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Cake or Cupcakes

Though cake is the traditional dessert for weddings, modern brides are getting more creative and adventurous when it comes to the final course of the big day. Sure, with cake comes the traditional cake cutting ceremony and its prime photo ops, but if you're not a huge fan of cake, or if you don't think you can afford a good tasting cake for all of your guests (and in today's times, guests expect good tasting cake), it may be a more affordable or creative option to go with a cupcake tier. The choice really depends on your style as a couple and the feeling you're trying to invoke with the reception.

As one of America's favorite desert pastimes, the playful nature of cupcakes lends a dash of whimsy to your fete that can help set a playful tone to the festivities and inspire the rest of your wedding planning and décor. Cupcakes are fun and invoke the outdoors and favorite childhood moments, so they would be ideal for outdoor summer and spring weddings, especially daytime receptions. Cakes, on the other hand, are perfect for more formal weddings and indoor settings like ballrooms and country clubs. Done in simple white with fresh flowers, lots of tiers and modern shapes like hexagons and squares, the cake becomes the centerpiece of the reception, perfect for couples wanting a more traditional, formal wedding.

When trying to decide between cakes and cupcakes ask yourself: are you a traditional bride who wants all the rituals and rites of passage a wedding entails—then a cake is probably your best bet, and a more traditional cake at that. If, however, you're a little more laid back or whimsical, or if your reception location is more informal, then a cupcake tier is a fun, often budget friendly alternative.

BONUS: If you're having a sit-down dinner, the cupcakes can be brought out to your guests as the final course while you partake in a traditional cake cutting ceremony, allowing you to have the best of both worlds. Want to save more money? Instead of cutting into a whole cake, ask your baker to use Styrofoam tiers for the first few layers and decorate the outside to match the top edible tier. After you and your husband share in a quick cutting ceremony and a tasty piece of the top tier, you can wrap up the rest and save it for your first year anniversary, or your first night after the whole wedding-honeymoon mayhem finally blows over. Cakes taste so much better fresh anyways, and what better way to spend your first, quiet night as newlyweds?

Still confused about what to do? Consider the following:

• Do you have a favorite dessert from a particular restaurant? See if it can't be mass produced or mass ordered for your guests; it's a perfect way to personalize the wedding and enjoy what you're paying for.

• Are you having a destination wedding? If so, consider the local fare and see if there isn't a signature dessert that could be served up to your guests.

• Be playful: channel your inner child and treat guests to the sugary confections of younger years, like peppermint patty Girl Scout cookies, mini hot fudge sundaes, saltwater taffy, or other pastime favorites. A "dessert" station allows guests to help themselves to their favorites among the sugary menagerie while still allowing for a semi-formal display opportunity.

• Another great option: doughnuts. Placed in a fancy arrangement, you can spoof off the classic croquembouche by piling mini cinnamon or sugar coated doughnut balls in a classic croquembouche tier and drizzle the final masterpiece with a gooey caramel sauce. It's sophisticated and kitsch all in one yummy treat.

• If you're trying to find ways to bring in novelties from your heritage, now is the time to pull out the family cookbook and turn to the dessert section. From canolis to apple tarte tartin to flan, every family has a spin on their favorite, and what better gift from grandma or mom?

Some Alternatives to the Groom's Cake

• Just skip it. Your guests probably won't notice anyways.

• Chocolate fountains.

• Homemade cookies wrapped in pretty cellophane.

• Pastries: think cheese Danishes and chocolate croissants.

• Get personal and screen photos of the couple-to-be on cookies and/or mini fondant covered cakes. Keep in mind: the latter is a much pricier alternative.

• Tray passed chocolate — white or dark— truffles. Devine!

• Ice-cream sandwiches—have 'em tray passed for a playfully ironic sophistication.

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