If I say wedding cake topper, what do you picture? It might be a miniature bride and groom, wedding bells or some other similar ornamentation with a wedding theme. While the history of wedding cakes dates back to the Roman Empire, it was nothing like wedding cakes as we know them today. Instead they were unsweetened loaves of bread which were crumbled over the bride for good luck. And wedding cake toppers as we know them haven't been around all that long. They became a growing trend with middle class and affluent American families before the American Civil War. By the 1890s they were quite common.
Those original wedding cake toppers weren't anything extravagant. Cakes were decorated with things like flowers, bells, or other small objects related to the bride and groom. Often these toppings were handmade by a family member or a professional wedding cake baker using frosting, icing, or non-edible materials like plaster of Paris.
Wedding Cake Toppers Popular After World War I
Decorative cake toppers grew more popular after World War I. It was in the Roaring 20s that High Society in the U.S. adopted the custom of using figurines of the bride and groom atop the wedding cake. Popularity of this tradition grew quickly after Emily Post, American etiquette expert, mentioned them in her 1922 best seller that said, "wedding cake is an essential of every wedding reception," and went on to comment on the placement of the bride and groom figurines in the description of a beautifully decorated cake. In the early 1900s wedding cake toppers were made from glass, paper, or wood until they started being commercially made.
First Commercially Made Wedding Cake Toppers
Along with this, American retailers like Sears & Roebuck started to market and sell cake toppers showcasing a bride and groom. By 1924 you could find an assortment of two-inch tall bride and groom toppers made from wax and featuring differences like groom without a hat or wearing a top hat. The bride could be purchased without a veil or wearing a cloth veil. By 1927, the Sears catalog had an entire page devoted to wedding cake ornaments.
With their growing popularity, wedding cake toppers started to be mass produced commercially in the U.S., Europe and Asia. They were available in the usual bride and groom side-by-side pose along with a selection of alternative poses. And during or following the War, the groom was sometimes depicted wearing a military uniform. Along with this, groom figurines could also be purchased a wearing police or fireman uniform, too.
Aside from bride and groom figurines, today we have toppers like cupids, hearts, love birds and sometimes even a framed picture of the couple. The tradition of adding a decorative ornament topper to the wedding cake has been joined with the tradition of removing and saving the memento as well as freezing the top layer of the cake to be eaten by the bride and groom on their first anniversary.
Photo credits: Vintage Wedding Cake Topper, Fancy Flowers, futuremrsbeede