Are Expensive Wedding Cakes Really Worth It?

Are expensive wedding cakes really worth it? As a wedding planner in the SF Bay Area, this is one of the questions I’m continuously asked by brides. The answer I always give is that, it really depends on a lot of things.

Any wedding planner or wedding budget calculator will tell you to allocate 2-3% of your total wedding budget towards a cake. This is the average, the norm, the current trend. So if your total wedding budget is ,000, then you should allocate 00 – 00 towards your cake. If you’re expecting 150 guests, then you would need to find a baker whose cakes ranged between – a slice. However, 2-3% is only a suggestion.

I recently worked with clients who had their heart set on a string trio for their ceremony. They chose to pay 3 times as much as they originally budgeted for ceremony music to get the string trio. To cut costs elsewhere, they cut the videographer and cake from the wedding. Instead of a cake, they had a candy station. The candy station was set up by family members in heirloom dishes and bowls, and was a conversation piece amongst all of the guests. It was cute, inexpensive, and it worked.

If couples are totally into decadent desserts, or have their heart set on a cake you saw in a trendy cakery’s window, then allocating 5% or more of your budget towards a higher quality cake, taking funds away from other wedding items in their budget, may be the right choice for them.  Many high end cakes in the SF Bay Area can cost up to a slice. For a wedding of 150 guests, that’s 00 for a cake. This translates to 6% of the total wedding cost, if the overall budget is ,000.

Many couples want a wedding completely unique and all their own. Knowing what the trends and traditions are, often help couples steer away from them, to help create what they want their “untraditional and original” event to be.  A lot of the time, the untraditional and original events do not include wedding cakes.

My clients that do chose wedding cakes, often struggle with their overpriced costs. “How could something made out of flour, sugar and eggs be so expensive?” they ask, as they’re holding a picture of a couture wedding cake from the latest Town and Country Weddings Magazine.  Are these expensive wedding cakes really worth it?

To best answer this, I’ve listed a list of points below to help shed some light on this blazing question.


Put the word “wedding” in front of anything, and watch the price increase by 30-40%. It’s the way of the world. As long as customers pay high prices, bakers will charge high prices.

The mark up on weddings also has a lot to do with the pressure to make the event perfect. There is an enormous amount of expectation on wedding professionals for perfection. This is stressful, period. Would you be that upset if your birthday cake were flawed? Maybe a little, but you’d have a lifetime of birthdays to get it perfect, right? Not the case with a wedding. Couples view their wedding as a one-time chance to get it perfect. If their cake is flawed, they could be angered and disappointment on their wedding day. You best be sure the baker will hear about it. Discounts or partial refunds may be offered by the baker, or demanded by the couple.


If bakers use real butter and cream, and/or organic products, then their cakes will cost more than those that don’t. . The type of cake also matters. A simple sponge cake made from a mix that’s full of preservatives, is much less expensive than a cheese cake made from scratch with all organic products. Also, top notch cakes are fresh. They are made 2-3 days prior to the event. It takes a lot of manpower to work non-stop on a cake in just a few days, as opposed to one person taking their time, freezing layers and beginning the baking months ahead.


Many agree that the most expensive and time consuming factor of wedding cakes is the décor. A butter cream frosting cake with fresh flowers for decoration is much easier to create than a fondant cake with hundreds of intricate sugar flowers. If your cake involves elaborate designs, then it will take much longer to create, and cost more money.


A standard 3 tiered cake is much easier to assemble, support and transport, than a 4, 5 or 6 tier cake. The taller the cake, the more effort it takes a baker to support it, and to get all of the tiers level and straight. Many layered cakes are not easy to assemble and keep straight, and a baker will charge you for this.

Location of the Baker or Bakery

You may find that a baker in a major metropolitan area or a bakery in a trendy main street location will be much more expensive than a baker that bakes out of their home in suburbia.

Training of Bakers

Where did the bakers get baking and pastry arts training? Do they even have training? Well trained bakers and sugarcrafters, especially with many years of experience, demand a higher price for their creations.


Bakers who have a reputation for creating outstanding cakes, are covered often in the media and are in high demand, will ask high dollar for their cakes.

Time of Year

The high season for many bakeries is during December, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Easter. If your wedding falls on one of the key high season days, it’s possible your cake may cost a bit more.

Delivery & Set-up

If your venue is far from the bakery, it’s possible that your cake may cost more to deliver. Delivering a cake safely is a timely and stressful process. So the longer the stress and the longer the baker is not in their shop making money, the more you’ll be charged.

Many brides that I’ve worked with insist on purchasing cakes from grocery stores. Grocery store may be full of preservatives and not made with the finest ingredients or from scratch, but they’re decent looking cakes. The problem is that grocery stores may not deliver and set-up. I always remind couples that if they chose to purchase a grocery store cake, they’ll probably need to take on the stress, time and bother of safely transporting a wedding cake. Do they have a car with a large flat area? Do they have working air conditioning that will need to be on high the entire time the cake is in their car? Do they have a rubber mat to prevent the cake from sliding around? Do they have a friend or family member who has dealt with assembling cakes before? These are things to consider.

Frantic Bride Time

This could also be called “bridezilla time”.There is a lot of pressure and expectation put on the cake designer to meet and often exceed the expectations of the bride. This sometimes requires dropping everything else they’re doing to make the bride happy.

Many bakers build in time into their initial cake costs for this. In an emotional frenzy, brides often panic about last minute details of their wedding cake. Of course any professional baker will deal with a stressed bride calmly and do anything to make her happy. It’s part of what they do. They strive to meet the expectation of wedding perfection. However, calming and appeasing a frantic and emotional bride-to-be is stressful and time consuming.

For more articles and information regarding everything wedding cake: wedding cake designs, wedding cake toppers, and more, visit our site at

At, Maria Binasco offers her wedding planner’s view on wedding cakes, wedding cake toppers, and cake design. After designing events across Northern California for many years, she was intrigued by cake design as an art and wanted to create a forum for brides-to-be to share and learn. Cakes marry the worlds of design and culinary – her two favorite things.

Article from