(photo via Glamour)
It’s no secret that my favorite wedding trend of the past few years (and one I would love to see elevated to ‘tradition’ status) is the dessert table. What can I say? I love dessert. I bake. I bake a lot, in fact. And I love things that offer choice to guests.
Just imagine being able to choose whatever flavor of cake you want without regard to anyone else’s preferences because there will be plenty of things for those who don’t like or can’t eat the cake to choose from.
Besides, it’s another fun piece of decor to the room, most of which is provided by the colors, textures, and general delectability of the food on the table top.
But when putting together a dessert table, there are still practical considerations to think about. It’s not just a free for all, and organization matters.
You’ll have to consider, first and foremost, what you can provide and if you’ll be able to get or make enough to go around.
If, like me, you’re a dab hand at baking or candy making, that’s fantastic. But if you’re making enough desserts to feed a couple hundred people, you’re going to need a plan, a budget, and a lot of freezer space. If you don’t bake, or you’d rather not bake for a hundred and fifty hungry guests, or your venue doesn’t allow self-catering… well, you’re going to have to find a vendor you can afford and discuss the matter with that person. They’ll take care of the rest.
But taking it back to the DIY crowd, really consider before you begin how much time you have to devote to the project, and where you’re going to store supplies and finished items until the wedding.
Next you have to consider the practicalities of food that’s going to be left out on a table for several hours. After all, delicious homemade ice cream would be amazingly good at a summer wedding, but only if you have a way to keep it properly frozen. Whipped cream is yummy in the extreme, but it needs to be kept cold, too. You don’t want your dessert table to melt into sludge or become a health hazard shortly after the first dance!
In general, it’s best to stick with things that can be left out safely for several hours. Avoid too many delicate, dairy-based items and don’t dip everything in chocolate if the room will be fairly warm.
Also, think about how things will look together. Do you want a monochromatic look, like this rather spectacular white on white creation by Amy Atlas?
Or a slightly broader range of colors, like this table created by Make Merry?
Think about what sort of serving pieces you’ll need. Do you want them to match? Or would a mix of unmatched pieces be a better fit for your wedding style? And what else will go on the table? At absolute minimum, you’ll probably need a tablecloth to set off the look. Most likely, you’ll need a bit more decoration than that, too. Flowers and/or greenery, photographs in pretty frames, pretty pieces of china… you’re only limited by your imagination and budget.
Make sure you vary the heights of the desserts. You can do this both by the actual sweets chosen (have a three-tier cake, a platter of cookies mounded up as high as they’ll go, or cones full of candy set in a stand alongside flatter items like pies, tarts, or brownies) and by the use of carefully chosen china or forms that raise up some of the platters to another level.
But on a more practical level, you might consider having a small card identifying each sweet and any likely sources of allergic reaction. If you’ve got something gluten-free or vegan or sweetened with agave nectar instead of sugar, certain of your guests may find that information useful. And I’ve been known to vacillate in front of tarts full of jam I can’t immediately identify, lest I find myself with a mouthful of something I really hate. Calligraph the cards or have them done by someone with really pretty handwriting. Just make sure it’s legible, too.
Be certain there are plates, napkins, and any necessary utensils right on hand. That way guests won’t hang back waiting to figure out how to eat the goodies.