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Although wedding trends change over the years, many are rooted in ancient traditions.
Flashmob-style first dances, for example, aren’t too different from the choreographed routines of the 17th century, while the wildflower bouquets of today bear similarities to the herb-filled arrangements carried by medieval brides (allegedly to mask the scent of their body odour).
Then there’s the ‘cake smash’, a practice that may seem like something built for the age of social media, but which actually dates back to ancient Rome.
In times gone by, brides would have barley cake crumbled over their heads to symbolise male dominance and future fertility. Nowadays, however, both the bride and groom smear a slice of freshly-cut cake into each other’s faces to symbolise their playful and fun-loving personalities.
According to Hitched.co.uk’s National Wedding Survey, 79% of couples who married in 2022 included a cake cutting ceremony as part of their big day.
‘As the cake smash traditionally follows the cake cutting,’ says editor Zoe Burke, ‘it’s fair to assume that a fair few newlyweds are still following this time-honoured tradition.’
But it might not be a tradition you want to partake in – however quirky you think it may be – as it’s considered to be a terrible omen among wedding professionals.
On a Reddit thread where industry workers shared their wedding day red flags, one photographer wrote: ‘I swear that all of the couples that have split up have smashed the cake in their significant other’s face.’
A wedding photographer added: ‘I’ve seen this happen a handful of times and all of those relationships that I have kept up with have ended in a divorce,’ while a wedding planner commented: ‘I can tell you this is one of the biggest indicators at the wedding that the couple won’t last.’
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Elite event and wedding planner Lisa Lafferty, who recently organised the nuptials of Selling Sunset star Christine Quinn, echoed their sentiments.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘I always advise my couples to avoid the cake smash at all costs. Not only is it messy, but it’s also not appropriate – especially for the luxury events that my team and I work on.
‘Most often, when guests start cheering you on there is this interesting thing that happens; often the groom’s adrenaline spikes, and they tend to overdo it based on that momentum and cheering of the crowd.
‘This ends up leaving a cakey mess in the bride’s hair, dress and sometimes gown, which can unfortunately ruin the bride’s night.’
There are countless examples of this on TikTok and beyond, with numerous videos of frosting-covered brides walking away after their spouse’s ‘joke’ goes awry.
One woman whose new husband pulled the stunt on their big day even asked for a divorce as a result, telling advice columnist Dear Prudence: ‘I left. Next day I told him we were done.’
The cost and effort that goes into planning a wedding likely factors into why acake smash is so controversial. After all, who wants to spend hours having their makeup done and spend hundreds (if not thousands) on a multi-tiered masterpiece, only to have both destroyed in a matter of seconds?
If you have your heart set on it, Lisa recommends keeping a ‘glam team on standby for touch-ups’ to mitigate the impact on your photos. But there’s more to consider before going ahead with a cake smash.
First and foremost, whether it’s something both partners agree on.
Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist and founder at Private Therapy Clinic, told Metro.co.uk: ‘A cake smash that occurs without mutual agreement or when one partner feels uncomfortable with the act could potentially highlight issues related to control, disrespect, or disregard for boundaries.’
Without prior knowledge of what’s about to go down, someone may feel ‘caught off guard, embarrassed, or even upset if they had different expectations or if the act goes against their personal preferences or values.’
You don’t want to start your marriage off on the wrong foot, so it’s important to chat through the idea and only go ahead with it if your partner offers their enthusiastic consent.
Next, take time to think about everyone else that’s part of your special day.
When Lisa witnessed a cake smash as a guest, she says she ‘was honestly in disbelief that it was happening,’ adding that ‘the groom’s new in-laws were displeased’ at their daughter’s unexpected humiliation.
Will your families and friends find a cake smash funny, or will they awkwardly laugh despite seeing it as a sign of aggression or disrespect in your relationship? If the answer is the latter, it may be better to steer clear, or at the very least tell your nearest and dearest beforehand.
‘Remember that the significance and impact of a cake smash can vary widely depending on the individuals involved and their unique relationship dynamics,’ added Dr Becky.
‘It’s essential to approach these situations with empathy, understanding, and effective communication.’
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Additionally, Amy Jenkin, marketing executive at Lake District Country Hotels, advises telling staff your plans ahead of time.
‘Make the special moment last forever by pre-warning your photographer so you can laugh about it for many years to come,’ she told Metro.co.uk.
‘Your photographer will also be appreciative of the warning so they can protect their expensive equipment, as who knows where cake will end up!’
You may also want to choose alternative activities to make your wedding extra memorable. Amy suggests things like ‘photo booths, magicians, live music, or outdoor games to impress guests,’ along with twists on classics such as ‘replacing confetti with sparklers or bubbles to reduce mess or swapping a groom’s speech for a bride’s speech’.
Most importantly, your wedding should reflect you as a couple, celebrating your love and unique partnership with those you care about most.
If your tastes lean towards the sillier side of life, a mutual smash may just be the icing on the cake of your nuptials. If there’s any hint of negativity in your intentions, though, or if you think things could be misinterpreted, the prank is unlikely to be worth the risk.
‘To make your wedding a beautiful event that people will remember in a good way, focus on creating moments that are beautiful rather than kitschy,’ added Lisa. ‘That’s not what you want your guests to come away with.’
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