals in your ceremony won’t be the most humane or truly graceful option. Similarly, you’ll want to consider that anything inanimate that you release into the sky will eventually come down as well, so avoid the non-biodegradable balloons.
- Seal a Wedding Time Capsule
A time capsule can make a really sweet ritual and a great take away that you’ll open a year or more after the wedding to be flooded with love and memories. Leading up to the wedding day, ask your friends and families to write you letters of well wishes and advice. At your reception, you could even have a table with paper and pens for your guests to compose letters on the spot. Just be sure to let them know when time is running out and the sealing ceremony is about to start. To make it really official, take turns hammering nails into the lid of a wooden box, sealing all of the letters inside—so you really won’t be able to open it up until the decided future date. If your box is big enough, you could also seal up other gifts or even a bottle of wine from a special place, from the year of your marriage or the year that you met.
- Unleash a Fountain of Bubbles
I’m talking about the kind of bubbles you use to blow as a kid. One way to go about this would be to provide everyone with their own small bottle of bubbles. They are pretty common wedding favors, actually. Then, as a couple you initiate the blowing of the bubbles, inviting everyone else to join in—filling the space with delightful, prismatic decorations. Another way would be to simply flip the switch together on a machine that sends out a shower of bubbles for you—that everyone can then dance in.
For the sake of your individualized ceremony, get in touch with what matters most to you. Perhaps, like my dad, it’s about having fun and kicking off the party. Or perhaps it’s about capturing the sentiment of your union in a special moment. Whatever the intention behind your ceremony, let it speak for itself. If age-old traditions help to move that intention forward, embrace those traditions; if the classic cake ceremony doesn’t cut it for you, then cut it out. You may decide you don’t want a wedding cake at all! Let your wedding day be about you, and it will all fall into place.
For more unique ideas to bring your wedding day to life, give us a call. At Kennolyn, we’re committed to creating your wedding experience based entirely on who you are as a couple and what will make you genuinely happy.