If you aren’t from New Orleans, you may not have ever heard of cake pulls. Its a tradition that seems to have only lived on from Victorian times in the heart of our timeless city. There are lots of articles online about the history of the Cake Pull. This post is about what cake pulls are, who does them, and how you can incorporate them into your wedding.
Originally, cake pulls were charms on white ribbons inserted into the back of the wedding cake in the icing or into the cake itself. Many variations of this have come up over the years, including long, cascading ribbons, beaded bracelets or necklaces, and even key chains with the charms on the end. Their meanings focused on marriage, family, good luck, and fulfilled wishes. And then there was the one no one wanted….the thimble, which meant you’d be an old maid. I can remember, when I was a young teen, being picked to pull. I felt both honored and scared at the same time. What if I got the thimble? It would be so embarrassing! Luckily, I never got the thimble. But I also never got the true love or next to have a baby and now I’m a child-free, single divorcee. Maybe I can blame the cake…
Now that brides are more mature and independent, the charms and the rules have changed. Many brides choose their charms instead of buying the traditional set, and can decide what the meanings will be for each lucky friend who gets a chance at a pull. Destination and local weddings alike pick symbols of their love for the city like a streetcar, a gas lamp or a fleur de lis, and make up positive fortunes to go with each.
SO, WHAT ARE THE CHARMS? Charms are usually sterling silver and less than 1/2 inch in size. The prices can range from hundreds of dollars on the coveted, local Mignon Faget brand, to less than a dollar a charm at String A Bead. Meanings for the charms are fortunes or well wishes and can be whatever you want them to be for your particular group of women. There are so many charms to choose from! I’ve become quite an expert on making up meanings for seemingly meaningless charms. A crawfish? hmm…. A life of plenty! A martini glass? …Your cup will runneth over!
Here’s is a common list I use a lot:
- The Fleur de Lis = A life of many blessings
- The Streetcar = A life of leisurely travel
- The Gas Lamp = A bright future
- The Crown = A life of great success (or live like a queen)
- The Mardi Gras Mask = Life of mystery and intrigue
- The Clover = You’ll have good luck
- The Jester = A life of filled with Laughter
- The Heart = A life filled with love
HOW MANY? Notice I have 8 charms listed above. This is for practicality as well as for photos. Keep the number of girls under 10. Any more than that won’t fit around the cake. And if you want the pulls to stay in the back, rather than go all the way around the cake, stick to 6 or 8 pulls.
WHO PULLS? You’ll find a lot of articles online that say that the bridal party does the cake pulls, but from my personal experience, that’s not the case. Traditionally, the ladies who pull are single friends or family that are special to the bride or groom but aren’t so close that they would be a bridesmaid. This is a way to recognize these special people without having to extend a bridal party invite. Many times these ladies are high school friends who still mean a lot or a cousin you were close to at one time but may have distanced from as an adult. I’ve even seen the pulls include a stepmother or stepsister. This is not to say that a bridesmaid can’t be a part of the cake pulls, or that you have to choose outside of the bridal party at all. There are many ways to do it and you should choose the one that works the best for you and your friends. Usually everyone is surprised with the list and only the bride, the wedding planner, and the person on the mic know who will be chosen.
WHEN DOES IT HAPPEN? When its time to cut the cake, you’ll do the cake pulls first. An announcement is made for all of the ladies that will pull to come to the cake table and the cake pulls are done before the bride and groom cut the cake.
HOW DOES IT HAPPEN? Each one chooses one ribbon or strand and holds the end to pose for a photo with the bride. The bride stands in the middle and the girls stand on either side, hence the even number for a more balanced picture (if you have an uneven number, the bride can stand at one end with the girls behind her). After the photo, there’s a count to three and they all pull at the same time, creating a great shot of all of the hands in the air with beaming smiles of anticipation and whimsy on their faces. The charms are covered in icing, so its always interesting to see who chooses to stick the charm in their mouth to not waste a morsel of buttercream and who chooses to wipe the charm on a napkin. Once the charms are revealed, the bride reads the fortunes out to them one at a time. The charms become a memento of the evening for those special friends.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? Here are some examples of cake pulls and of ways that they can be inserted into a cake. Use your imagination! There are no rules or etiquette as far as style and placement is concerned. Just remember to tell you photographers what your cake pull plan is, so that they are prepared to get the best shot and use the best angles and lenses.
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