What is the tradition?
The dessert at the wedding reception is cake, usually a tiered, elaborately decorated cake, display predominantly at the reception location before it's eaten. The bride and groom ceremoniously cut the cake in front of their guests, and feed each other a piece (sometimes by shoving said piece into the other's face).
In order to save money, the elaborate cake is sometimes partially a prop (with all but the top layer made of styrofoam), and the guests are actually served from a sheet cake.
What is the origin of the tradition?
There are at least a few paths that led here. In ancient Rome, bread was broken over the bride's head for good luck and/or fertility. In medieval England, cakes were stacked high, and if the couple could kiss over the stack, it meant good luck. There have been times when a glass ring was hidden in the cake, and the recipient would would be the next lucky bride (akin to the bouquet toss). And also a time when guests were send home with a piece of cake to put under their pillow, to cause dreams of their future husband.
Why do people still follow it?
Well, I mean, it's cake, that's understandable. It's often used as a means of personalizing one's wedding, as a very customizable component that can convey the theme of the wedding, in color and design elements. But, if you've ever seen Cake Boss, you know that that personalization can sometimes get extremely elaborate and way over the top.
Why is that crap?
Although not necessarily super prominent in how the tradition plays out today, there are nonetheless roots that ick me out a bit, steeped in fertility and the fact that of course everyone woman is looking for a husband. The ceremonial aspect of cutting cake, I can almost appreciate, in theory - in the sense that it's working together on your first task as a married couple - but making everyone watch it is silly. You just made them all sit through the wedding ceremony, don't make them be bored with a cake cutting, too, before allowing them the buttercream.
It's also just plain expensive! With the complex structures and fancy designs, an official "wedding" cake can easily cost upwards of $5 a slice. I might pay $5 for a slice of cake at a restaurant, but when you're buying an entire cake to serve over 100 people? You shouldn't be paying that much. Why devote the energy and money into making an elaborate object that's merely going to be eaten? In some ways it's become a status symbol, much like the dress, and some might feel that it's their one chance for something so grand.
For dessert, we simply selected a few items from the catering restaurant's menu (chocolate mousse, cheesecake, cupcakes), and had them out with the rest of the food. There was definitely no ceremonial presentation or cutting of any dessert!
How did/will you handle this tradition?
I would love to have a lively debate and conversation in the comments! Please join in!
Dissenting opinions (from the post itself or other commenters) are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments that personally attack me or any other commenter.