Over the last century, weddings in America have gone through plenty of changes. Just look at the shift in: wedding dress styles (I know of one bridal party that wore cowboy hats ... it was the '80s); engagement and wedding bands (rings for men weren't mainstream until World War II, when soldiers began wearing them to remind themselves of family back home); and even vows (according to a recent survey, 67 percent of Americans believe brides should drop the word “obey” from her vows).
But when it comes to their wedding cakes, American couples have been pretty steadfast in their commitment to a classic formula: three-tiered and vanilla.
In a survey of couples who married between 1960 and 2019 conducted by Black Tux, a men’s suit and tuxedo rental company, the top three wedding cake flavors for each decade have been vanilla, followed by yellow and chocolate.
Starting in the 1960s, the go-to cake was vanilla (37.5 percent), locally made (94 percent), three-tiered (65 percent), and less than $100 (56 percent). Interestingly, the '60s looks like the decade with the tallest cakes—more than 23 percent of couples had four tiers or more, including 3 percent who had a whopping seven tiers. Plus, a trailblazing 2 percent of couples bucked tradition to go with funfetti as their cake flavor.
In the 1970s, vanilla was even more popular (45 percent), followed by yellow (18 percent), though by then, approximately 60 percent of couples paid more than $100 for their cakes, including nearly 2 percent who paid $1,000 (that’s about $6,500 in today's value). More than 77 percent went with a tiered wedding cake, of which 72 percent went with the classic three. Only 36 percent of weddings offered desserts besides cake at this point, but cookies were the most popular choice, and would remain the favorite non-cake dessert until at least 2009, the year of the cupcake.
By the 1980s, though nearly half of all couples went for vanilla (48 percent), followed by yellow (15 percent) and chocolate (13 percent), more than a third (35 percent) began incorporating multiple flavors into their cakes. 81 percent went for a tiered cake, including more than 10 percent who got four tiers or more.
Though you can guess the top three flavors for the next decade (hi, still vanilla, yellow, and chocolate), it was in the '90s that the needle began moving, if just the tiniest bit, toward unconventional cake flavors like spice, angel food, and banana (all one percent), strawberry (two percent), and red velvet (three percent). By then, more than a quarter (26 percent) of couples had a single-tiered wedding cake.
Finally, by the 2000s, there was a shift in the cake trinity when chocolate moved to second place (17 percent) after vanilla (a stable 40 percent); red velvet took third at 11 percent, relegating yellow cake to fourth place (9 percent). Elsewhere on the dessert table, cookies (44 percent) and cupcakes (31 percent) supplemented the dessert menu for the 40 percent of couples who offered something beyond cake.
That leads us to the current decade, in which the top three flavors are still vanilla (26 percent), chocolate (20 percent), and red velvet (14 percent). In the modern wedding landscape, yellow cake, once a reliable third-place pick, is requested as much as strawberry (5 percent), while 3 percent went with coconut or “a different fruit flavor.”
While more than half of couples still chose a single cake flavor, 45 percent went with more than one. The 2010s also became the tipping point for desserts besides cake, as more than half of weddings (52 percent) in this decade included cupcakes (53 percent), cookies (36 percent), ice cream (26 percent), and more.
What else? Based on this data, if you happen to be planning or attending a wedding before the decade is up, there’s about a 2 percent chance the cake will cost upwards of $1,000, and about a 1 percent chance that you’ll be biting into a flavor like banana, hummingbird, or lemon.