My Wedding Cake Was a Dessert Potluck — and It Was Awesome

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

Our wedding photographer insisted that we needed a wedding cake, despite our insistence that the very small, non-traditional event didn’t need one. You see, even as a trained pastry professional, I didn’t want to add a cake to my to-do list for our handmade wedding. When our photographer persisted that we’d need something to cut into — he swore we’d regret not having photos of it later — my soon-to-be husband had the perfect solution: Let’s throw a wedding dessert potluck and make other people do the work.

(Image credit: Meghan Splawn)

What a Dessert Potluck Is, and Why You Should Have One

A dessert potluck is as simple as asking family and friends to bring a dessert to share on the wedding day. This solved two dilemmas for our small wedding: it gave us a cake to cut into for posterity, and answers for people who wanted to bring a gift.

I know its cliché, but we really already had everything we needed and we skipped registering for gifts. In fact, we specifically asked for no gifts on the invite. Instead, when several people insisted on bringing something, we either utilized their talents (my best friend’s husband performed the service; my artsy sister arranged the flowers) or asked them to bring a dessert.

We ended up with a sweet spread (pun intended) of everything from pies to brownies, a vegan option, and a simple caramel cake, which we cut into for the photos. The dessert potluck ended up being one of my favorite parts of our wedding because it made it feel like a real coming together of our friends, family, and community — and we didn’t have to bust our budget (or our timeline) on a four-tiered cake we didn’t want.

5 Tips for Planning a Dessert Potluck

1. Assign a specific type of dessert.

Avoid a blanket answer when people ask what to bring by giving a specific type of dessert, like “We really need one more chocolate dessert.” Or ask them to make their specialty, “I love that berry pie you made last summer.” Most people are relieved to have some guidance.

2. Make sure everyone understands how it’ll work.

You may have asked your Aunt Fran to make her famous banana bread, but you certainly don’t expect her to make enough for every guest to get a serving. It’s not like every guest is going to try every dessert. Make sure she knows that — otherwise, your gracious contributors might end up going overboard.

3. Supplement with store-bought (if needed).

Don’t be afraid to order a few supermarket cupcakes or a simple cake round to supplement the potluck — and appease your photographer. Simple is the key here.

4. Have signs and markers on hand.

A few tented pieces of card stock and markers are two must-haves for the table. This way, as guests bring their treats, they can write up a sign, explaining what it is and whether or not it’s, say, nut-free or vegan-friendly.

5. Choose something to cut for the “cake.”

We asked one friend to bring a single-layer cake (she’s famous for her caramel cake recipe), but you can pick a pie, an ice cream cake, or cupcakes for your photo op instead.

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