Congratulations, you're on your countdown to getting hitched. Or if you've not yet set the date, it's on your 'To Do' list. The wedding cake may not be the quickest, easiest task to tick off that list. Having worked with plenty of couples over the years, that allows me to help you make it as pain-free and enjoyable a task as possible, so you end up with a cake you both love.
If you've not yet found a cake maker, you might want to read my earlier blog about wedding fairs. I can recommend these events as a great way to find the cake maker who's right for you.
The appointment with your cake maker
Any decent cake maker will set up an appointment for you to visit their home or premises for a consultation. This visit is where you should be expecting to taste samples of cakes and fillings as well as discussing and agreeing the design.
Ideally, you will have been offered a selection of cake flavours in advance, so you can sample the ones that appeal to you the most. You may want to refer to an earlier blog that talks about cake flavours, you can check it out here. If you're more interested in the look of the cake than the flavour, or you've assumed that wedding cakes always taste dry and boring, this other blog might just make you think again.
Why do some cake makers charge for the cake appointment?
Some cake makers do charge for the appointment, maybe a flat rate of £10, for example, or a charge per person. Usually they will offer to deduct the cost of the appointment from the total cost of your cake if you go ahead with an order.
Some couples shop around and book appointments with a number of cake makers. It takes time and money to run a cake appointment - the time and ingredients to bake the cakes, set up the room, do some research etc. If there's no order, the cake maker may feel entitled to some form of payment as compensation and that's why they make a charge. They may also feel it discourages time-wasters.
Like many other cake makers, I don't charge for appointments. In most cases I've found that the couple are pretty sure before they come to me that I'm going to make their cake. Most have already met me at a wedding fair where they've seen some sample cake designs, tasted a few cakes, and started a conversation about the kind of cake they might want.
They've probably also checked out my website and Facebook page and read some reviews. So they've already done enough research and are comfortable making one cake appointment rather than going to several.
Who should go to the cake appointment?
In my experience, there's no need for a large group to go along. Often couples come to see me on their own or sometimes one partner will come along with a bridesmaid and/or one of the mothers.
My consultation room only has space for three visitors. Make sure you check with your cake maker whether they have a maximum number that they can accommodate for the appointment.
Why it's worth doing some preparation before your appointment
Believe me, putting in the effort before your consultation will save so much time dithering around and will end up with your cake design being something you absolutely love.
It's uncomfortable for everyone in a consultation when a couple clearly have no idea what kind of cake they want and they start feeling pressured into coming up with something just to get the job done and tick the cake off their list.
Your cake maker will love you for contacting them with your ideas before the appointment - the cake maker should also be spending time preparing for the consultation by studying the images you've sent them. Have they created similar cakes before? Do they need any special equipment? Will they have to up their skills and try out something that's new to them?
The value of doing research on cake designs
It really does pay to do some research on how you'd like your cake to look before the appointment with your cake maker. This saves time and allows your cake maker to do some preparation before your visit.
It also helps if you can decide as a couple what you really don't want. There are so many themes or looks nowadays in cake design - elegant, rustic, monotone, marbled, floral etc. - but you might be able to agree quite easily which ones to rule out. Let your cake maker know in advance if possible, or at least at the start of your appointment, this also saves time and steers the cake maker away from anything you're not keen on.
Where to find resources for cake designs
Years ago, cake makers often had a catalogue of designs that they expected you to choose from. However, in my experience, that's less common nowadays and cake makers are now used to couples looking for something that's unique, that might combine looks from a number of different cakes they've seen online.
Here are my top three recommendations for researching cake designs:
Pinterest - like other cake makers, I’ve created several pin boards of wedding cake pictures to help inspire couples, each on a different look - rustic, black and white, floral etc. - I sometimes create custom pin boards for couples to help with their research. You can even create your own pin boards - they're great for all aspects of wedding preparations.
Google - search for 'images' on a specific look like 'black and white wedding cakes', 'vintage wedding cakes' etc.
Wedding cake magazines - not the cheapest way to do research but they might be a good starting point if you're not sure what look to go for. They will often feature the latest trends as well as more conventional looks.
What about linking your cake design to an aspect of the wedding
Your cake maker should be able to take elements from your invitation, your colour scheme etc. and incorporate those into the cake design if that's something you'd like to do.
It's becoming increasingly popular to copy design elements from the wedding dress into the cake design (like the cake below) so you might want to send your cake maker a link to any online photos of the dress if possible from the manufacturer's website, or any pictures you took when you were trying on your dress in the shop.
Do you want your wedding cake to be unique?
Sometimes couples take a picture to their appointment and expect the cake maker to copy it exactly. While it's possible for cake makers to replicate other cake designers' looks, in practice that's not always a good idea. Ask yourself, do you really want your cake to be the same as some other couple's cake?
A good cake maker will probably be reluctant to copy another's design exactly. There is a kind of moral, unwritten code that we don't recreate an exact copy of someone else's design. Certainly, not without permission; some even view it as copyright infringement and in some cases that can lead to legal disputes.
From a selfish point of view, I would say that you're also denying the cake maker the chance to be creative which is part of the reason why they're not only a cake maker but a cake designer too. They may come up with a unique design that's even more amazing than the one you'd set your heart on from another designer.
You might have seen aspects of three different cakes that you like but you're not sure how to pull them together into one cake. Your cake maker will be able to advise you on how best to bring those elements together to make a unique look for you.
What if you've still not found the right 'look' before the appointment?
Like other cake makers, I keep a supply of magazine and wedding cake books in my consultation room - some of them are seriously expensive books from renowned cake designers.
In some consultations, I've been able to provide further design inspirations from these books.
I also have 'tech' set up in my cake room so we can comfortably surf the net for more inspiration if it's needed - I have an iPad linked up via Apple TV so we can view Pinterest, for example, on a larger screen.
Choosing cake flavours
Ideally, the cake maker will have sent you a list of cake flavours and fillings beforehand and asked you to select a number to try so that you can concentrate on the types of flavours that appeal to you. If you want something that's not listed, then just ask, most cake makers can turn their hand to new recipes with no trouble.
Don't turn up after having had a big lunch! Make sure you've got room for some cake samples and you'll enjoy the appointment much more than if you're struggling to eat.
One of my brides brought her two lovely young daughters. They'd all been out for lunch. The girls sat and played together quietly while we were chatting. So far, so good. They lapped up the cake. Then the little one was sick over the table. You want to avoid this!
I tend to find that people only want to taste a small piece of each cake but I always give them an extra portion to enjoy at home and perhaps share with people who weren't at the appointment.
The thorny issue of discussing your cake budget
If you've provisionally budgeted a maximum amount for the cake, it would help the cake maker to know what your limit is. If the design you really want isn't achievable within your budget, the cake maker will need to recommend adjustments to the design that will still give you the right look but at a price that you can afford.
Of course, you may choose to flex another area of the wedding budget to allow you to afford the exact cake that you want, so be prepared to have a rethink on areas that you could change.
If you prefer not to disclose your cake budget, in the belief that the cake maker will probably use it all up in the knowledge that that's an amount you can afford, that, of course, is your choice. Just be prepared for the possibility of a surprise when you eventually get a quote for the price of your design. Hopefully, a good surprise, but it may go the other way.
It's very difficult for you to know how much a design costs, particularly if you've just found pictures online or in magazines, as usually there will be no prices given. Don't assume that because you think that a style looks 'easy' to produce, that means it won't cost a lot. It may involve a technique that takes hours (like ruffles or sugar flowers) and so will cost more than simpler designs. You might want to check out a couple of blogs on the price of wedding cakes to give you an idea of what to expect:
Paying a deposit to confirm your booking
Cake makers will usually expect you to pay some sort of deposit in order to confirm the date for you. You may choose to pay this at your appointment, or even beforehand, if you're happy that you've found the right cake maker for you.
Make sure that you get to see a copy of their terms and conditions and that there is a proper order form with all the details of the cake stated exactly as you agreed at the appointment. The cake maker may also supply you with a computerised design or hand-drawn sketch of your cake. You want to have everything agreed in writing, this will take away any worries that you might have.
Good luck with your research and I hope this information helps you get the most from your wedding cake appointment.
If you find particularly great boards on Pinterest, please send the links to firstname.lastname@example.org, I'm always looking for great resources to send to couples.
If you've got any stories about your appointment, good or bad, then please get in touch, either leave a comment below or write to me at email@example.com . It would be great to hear about your experiences for future blogs.