Weddings are filled with time-honored traditions. Even in this environment of individuality, creativity and a couple’s desire to make their wedding unique and different, many brides are still careful to wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, and the groom must not see the bridal gown before the ceremony.
Brides wear white and carry flowers. Rings are exchanged. Family and friends applaud the first kiss.
And of course, there is a wedding cake.
Many of these traditions are passed down from generation to generation, usually without a thought regarding where the tradition originated. It’s just something we “do.”
But according to an article published in the Owensboro Messenger on May 21, 1920, there is something couples used to “do” that is no longer done.
Let’s take a look back.
Writer Doris Blake published an article titled “Wedding Cake Lore” that starts with the assumption that tiny items will be added to the batter of a wedding cake before it is baked. These items are designed to bestow a gift or blessing upon the guests who find these items in their slice. The person who finds a tiny ring in his or her cake will be the next to marry. There is no notation of what this means if the person who finds it is already married!
A thimble is just the opposite: The person who finds this item is doomed to “an old maid’s fate.” Similarly, a button foretells bachelorhood for the one who finds this item in his cake.
A miniature wishbone – often made of silver or gold – bestows upon its finder the opportunity to make a wish, which is sure to come true, and whoever finds a penny or dime is promised riches. This custom, which sounds a little like the Mardi Gras custom of baking a tiny baby doll, coin, bean or another trinket into the King Cake, has apparently gone by the wayside, but perhaps 2021 will be the year for this old tradition to be revived.
Just tell your guests to chew carefully lest their fortune break a tooth or be swallowed!
The article goes on to describe many other traditions and symbols associated with the wedding cake. According to this article, the dough for a wedding cake should ideally be prepared by seven maidens, which will ensure that the bride has seven children. That might have sounded like a good idea back in 1920, but it’s less likely that very many couples will want to commit themselves to such a large family these days!
Whether baked by seven maidens or not, however, it is unlucky for a bride to bake her own wedding cake, and it is also unlucky for the cake to be tasted before the wedding. In the meantime, it was a good idea to keep the groom away while the cake was baking, for if he were to enter the house in the meantime, the cake would fall. And if that, or any other accident should befall the cake, it was a guarantee of sorrow in married life.
When there is a wedding in the family for the first time, this article warns, a piece of the wedding cake must be left in the house until all the unmarried daughters are wed, or they will be doomed to lives of spinsterhood. But on the other hand, if the bride leaves a piece of wedding cake on her plate and an unmarried woman eats it, she will be married soon.
The article also cautions that if the crust of the wedding cake gets moldy from standing, the marriage will not turn out happily. This might be problematic in that household filled with unmarried sisters!
Knives must have been a lot sharper in those days, for the article reminds the bride and groom that if they cut their finger while slicing the cake, that’s a bad omen.
Either way, the first slice should be cut by the bride. Another custom suggests that the bride who serves her cake to the poor would be promised good luck and happiness. It’s good to know that all acts of kindness and compassion are rewarded, even in – dare we say it? – old wives’ tales.