In Good Taste: 'Let Us Eat Cake! Please!'
For example, I've always heard a guest should never leave until the couple cuts the cake. But when a wedding becomes a carnival of board games, dress-up and photo booths, am I allowed to make an unobtrusive exit as the festivities drag on? Or must I stay until the bride and groom cut and serve slices of the cake they had specially baked in their own life-sized image? Sincerely, Cake-less in Cornelius
Dear Cakeless: In years gone by, when the wedding cake was as dry and crumby as a boring blind date, Etta Kate would rejoice in your having been forced to miss it. Most young couples were eager to start the honeymoon; thus, the reception was a short and sweet opportunity to share in the pair’s joy, drink a cup of punch, choke down a ghastly square of cake and finally toss some rice at the departing couple.
These days, weddings are a cottage industry that can cost more than a cottage. The food is superb, the drinks are usually alcoholic and flow freely (unless the couple has a cash bar, but that is a column for another time, because one mustn’t charge one’s guests to attend a celebration), and the cake is often a culinary perfection of deliciousness and beauty only surpassed by the bride.
Most long-engaged couples paying a small fortune for this experience are more anxious to engage with their guests than with each other on the wedding night.
But the sticking point is that guests are not supposed to leave until the cake is cut and the bride and groom have ridden off, with or without cans rattling behind the bumper to ward off evil from the fortunate pair as they embark on their life together.
It would be considerate of the couple to ceremoniously cut the cake early. That allows for a gracious exit for those whose intentions were to celebrate the couple, but who did not realize they were committing to an all-night Bacchanal.
In any case, you should feel free to leave when you wish – and do so without a smidgen of guilt. It is not the guest who has failed to observe the long-held etiquette norms of the reception, but the couple, whom we understand want to get the most bang for their buck. Etta Kate is confident they will forgive an early departure, if they even take note of it.
Some of your pain might be from your feet after having had to stand on them for hours waiting for the final bell to ring so you can drag your barking dogs back home. Etta Kate advises those whose desire for escape is exceeded only by their hunger for confections that there are bakeries at many all-night grocery stores you might pass en route home. Bonus: They also sell Epsom salts so you can soak those aching feet.
Etta Kate is the nom de plume of a business consultant who maintains anonymity to protect her clients’ privacy. If you have a question about food and dining etiquette, Etta Kate will be happy to help. You can post your messages in the comments section of this page.