Sugar or Fresh Flowers on a Wedding cake? Your Comprehensive Guide of Pros and Cons

I’ve lost count of how many discussions I’ve had over this particular subject, it’s one that gets me so excited yet there’s a lot to explain that I felt the need for this blog post, to help you on your wedding planning journey. I hope you find it useful!

Do I want fresh or sugar flowers on my wedding cake?

First of all, let’s stress that there isn’t a right or wrong answer here, you are 100% encouraged to read along and make the choice more suited to your circumstances.

I meet couples who know what they want -whether that’s intricate sugar flowers or fresh natural flowers- but I also meet couples who are not sure what would work best for their wedding. If you are in the latter group, you are certainly not alone. This pro/con list will help you make a more informative decision as to what to choose for your wedding cake..

A falling cascade of handmade sugar flowers, for a luxury wedding cake

Sugar Flowers – Pros

1. Done right, they’re food safe

Sugar flowers are made of edible materials, except for the parts where there are wires to hold the shape or fabric stamens in the middle, and these parts are safely covered (assuming of course that you choose an experienced wedding cake designer who is trained in food safety).

With sugar flowers, you won’t have to worry about any of the sap secreting poisonous substances on the cake like with some fresh flowers, or be concerned that the stamens are shedding pollen on your clean icing.

2. They conform to the design aesthetic we agree on

Most wedding cake designs that have beautifully curved branches or S shaped flower bouquets are decorated with sugar flowers. That’s because of the wires that allow the pieces to move freely, and the branches to flow exactly where I want them to go, resulting in the dream design you had your heart set on.

3. They’re endlessly customisable

Choose a cake designer who is experienced in making sugar flowers, and they will be able to replicate any flower you love, in any size/style you want. Check their portfolio and start noticing their sugar flowers and how refined they are, that’s usually a good indication of their technique and abilities.

In addition, sugar flowers can be made to match most colour shades, fitting seamlessly within your wedding theme and helping you get the beautifully cohesive wedding look that you aspire for. I absolutely love my Pantone guide and my colour wheel when it comes to mixing colours and finding the perfect shade for your wedding cake.

Do you have gold or silver or a metallic shade as part of your wedding theme? Having painted sugar leaves or berries is a brilliant way of tying that with your flowers on the cake.

A delicately curved sugar flower arrangement makes an impact on this design. Photo by Becky Harley Photography
A mix of blush sugar flowers and gold leaves for this sage, blush and gold themed luxury wedding in Offley Place Country House. Photo by FJS Photography

4. They’re never out of season

Love Peonies but not getting married in the 5 minutes they’re in season? You can have them or pretty much any flower you love at any season, regardless of their availability in the fields. Even if they’re not the same flowers you have in your bouquet or wedding centrepieces, we can match the colour and overall look to make them fit in still, and at the same time have something personal and close to your heart on the cake.

5. A talking point

“These are not real??!” That’s just one of the many comments guests make as they walk around the cake admiring all the little details. According to many of my couples, their guests continue to talk about it throughout the evening, and long after the wedding!

Some sugar flowers are SO realistic with the delicate petals that let the light through, and the beautiful veins that look just like the real thing, leaving guests in disbelief!

A sugar Peony made for a beautiful London wedding.
Handmade sugar Orchid

6. They last forever

Sugar flowers are extremely shelf stable, I have a sugar garden where I keep my favourites. They’re always in bloom no matter the season, meaning that you can keep them for a very long time as a keepsake to remember your beautiful wedding day. You will have to account for high humidity however and make sure they’re not exposed to the elements. A keepsake glass box works great for displaying sugar flowers.

Sugar Flowers – Cons

1. They’re highly technical, therefore costly

We can’t go on without addressing the elephant in the room: cost. The main reason why some couples opt for fresh flowers, is the cost associated with custom made flowers. Most of my couples see the value in sugar flowers and appreciate it’s not a like-for-like comparison, therefore choosing to include them as part of their design, but it’s definitely something to consider.

Why do they cost so much?

A single flower takes anything between an hour to seven hours, sometimes more! If you’ve had a chat with me about cakes before you’ll have known that I use a pricing formula that offers specific price bands that embed the cost of flowers within the design, something that has been extremely popular with my couples.

It’s worth discussing costs with your designer and understanding the value.

A beautiful pink selection of sugar flowers in the making in our Cambridgeshire cake studio
A swirl of intricate sugar flowers, proficiently arranged on this gold and blush wedding cake set up for a beautiful Hertfordshire Wedding

2. They are very delicate/breakable

You should only worry about this if you’re setting up the cake yourself, otherwise your wedding cake designer should be experienced in handling and setting up sugar flowers on your wedding cake safely and securely.

We make many extra petals and leaves in case of any accidental damage in transit, to cover all bases and for your own peace of mind.

3. A proficient cake designer is a MUST

There are so many cake makers out there who are still in the beginning of their cake journey. If you’re picturing your cake with stunning sugar flowers on it, make sure you don’t take a risk choosing an inexperienced cake maker. Ensure they can produce the beautiful flowers you like and that they can SAFELY arrange them on the cake.

Like I said earlier, sugar flowers can have wires, loose tape, cocktail sticks and many other forms of inedible supports, posing a risk if your cake maker is not trained in this. Have a conversation with them, ask them what kind of barrier they’re using to protect the cake and therefore your guests.

A gorgeous sugar flower display for a multicultural wedding held in Hatfield House, The Old Palace.
Highly detailed sugar flowers and foliage climbing a beautiful wedding cake for a Granary Estate Wedding in Cambridgeshire. Notice how they match the centrepieces in the background?

Fresh Flowers – pros

1. They are perfect for the random/relaxed look

If your vision for the wedding flowers translates in loose, messy florals, then fresh flowers are definitely better suited for that role. The foliage especially flows in a very random way that not two cakes are the same. You just can’t beat how liberal they are on a wedding cake!

For this wedding we collaborated with Lorriane from Lorraine Louise Weddings who provided us with these stunning blooms to create this beautiful cake design for our couple.

Lorraine’s website: https://www.lorrainelouiseweddings.co.uk

Fresh flowers by Thatch & Roses for a beautiful wedding cake set up at Chippenham Park, Cambridgeshire.
A beautiful buttercream wedding cake dressed with beautiful fresh flowers at Bassmead Manor Barns in St Neots

2. A simple way of making your wedding cohesive

They’re guaranteed to match your wedding flowers, assuming you get them from the same florist. If you opt for organic flowers especially for the cake then they might not be the perfect match. My personal way of using fresh flowers is by working with your florist and researching the most food-safe option for your cake that fits perfectly within your wedding.

3. They’re an inexpensive way to elevate a simple cake

This is more for couples on a tight budget. You can still order a simple cake from a luxury wedding cake designer, benefiting from their  delicious flavours, and have them dress it with fresh flowers for a smaller cost.

Beautiful fresh blooms by Emily Talula Flowers, arranged by ourselves and photographed by Terri Lori Photo and Film. Bassmead Manor Barns

Fresh Flowers – Cons

1. Food safety

Remember that fresh flowers provided by florists are not grown, prepared or chosen with food safety on mind, simply because it’s not their purpose at a wedding. They meant to go in a beautiful vase, installation, or tied as a bouquet, not placed directly on food. For this reason, flowers may have been sprayed with pesticides, or may have some dirt or insects in them if they’ve been organically grown.

You can of course opt for edible fresh flowers grown in special farms, BUT that is more costly, is not guaranteed to match your flowers, and is a bit limited in choice.

2. Toxic Flowers

If we assume your wedding flowers have been organically grown (these are more expensive), and that they’ve been thoroughly washed, we cannot forget that many popular flowers and foliage are actually poisonous, or an irritant at best. Some of these flowers are Peonies, Anemones, Hydrangeas, Baby’s Breath, and many more.

Check this website to get a better idea of toxic flowers: https://www.proflowers.com/blog/poisonous-flowers

Safely coating the flowers and dressing the cake with them can take between an hour to two hours on average. A lot more for a grand wedding cake with a flower cascade.
This cake was dressed to impress for a beautiful wedding at The Grove.
Photography by Terri and Lori, cakes and vegan wedding cupcakes by Erzulie Cakes. Flowers by Flowers at 58

3. A lot of work is involved in making them safe for your cake

In some cases, the florist or cake designer will not know about this and will innocently dress the cake with them straight away (let’s avoid that). In other cases -which is what I do- your designer will make sure the flowers are clean, the stems are appropriately covered and the back of the flower is not directly touching the cake. Since this still doesn’t offer 100% protection, you will be asked to sign a disclaimer by your designer, that you are aware of the potential risk and accept responsibility.

4. A Cost that is often forgotten

You may look at your cake quote and think of the money saved by opting for fresh flowers, but don’t forget that your florist will charge you for the added cost of cake flowers. Most florists take the time to clean, prepare, wire and tape the flowers to make them safe, resulting in more working hours and therefore more costs to consider. The flowers on this cake below were beautifully prepared for us to use by the team at Flowers at Fifty Eight, they are also growers and were truly professional to work with, I highly recommend them (https://www.flowersat58.com/)

I hope you found this post helpful. As each situation is different, if you have any specific questions feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help.

Nina x

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