Wedding cakes have come a long way from the pearly tones and delicate petals of old. Brides-to-be have more options than ever, whether they desire a traditional tiered cake or a table-length dessert spread. But the one thing all the experts agree on is the bride should know what she’s looking for.

The biggest obstacle is when brides come in and they have no clue what they want. Bringing in pictures from magazines and sharing Pinterest boards is a huge help to the designer.

Couples should start looking into bakers about four to six months out of the wedding date. The best thing to have when a couple goes for a tasting — besides an empty stomach! — is their budget. The average spend on a cake in 2012 was $560, but certain design work or flavor and filling options can quickly change a sugar high into sticker shock. There are ways of putting accents on the cake without it being the whole, and that will cut down the cost. A lot of times, it looks a lot better and more elegant just to have some accents.

Sharokina Pazand, founder and senior consultant of Citygirl Weddings in Chicago, suggests a “fun” flavor for a small tier of the wedding cake and keeping the rest of the cake to more traditional tastes.

For brides on a budget, smaller traditionally decorated cake accompanied by what is called “side cakes,” which are simpler cakes that are an affordable way to provide a slice for each guest.

A modern dessert trend — in addition to or in lieu of a cake — is a dessert table with a spread of sweet treats like cupcakes, cake pops, brownies or whoopee pies, to name a few.

Have anywhere from three to five items per guest, since people tend to try some of everything.

Many smaller desserts can add up quickly, so fill table jars and vases with storebought candies and cookies, to supplement. Constructed properly, a dessert table gives more options to the guests and allows for creativity. Check with your venue on how long dessert tables can stay out before staff will clear them, as they’re separate from typical cake service.

We have seen cotton candy and gelato bars and desserts themed entirely around golf. But, really, it comes down to what the bride wants.

Any kind of food option they choose is a reflection of them and their wedding. If you were hosting somebody at your house, what would you offer?

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