Budget-friendly Cakes for Small Weddings: Tips + Tricks!

Surprising ways to save on your wedding cake for a small weddings

Are you having an intimate, at-home wedding and feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of ordering a custom wedding cake? The current average, we hear, is $450 and up, depending on the cake size and how fancy the decorations are. Are you hoping to spend at least some of that amount on other wedding needs instead? We hear you! So we thought we’d put together some helpful tips for keeping the basic cake cost down, plus a few tricks for decorating your cake affordably, but still beautifully!

Tips for Saving on the Cake Itself

have a small cake table so it is congruent with a small cake

Here are some hints for keeping the cost of the cake itself to a minimum:

  1. Keep the cake small. Don’t stress over providing each guest with a huge slice. The important thing is having a lovely “showpiece” for you newlyweds to have pictures taken with. There will surely be other wedding treats for your guests to enjoy.
  2. Start with a store bought cake. Choose from your neighborhood bakery’s selection of standard round, square, or rectangular cakes frosted in basic white, cream, or pastel-tinted icing. This will save you at least half of the cost. Then just decorate away! (see our “tricks” below)
  3. Opt for a “naked cake.” If fear of frosting is what keeps you from baking your own cake, why not give this popular trend a try? Bake 4 or 5 round cake layers in a flavor of your choice. Then simply stack them up with cream or icing spread between layers, plus fresh fruits, nuts, and other goodies mixed in. For a fancy finish, you could pour chocolate or caramel syrup on top to drip down the sides!
  4. Have a “couple’s cake” plus a sheet cake. Here’s a secret borrowed from large banquets or receptions, which you can scale down for a modest wedding, too. The decorated cake is “for show” and for you to keep and enjoy together, while (ssshhh!) the guests are served slices of sheet cake frosted to match the main one.
  5. Set up a cake buffet. How can having a whole selection of cakes be cost-saving, you ask? By calling on the generosity of selected family members and friends to each “gift” you with their most special cake for the occasion. They’ll be just thrilled to show off their baking and decorating talents anyway!

diy wedding cake with minimal decorations

Tricks for Getting “the Look for Less”

Now, for a few tricks on how to pull off a simple-to-special cake transformation without anybody noticing…or minding!

have a cake table but fill it with more elements to create a full look

  1. Decorate with flowers. Pretty blooms are such natural charmers, they make even the plainest of cakes look just lovely. Fresh flowers in season can be surprisingly cheap—and if you can pluck some from your own garden, they’ll be free! For the crafty among you, a cake topper of DIY paper flowers is another pretty option that will cost you next to nothing.
  2. Use pre-made elements as cake decorations. Depending on your wedding theme, items like tiny figurines, seashells, strands of pearls, tea cups, souvenir items, and fun symbols of your hobbies or interests make ideal ready-to-use accents. Even edibles like candy or decorated cookies, plus DIY trimmings such as bunting, fabric bows, or ruffled lace.
  3. Personalize it. The minute you embellish your cake with your monogram, your names, mini framed photos, and the like, it becomes even more special. Your guests won’t even notice if the cake happens to be pretty ordinary otherwise!
  4. Accessorize! Just as in fashion, “accessories” can up the wow factor of the most basic cake. Think striking cake stand, dainty doily liner, beribboned cake slicer, a stack of pretty dessert plates, and a striking themed backdrop!
  5. Don’t have a cake at all! Okay, it’s sort of like cheating. But there are some pretty gorgeous, delicious, and less expensive alternatives to an actual wedding cake that you can consider. A fancy croquembouche, for instance, a tower of donuts, pancakes, waffles, or cupcakes on a tiered stand.

View more details of these styled shoots that feature the above wedding cakes:

Valentine’s Day Sweets Table for Weddings

A “Love is Sweet” Bridal Shower Theme

A Champagne and Sweets Themed Bridal Shower

Here are some more tips you may be surprised to discover:

  1. Have a small cake table so it is congruent with a small wedding cake.
  2. Use store-bought cake mixes to create your cake rather than ordering it from a bakery.
  3. Consider using cake decorating kits with icing and pre-made sugar flowers.
  4. Create a naked wedding cake, which requires less icing. Add your own fresh flowers as accents.
  5. Don’t use expensive icing like fondant! Whip cream, cream cheese icing, and even mascarpone make great substitutes.

Do you have any cake tricks up your wedding-planning sleeve, too? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear them and share them with our readers.

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