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~I always eat the cake at weddings. I kind of view it as a toast to the bride and groom. That being said I've never had a really good cake at a wedding. They're always too dry and the buttercream is never good enough for me to spend the calories. But I taste for politeness sake.
Cupcakes may be practical but they're too informal, IMO. I don't know of many people who don't associate cupcakes with children's birthday parties or classroom treats and that's not the impression I'd want my guests to have.
I made cinnamon buns for my reception and they were stacked on a tiered plate rack. The officiant's daughter liked the idea(and my cinnamon buns!)so I made a bunch for her wedding last year. Easy to make ahead, freeze and serve, cheap and well liked!~
 

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We had a three-tiered cake, all layers were real, the top being gluten-free for my wife. We had her Aunt make the cakes, using grocery store cake, although she did an excellent job with the decorating. Everyone seemed to like it, a lot of it got eaten, and it didn't cost much.

Libby, I just got married a week ago, and as I mentioned in another thread, it cost us $3500. Half of that was the rec center where we held the ceremony and reception, if that gives you any idea on what we spent. We also paid for the bridesmaid's dresses, as well as the groomsmen's tuxes. If you want to know what else we did, PM me or just ask away in threads.
 

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Our wedding came in @ about $3200. The cakes were gifts, but I was seriously considering buying cupcakes before the offer was made (I only needed 6 dz, which priced cheaper than getting a wedding cake made). I was going to put the grocery store cupcakes in red paper wrappers to add color, and planned to put them on tiers and put fall leaf garland and autumn flowers between them to dress them up. I did want a small cake on top to cut for pictures.

Another option I considered for inexpensive cakes was to make pound cakes in the silicone molds shaped like roses, dust with powdered sugar, and then serve with a "sauce bar" with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, fruit, and so on for people to add to their liking. I envisioned it would be pretty on the separate tiers that hold cakes up at different heights, with ivy, fall leaves, tulle, etc strung between them. Maybe even tiny white Christmas lights. Can you tell I love weddings?! LOL

However, here's the lovely, free cakes we did end up with!
 

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My mom makes cakes all the time and has figured out it is much easier to do fake cakes for the bottom layers and do a small cutting cake for the top. She then makes sheet cakes or cupcakes which ever our family wishes. She only makes cakes for our family members as gifts. My cake was absolutely beautiful and was all cake. It was the first one she made about 17 years ago. Everyone loved it and it all went except for the cake top which we ate a year later. It was not as good as when we first ate it but good non-the-less.
 

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Our wedding was at a reenactment event and we got a huge sheet cake from Costco. It was very good and people went back for seconds (like I said, it was huge). The only problem we encountered was the little white bird decorations. The sample we looked at was about an inch and a half and you could tell they were there. When we got the actual cake the birds were only about 3/4 inch so once the cake was cut we were going around saying "Watch out for the birds! Watch out for the birds, please!" as every single guest ignored the cake we just handed them and looked up nervously. :D

Weddings in our area are generally whole-family and all-the-friends events and the cake is as pretty as people can afford, but most importantly it has to taste good. Cupcakes tend to go over well because you don't have to slice them and you have automatic portion control. Most people sample around town then get the best deal that can offer something both tasty and well packaged.

Since we didn't have a caterer it was very important that they package the cake so it would survive a 15 mile drive in the back of an SUV in the Phoenix heat. Costco did a fantastic job securing the cake and leaving a margin around the sides and top of the box so there was no frosting smeared all over, and when we looked at the pictures of the cake later we realized since they had to substitute the smaller white plastic birds, they'd given us about twice the amount we paid for. We were finding little plastic birds all over the campsite for two days, and the kids really liked them so they got recycled as Barbie bird companions and reinforcements for troops of little green army men.

I believe the whole cost was about $50 back then to feed over a hundred people, and the entertainment factor was priceless.
 
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