The History of Wedding Food

Food is a big part of all of our celebrations, and weddings are no different! One of the things you’ll have to consider as you plan your wedding is what sort of food and other refreshments you want to serve. Have you wondered why certain foods and drinks are popular at wedding receptions? Let’s dig in to some food related wedding traditions!

Up Until Recently, Weddings Were Simpler

Are you feeling overwhelmed? You might be surprised to find out that what you think is traditional — a big sit down three (or more!) course dinner for upwards of 100 guests — is actually a very modern phenomena. Not counting nobility or the wealthy, weddings used to be at home affairs where guests might be invited over to lunch or might have cake and punch in a church basement. If you’re thinking about serving a family style lunch for an at home wedding, you’re actually having a very traditional wedding reception!

In the past, wedding receptions were generally held in the bride’s parents’ home. Food at these sort of receptions would typically be prepared by family, not by professional caterers. For ceremonies that took place at the local church, typically no meal would be served! Punch and cake were the customary post wedding refreshments. 

For the most part, what sort of food was served depending on the region and what time of year so it was often less a matter of what foods were traditional, but what was available at the time. Weddings were often seen as a place for families to show off their wealth and prosperity. This sort of idea has influenced grand modern wedding receptions.

What’s The History Of The Cake?

Large, white fondant and icing covered cakes are not as traditional as you might think. Most wedding cakes were fruitcakes up until the twentieth century or so. This is also where the tradition of saving a slice or the top tier of your wedding cake came from! Fruit cake would have alcohol (usually brandy) used to preserve it. Typically, the bride would add a little bit of brandy to the stored dessert over time to further preserve it! Couples would typically eat the cake to mark their first anniversary or the birth of their first child.

Are you still wondering why most people go for cake over other sweet possibilities? This tradition can be traced all the way back to Ancient Rome! A cake (or bread) would be served and “broken” over the bride’s head for good luck and fertility. For a long time, pastries and buns would be stacked up in a high tower. The bride and groom were expected to share a kiss over the tower, with it being considered good luck if they didn’t knock it over! White cakes with fluffy white icing became popular after the price of sugar dropped, making them more affordable.

Toasting Is Traditional

Champagne toasts are often a big part of modern wedding receptions, where those closest to the couple (often the Best Man and Maid of Honor) will give speeches about the couple and all assembled will toast to their future together, with guests clinking their glasses together. Clinking glasses was thought to ward off spirits and could serve as a way to protect the newlyweds!

Do these traditions sound fun or spark any creativity for you? The long history of wedding food has changed and evolved over time meaning you shouldn’t feel too much pressure to do anything in particular. Instead, focus on the traditions that you find fun and serve delicious food, leaving you and your guests satisfied!

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