It really depends on your group.

By Blythe Copeland
December 23, 2019

Your grandmother may insist that the recipe for a memorable wedding is over-ordering on the desserts (and maybe the drinks), but curating the perfect selection of sweet offerings—without taking home a mountain of leftovers—is harder than it sounds. "There is no perfect formula for how much cake to order because so many things can factor into this decision," says Heidi Allison, owner and founder of Sugar Bee Sweets Bakery in Dallas, Texas. "We always joke that you're either going to run out or you'll have leftovers—there's no perfect formula!"

The standard guideline at Allison's bakery is one slice per person—with the assumption that people who eat more will balance out people who don't eat any. But other factors, like when and how you serve the cake and what flavors you choose, can have an impact, too. If you serve the cake later in the evening, after people are full or have started to leave, you may use less; if servers deliver slices to guests at their seat, instead of displaying them on a serve-yourself table, you'll use more. Meanwhile, less adventurous guests may avoid exotic-looking flavors in favor of the classics, which means you could run out of vanilla before tiramisu or strawberry. "Most guests want something they think is 'safe,' so if they aren't sure what is in a cake they may go for something that looks like a white wedding cake flavor," says Allison. "But you will always have guests that love other flavors—so we suggest to our couples that they should pick their favorite."

Related: Dessert Table Ideas from Real Weddings

Wedding cake on its own makes a perfectly appropriate finisher, so you're under no obligation to provide a dessert table, says Allison: "Having something sweet for dessert after the main meal is all that is expected." If you do choose to offer more treats, Allison suggests choosing a variety of pint-sized desserts—like cookies, pudding or parfait shooters, pie tartlets, and cake balls—and planning for two to three pieces per person. "The desserts don't necessarily have to complement each other, because what one person thinks complements a dessert may vary for the next person," she says. "Dessert items that are smaller and easy to pick up and eat while standing and walking around tend to be the most popular and will continue to go throughout the evening."

If you do end up with leftovers—not the worst outcome—Allison recommends serving them during brunch the next day, or storing them for at most a few days in your refrigerator (and yes, this includes your cake: Ask your baker to recreate your top layer for your first anniversary instead of eating slices that have been languishing in your freezer for a year). But whether you choose a simple cake or an elaborate dessert display (or both!), you'll hit the sweet spot if you consider one key factor: What you and your partner like to eat. "We suggest couples serve something that they themselves love when they attend weddings, whether that is traditional wedding cake or a variety of dessert options. This falls into line of 'Treat others the way you like to be treated!'" says Allison. "You can't please everybody, so you should pick what you like—so there aren't any regrets about what you served."

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