Does It Matter When We Cut the Cake at Our Wedding Reception?

Grooms cutting cake

The Nichols

What comes to mind when you think about your wedding cake? Flavor and design are often the first details you consider, and anticipation for that cake tasting is up there too. But the logistics of serving the cake? Well, you might not have even considered those. Your cake, however, plays a crucial role in your wedding day timeline. So when do you cut the wedding cake? We turned to the experts to find out.

There’s more to cutting your wedding cake than sharing that first sweet bite as newlyweds (no frosting smashing, please!). “Cutting the cake provides an unspoken signal to guests: namely, that it’s okay to leave without being thought of as rude,” says Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute. Yup, cutting the cake means everyone can go home! In the past, it was the last thing to happen at a wedding reception, not a quick moment between dinner and dancing. So any guests who were ready to go would wait until you’d sliced the cake (and they’d had a bite, of course), and then they would hit the road.

Meet the Expert

Anna Post is the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, and is a former spokesperson and author of the Emily Post Institute.

Today the cake is usually cut earlier in the reception, but that same signal still applies. Older guests, in particular, will still wait until you’ve cut your cake before saying goodbye and heading home, so you’ll want to time it accordingly. “As a courtesy, couples today cut their wedding cake early on in the reception so guests are free to leave whenever they are ready,” Post says. And that’s not the only perk! Most photographers’ packages include a set number of hours—often eight to 10—and you will definitely want photos of the two of you figuring out how to wield a cake knife together. (Seriously, does anyone know how to do this before they get up to the cake table?)

By cutting your cake earlier, you can guarantee your photographer will catch the moment without having to sacrifice getting-ready shots or add time to the package. Another plus to cutting the cake earlier? It won’t interrupt the rest of your evening! The last thing you want to do is steal energy from a packed dance floor by asking guests to pause and clear space for you to cut the cake. Instead, cut it early and keep the party going later (with a little sugar boost!). And last, cutting your cake early gives your caterers lots of time to slice and plate without rushing to do so before everyone gets up from dinner.

Not sure when to squeeze it in? Here are a few options.

Right Away

Once you’ve made your grand entrance all eyes will be on you, so take advantage of the moment and head straight to the cake table! Cut the cake, share a bite, and then head to the dance floor for your first dance—all before dinner is even served. This will free up the rest of the evening for fun!

Before Toasts

If you’d rather get dinner started after your grand entrance, loop the cake cutting in with toasts. Even older guests will want to stick it out to hear a few words from your parents, MOH, and best man, so either kick it off or wrap it up by cutting your cake.

At the End of Dinner

Every great party needs a great segue, so if it’s time to transition from dining to dancing, take charge! You and your spouse can stand up, say a few words to your loved ones, and then cut the cake. If you haven’t already, head to the dance floor for your first dance, then invite your guests to join you!

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