I love old traditional things. When I saw a Victorian wedding charm ceremony that was similar to the pudding cake charms that were hidden in plum pudding at Christmas, I was completely enchanted.
An Old Tradition
Wedding cakes, themselves, date back as early as ancient Roman times, when a cake was broken over the bride’s head as a symbol of good fortune. You can find a fascinating history about wedding cake here at Gastronomica which will walk you through the centuries of some pretty bizarre cake customs. Eating the bridal cake seems to have always been considered to bring blessings.
The wedding cake charms seem to have their earliest documentation during the early 1800s, when charms were hidden inside the cake. The traditional were very similar to the pudding charms that I mentioned earlier:
Each charm has a specific meaning.
The tradition fell mostly out of practice and has recently seen a rebirth, primarily in the South-Eastern region of the US. It’s now considered primarily a “Southern Bride” thing.
How are they used?
During the Victorian period, the charms were baked into the cake.
Today, the charms are attach to a ribbon and placed either under the cake or between layers of the cake by the cake decorator.
Traditionally, there were only a few trinkets used and were awarded to the lucky guest that got the piece in which they were hidden
Today, most brides or grooms want to have one charm for each member of the wedding party (or other specific group). Called a “cake pull,” the chosen members stand around the cake and all pull their charm out at the same time.
Usually, the charms are not assigned to a specific person. However, often there will be distinctions based on the type of guest, such as “male” or “female” and “Ms” or “Mrs” for single or married guest. These can be determined by color of ribbon or sometimes a little envelope or tag is attached to the end of the ribbon.
We separated the adults and children by the type of ribbon attached to the charm. The children’s ribbons are lace daisies, while the adults have silk ribbons with silver script.
There is a lobster claw attachment on them and we have necklaces and bracelets so that the guests have a way to use the memento after the celebration.
How do they get into the cake?
Generally, the cake decorator places them under the cake before the final decoration on the bottom is finished up. Some people also cover them with a bow or decoration after insertion, if the cake decorator won’t add them.
How do I pick charms or where can I get them?
There are a lot of sellers on Etsy or websites dedicated to cake charms. You can also just collect your own to make sure you get what you are looking for in style (which is what I did).
You should follow these guidelines as they will be touching the cake that people eat:
- Sterling silver or food safe pewter
- Ribbon attached securely to the charm
- Provide a guide for your guests to know what their charms mean
- Avoid things like Tibetan silver and metal alloy that you have no idea what is in it, as that might pose a health risk from the content
- A nice option is to offer your guests a way to wear their charm right away, so it doesn’t get lost. Some ideas are bracelets, necklaces, keychains, or wine glass charm clips.
How can I present the charm meanings to my guests?
There are some great ideas for that here.
What do they mean?
Here, we have a lot of debate. Modern peddlers of “cake charms” tend to make them up, so there is no harm in you doing so either. I try to lean toward more traditional meanings or things that feel traditional. At the very least, they should match the overall “vibe” of the charm. Here are some suggestions:
Coin: Prosperity. (traditional)
Ring: You will find your true love or be the next to marry (traditional)
Button: Your days of bachelorhood are over or will have children soon (traditional)
Wishbone: You will have a wish come true (traditional)
Boot: You will travel (traditional)
Thimble: You will remain a bachelor OR The thimble of blessedness (traditional)
Bell: Betrothal (traditional)
Baby Booties or Footprints: a child soon
Anchor: You will find (or have) love that is steady and true.
Key: You will have a secure life
Crown: You will live happily ever after
Star: You will be famous
Four Leaf Clover: Good luck will find you soon.
Bird: A new opportunity will soon present itself.
Guitar: Your home will be in harmony (mostly anyways)
Butterfly: Eternal beauty.
Dog: You will always have at least one loyal friend
Dolphin: You have a playful soul.
Frog Prince: You will have your fairytale (live happily ever after)
Boat: An adventure awaits you
Ladies Shoe: Always at that peak of fashion
Pig: An abundance of the finer things
Music Note: Harmony
Arrow or Heart with Arrow: Romance
Fleur de lys: You will live a life of prosperity.
Lion: You will conquer any problem that you face
Wine Glass: You will get even better with age
Teddybear: You will always be a child at heart
Watering Can: You are a blessing to others
Wishbone: Your greatest wish will come true
Garden trowel: Your work will provide a bountiful harvest
Teapot : You make others feel warm inside
Cross: You will have a life of peace and tranquility
Castle: You will have your happily ever after
Seashell: You will have a life of timeless beauty
Airplane: Travelling awaits
Heart: Blessed with a life full of love
Hammer: Will find a job you enjoy
Mask: Something fun and unexpected will happen
Horse: Free spirited
Cat: You will exhibit extreme cleverness
Owl: You will gain wisdom
Here are some folks who offer premade cake charms: