Sarah Gillespie shares some insider tips for getting the best deal on a tight budget
Organising a wedding on a budget does not necessarily mean making massive sacrifices. What it does mean is that you have to up your game when it comes to creativity, research and being supplier-savvy. This is especially important when you are looking for your cake. We spoke to some of Scotland’s top wedding cake suppliers, who gave us some trade secrets for getting the most from every penny.
“Every cake-maker prices their products differently, so shop around for quotes before you settle on one,” advises Lynsey McLaughlin of Custom Cakes by Lynsey (customcakes.biz). Picking a cake company based on price alone isn’t recommended, however. Amateur cake-makers working from home have lower overheads, for example, which means their prices can seem very affordable, but do they have the health-and-safety standards or the reliable reputation of the professionals? You might want to ask to speak to some existing clients and you’ll definitely want to see examples of their work. One benefit of ordering from a larger company is that they will have extra staff who can step in if your cake-maker falls ill or circumstances prevent them from finishing your cake.
COVER ALL BASES
Personal recommendations count for a lot, so ask friends and family for their hot tips. And only consider legitimate suppliers: there is a reason why Choccywoccydoodah cakes cost so much and are so famous – so be wary of anyone offering to make you a similar design for a snippet of the price. Before signing on the dotted line make sure there won’t be any hidden costs – ask what is included in the price and make sure you know if delivery will be extra. Your venue might provide a cake stand and knife but, if not, most cake-makers will supply these if you leave a deposit.
SHE WHO DARES
If there’s an expensive cake company on your wish list, don’t rule them out because you fear they’re beyond your budget. Even the most bespoke designers want to remain competitive and should have a range of lower-priced options – and should be able to work with you and the price range you can afford. “Don’t be shy about telling us your budget and asking what can be done with it. Obviously, less detail means a lower cost – but this doesn’t mean it has to be plain,” says Lynsey McLaughlin.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Any cake-maker worth their salt – or sugar – will recoil in horror at the c-word: cake mix. Make sure you sample some of a potential supplier’s cakes before deciding (it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!). In the style vs. substance debate you need to find an equal balance of both. “There isn’t much point in having a cake that looks great but tastes so bad you can’t eat it. But if the cake is poorly finished, it isn’t going to look good in photographs,” says Dolores King of D Cake Company (dcake-company.co.uk).
You can cut the cost of your cake by opting for one of the more basic options that every cake-maker will offer, but if this isn’t for you there are loads of ways to disguise a plainer cake. “The cost of a cake usually depends on the amount of time spent on decoration – why not go for fresh flowers instead of sugar flowers, or provide a topper of your own?’ suggests Nancy Davidson, owner of Sugar and Spice (sugarandspicetroon.com).
Your florist may be able to offer you a discount on flowers for your cake, but ensure you ask your cake-maker if they have a florist they work with and get a quote from them for comparison.
Braver brides may opt to buy a completely plain cake and decorate it themselves, and there’s tons of great inspiration on blogs and YouTube videos with step-by-step guides.
D Cake Company can provide a undecorated vanilla sponge three-tier cake for £103 which you can collect a few days before the wedding and add your own decorations to. “We also offer three tiers of chocolate for £112 or fruit for £147, but we’re also perfectly happy for brides to mix and match tiers because it’s great to have some variety,”
Good cake-makers have their own tricks to enhance the size of their creations. A two-tier cake can be staged and decorated to look much bigger by using cutting slabs, dummy tiers and tier separators. These can all maximise the impact of a smaller cake, without having to add more tiers and drive the price up. Cakes that are separate tiers that get assembled at the venue are typically much easier to transport than a stacked cake, which is handy if you are considering taking the cake to the venue yourself.
GET ME TO THE CHURCH – IN ONE PIECE!
We asked three cake-makers if brides on a budget should consider transporting the cake to their venue by themselves, and the answer was a unanimous no. “If anything happens to the cake in transit there is no way to fix it, but if we deliver the cake we always have a repair kit with us,” explains Dolores.
“I feel it is fine when it’s no bigger than two tiers, but three tiers and above should be left to someone who is used to transporting cakes – is the stress really worth it to save an extra £10 or £20?” says Lynsey.
Nancy offers this advice: “Find a cake-maker close to your reception venue, as most will deliver free within a certain radius. We don’t charge to deliver cakes to the whole of Ayrshire because we know it is one less stressful thing for you to do before your wedding.”
If your cake-maker is delivering the cake, check they are insured in case the worst happens. If you are arranging the transportation yourself you may want to consider taking out wedding insurance, if you haven’t done so already.
Think of how many weddings you’ve been to. Then think how many pieces of wedding cake you’ve eaten. Does it add up? Thought not. Unless the cake is in lieu of dessert, some guests are far too engrossed in dancing, conversation or – if they are anything like us – rosé wine to notice when it has been cut up, so why not reduce the number of slices you need? This will cut your costs too. Sugar & Spice, for example, encourages clients to order a cake with a tenth fewer portions than guests.
Last but not least, ask your venue staff to cut cake as it is required, and tell the duty manager if you want any tiers kept whole.