Dessert bars are a popular choice for couples who want an alternative to the traditional wedding-cake stand—and we understand why. The dessert table usually ends up being the most frequented spot of the night (aside from the open bar, of course!). These stylish tables full of post-dinner treats are also a great way to inject personality into a wedding. "We are seeing [dessert bars] done in a more thoughtful and impactful way," says Moriah Tulier, founder and baker at Wildflower Cakes. Some couples are including desserts made using family recipes, referencing childhood flavors, and honoring heritages, among others.
Meet the Expert
Moriah Tulier is the founder and head baker at Wildflower Cakes in Denver, Colorado.
Dreaming up the perfect dessert table to best represent a couple is a collaboration. So make sure you communicate your ideas to your baker. "We work with the couple on how they would like it to look," says Tulier. "If the event has a stylist, caterers will collaborate with them to design and set up the display." Still don't know where to begin planning your dessert bar? Here are some elements to consider:
- There's no limit to what kinds of treats you can serve. Pies, brownies, doughnuts, pudding—you name it! All are welcome. Remember: Variety and novelty make a great dessert bar.
- Take the season into account when considering flavors and decor. Getting married in the fall? Consider adding pumpkin pie and apple cobbler to the menu. Meanwhile, for spring, why not incorporate pastel-hued macarons and decorate with fresh blooms?
- Keep the dessert bar in the theme of the wedding. If your wedding is bohemian, consider a more artsy display table. If it's country, incorporate wooden elements.
- To make the display stand out, Tulier advises incorporating bold visual elements like arranging the desserts in a bright color or pattern or adding trendy signages and balloons.
- For a more creative dessert bar, employ display tables packed with personality. Use unexpected fixtures such as vintage furniture, bar carts, and barrels to prop up those sweets.
- Dessert bars can be multifunctional. "Turning your dessert display into a favor stand for your guests is a great way to combine both a dessert display and party favor," says Tulier. Just remember to provide to-go boxes!
- If you still want to serve a traditional wedding cake, serve it right alongside an assortment of other desserts, even other cakes.
Add (Cake) Pops of Color
Bright colors are a fun way to draw attention to your dessert table while cake pops are a great supplement to a smaller wedding cake. Teasing out the bright colors of the two-tier cake, this couple flanked the main confection with cake pops in similar pink and periwinkle shades.
Serve Mini Desserts
Mini desserts and a caged single-tier cake keep this dessert table modest but full. It makes it especially easier for guests to grab bite-sized morsels and have more fun mixing and matching their desserts.
Use Tree Trunk Serving Platters
If your wedding is rustic-themed, why not incorporate earthy elements and tones? You can use wooden furniture and dishware to prop up your desserts. This couple amped up their wedding's rustic, outdoor aesthetic by showcasing cookies and macarons on tree trunk serving platters.
Say 'Oui' to Macarons
For a more unconventional Parisienne-themed dessert bar, why not serve mountains of colored macarons? These pink and white macarons are the perfect romantic option laid out on this elegant, Victorian-inspired, glass top table.
Mix Pies and Cake
Single-serve pies mix well with a classic wedding cake. The rich shades of these pecan and berry pies brighten up a semi-naked, two-tiered gilded cake.
Create a Cream-Puff Tower
This chocolatey croquembouche (cream-puff tower) stopped the show with a few other tarts alongside it. Make the tall tower the focal point of your dessert table and display the rest of the desserts on shorter platters. Add feminine touches to the croquembouche by weaving in pink flowers.
Serve Unexpected Cake
Who would've thought that a birthday cake would be a good wedding alternative? This classic vanilla cake from Momofuku Milk Bar was the perfect ending to a backyard wedding in New York's Hudson Valley.
Offer Trifles and Tarts
A more extravagant wedding cake can be paired with tiny treats in delicate glasses. Four tiers of wedding cake were accompanied by trifles and tarts at this wedding. Display the smaller treats on mirrored trays and boxes for a touch of elegance.
Serve Artisanal Doughnuts
This couple opted for a simple spread of artisanal doughnuts (look at all that frosting!) alongside their mini white-frosted single-tier cake. Keep assorted doughnuts in platters of different materials and colors for a striking visual. This couple combined a gilded serving bowl, wooden chests, and a matte brass shelf to amp up the drama.
Pair a doughnut dessert station with a coffee and tea bar with cute touches like a printed banner and hanging burlap.
Create a Fake Bakery
Simple white and wooden accents made these pies pop against the draped greenery. This couple recreated the experience of going to a bakery with a custom-made backdrop. How cute is that fake bakery storefront?
Serve Waffles for Brunch
Don't be afraid to mix sweets, even those that aren't traditionally served at dessert bars. Macarons and small cakes dripping in gold were paired with stacks of waffles to celebrate this Parisian brunch wedding.
Accent with Florals
Fall colors were in full bloom with the floral accents on this spread of whoopie pies, bundt cake, and cookies. Spread varied arrangements of bouquets around (and on) the dessert table for a similar dazzling display of flora.
Low candles offered warm light from beneath these tiered serving trays piled with sweets. Don't forget about the peach backdrop as well—the color motif of this dessert bar accentuates the simple white cake so well.
Frame Your Cake
A simple backdrop perfectly framed these cakes and pies at an outdoor venue. If you used an arch during the ceremony, you can use a similarly-designed arch for the dessert table. If you want something a bit more statement-making, try blowing up oversized gold foil letter balloons for an eye-catching backdrop.
Use a Rolling Cart
If you want to keep your dessert station simple and keep your sweet treats to a minimum, why not display your modest selection on a beautiful rolling cart? You can also roll it out towards the stage during the cake-cutting part!
Decorate with Feathers
Wispy, gold-dipped feathers and warm lights added a bohemian touch to this dessert table of different flavored cupcakes. Other bohemian-inspired props to use include logs, dried flowers, and crystals.
Use a Funky Table
Because your dessert bar is often the focal point of your reception's dining area, make sure to use furniture with interesting details. This table's base mimics the cake's criss-cross pattern, making it perfect for an overflowing dessert bar.
Create a Quirky Look
Waffles, cake, and donuts served on a table that looks like an ironing board? Quirky and delicious.
Represent Your Roots
The more personal touches a celebration has, the more intimate it would feel to your guests. This couple's desserts represented each of their home states, turning the bar into another symbol of their union.
Swap a Table for a Cabinet
You don't have to use a table for your dessert bar. These platters of tarts were served in an open cabinet with floral accents.
Serve Two Desserts
For brunch weddings, couples have to ask themselves a very important question: doughnuts or cake? Well, why not both? Take a cue from this couple that decided not to choose.
Mix Modern and Boho
A simple marble cake is accompanied by equally understated whoopie pies. We love how these treats stand out against the shibori indigo backdrop—a perfect combination of modern and boho.
Decorate With Greenery
The ample greenery on this dessert table propped up the assorted sweets. Use a variety of leaves, ferns, and palms to get the look.
Feature a Wall of Treats
Instead of having a table laid out with treats, why not feature a whole wall of sweet delicacies? Doughnut-lovers will love this particular wall of beautifully-displayed goods. Guests can help themselves to a doughnut (or three). Just remember to label the flavors!
Double Desserts as Party Favors
It seems no brunch wedding is complete without doughnuts—here, they doubled as party favors, with boxes for guests to take them home. Tulier says, "Boxes can be personalized with messages from the couple, custom stickers, and stamps."
If you're planning on doubling your desserts as party favors, invest in customized to-go boxes. "Boxes can be personalized with messages from the couple, custom stickers, and stamps," says Tulier.
Impress With a Pie-Exclusive Menu
This couple opted for an all-pie dessert bar and sourced them from a local farm. To make sure your guests will find one they like, diversify your crusted options from fruit pies to banoffees.
Serve Family-Recipe Cookies
Personalize your dessert bar by serving your favorite family-recipe cookies. You can even include the recipes on the labels so your guests know that they're all cherry-picked by you!
Throwback to Childhood With Milk and Cookies
Recreate nostalgia with a milk and cookies station. Elevate your cookie selection with decadent, "grown-up" flavors (like dark chocolate chip, almond crunch, and matcha), and offer a selection of milk options from whole to almond.
Nod to Your Heritage
Take a cue from your roots. As a nod to their heritage, one couple created a Mexican Pan Dulce Bar, where guests were free to take home assorted local pastries and cookies. It's a sweet way to feel close to your family at your wedding!
Serve Your Childhood Favorites
If you have a sweet tooth for treats other than cake, why not serve a hodgepodge of your favorite saccharine treats? Curate your dessert bar based on your own tastes like this couple did when they served their go-to childhood comfort treats from brownies to chocolate-dipped pretzels.
Hire an Ice Cream Cart
Hire an ice cream cart on wheels for the day! Outdoor weddings (and summer weddings) could definitely benefit from chilled treats. Tulier says, "We love pairing ice cream with cake! It’s a classic combination and the flavors and textures complement each other so well."
Illustrate Your Dessert Menu
Get your guests excited to pick out the desserts by illustrating the desserts on a fun display. It also doubles as a reference board if you choose not to place individual labels for treats.
Display Treats Vertically
While desserts are usually laid out on a table, this couple served bite-sized mini desserts stacked on the tiered shelves of this metallic furniture. Displaying treats vertically rather than horizontally is such an easy, novel switch-up.
Add Funny Signage
Inject fun and personality to your dessert bar by adding funny statements as this couple did. The signage made the dessert bar seem a lot more approachable.
Place Cookies in Cookie Jars
Big fan of cookies? Set up a cookie bar and serve different-flavored cookies in big, glass jars. This is best served atop a rustic, vintage-looking table. Offer napkins to go with them so your guests can easily grab and bite.
Roast Marshmallows for S'mores
Check if your venue allows an open flame. If so, why not replicate a cozy mini bonfire by having a s'mores station? Make sure you include different DIY ingredients and an assortment of condiments!
Incorporate the Theme
When thinking about dessert bar ideas, incorporate your wedding's theme in the display. At a winery-inspired wedding, this dessert bar was displayed in front of barrels.
Swap Cake for Churros
Instead of cake, opt for a more unconventional treat: churros. Serve them in cones or sliced up in small glasses. Invite guests to help themselves to a sprinkling of cinnamon powder or melted chocolate dip in a dedicated churro station.
Designate a Candy Station
If candy is your sugary treat of choice, why not set up a candy station? Include different flavors, textures, and colors to make it a fun, DIY candy bar complete with tongs and to-go bags. Gummies, chocolates, and truffles, play with the assortment!
Make It Summer-Friendly
For a summer-friendly dessert station, why not have a station for chilly treats? Include popsicles, creamy ice cream, gelato, and even alcohol-infused sorbets for a refreshing treat! Your (outdoor) guests will thank you later.