Wedding dessert bars are breaking all the rules with sinful bites and memorable experiences.
Sweet stations began popping up a few years ago as simple, cheap alternatives to traditional wedding cakes. But today, the sky’s the limit. Frosted pastries and chocolate fountains beg wide-eyed guests to help themselves. Some desserts such as cookies and donuts can serve as favors for guests to take home. Dessert bars are often accompanied by a charming sign such as, “Thanks for being so sweet. We’d love for you to take a treat!”
Here are the best wedding dessert bars and tips from the experts:
Gourmet Mega-Milkshake Bar
“Our favorite dessert bar trend for 2018 is the extravagant mega-milkshake. It’s the epitome of a memorable dessert,” said Lesley Smith, a strategist with Ceremony. an all-in-one wedding app.
You’ll need a blender or two with a few key ingredients such as milk and ice cream. It might be best to hire a professional to make these magnificent wonders. Lesley said trendy eateries like Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer serve work-of-art, topping encrusted, foot-high milkshakes. The toppings, such as candy, cookies and cereal, are a game-changer, she added.
Do: Time it out. The last thing you want to serve guests is a soggy, melted milkshake.
Don’t: Give too many options. These types of shakes are like three desserts in one, so coming up with several combos could create chaos for the creator and your wallet. Decide what you love and create one signature milkshake for your big day.
This wedding dessert bar idea may be the most unique one I’ve ever seen! Stefanie Grassley, co-owner of Castello di Ristonchi, said gelato carts are all the rage for weddings in Italy this year. It’s a fun way to bring a little Tuscany to your wedding and a perfect treat for a sunny day, she noted. If you can’t afford to rent an actual gelato cart, she recommends choosing a few flavors of gelato and some of your favorite toppings to make your own.
Do: Hire a professional gelato cart or at least have someone to serve guests. Use small cups and cones. Call flavors cutesy names after memories you have with your fiance. Have plenty of napkins on hand!
Don’t:: Skimp on quantity; gelato leftovers never hurt anybody! Don’t forget to keep it packed in ice while serving and keep it simple with a minimum number of flavors.
Cheesecake Dessert Bar
Kurt and Carrie Anderson are in the process of starting a cheesecake business, Pretty Great Cheesecake. The Minnesota couple recently created a cheesecake dessert bar for a friend’s wedding and were shocked by the enthusiasm of guests.
“When it was time to serve the cheesecake, everyone jumped up from their seats,” she said. “I couldn’t serve the cheesecake fast enough!”
The couple makes all sizes including 4-inch cheesecakes, which are easy for servers and guests to handle. A cheesecake dessert bar can also be a DIY project for ambitious brides and grooms who have faith in their culinary skills!
Do: Keep it simple. The Andersons recommend no more than four flavors. Also, make sure you have someone designated to serve it.
Don’t: Leave the cheesecake out for an extended period. It needs to be kept cold; timing is everything.
Note: Pictured above with the Andersons is culinary expert and TV personality Andrew Zimmern of Bizzare Foods. Zimmern is a friend of the couple and gave thumbs up to their delicious cheesecake!
Italian Cookie Tower
The Italian Cookie Tower is the top pinned dessert for Silver Rose Bakery’s site and Arizona/California wedding and event planner Hurn Events Management. The tempting tower consists of eight types of cookies carefully stacked together and “glued” with precision and skill by using royal icing and patience, according to Hurn Events Management owner Meaghan Hurn.
“Couples constantly ask me for new and exciting ways to show their wedding guests an entertaining time. My suggestions are different depending on the couple, but they always include the cookie tower,” Meaghan said.
Do: When choosing cookies, consider gluten-free, nut-free and even vegan varieties to accommodate all guests. Decorate the tower of cookies with flowers, ribbon or other accents to match your wedding colors. If cookie baking isn’t your specialty, place your order with a bakery or caterer more than two months before your wedding.
Don’t: Start stacking cookies before they are cooled. This will cause them to stick together. If you’re a DIY type person and are expecting more than 100 wedding guests, don’t wait until the last minute. Start baking cookies several days in advance and store them properly to retain freshness.
Candy Apple Dessert Bar
Brittney Davis, wedding coordinator for Hilton Mystic in Connecticut, said candy apple dessert bars are popular with multiple variations of apples and dips. They also can double as guest favors! Some brides and grooms add cotton candy machines and popcorn to their candy apple dessert buffets, Brittney added.
Do: Pre-package your candy apples to avoid a sticky mess. Cellophane or cute baggies will do. Mix up the flavors/toppings for the apples so it looks fun. Get creative with signage (everybody loves a good pun!). Offer the apples as favors.
Don’t: Have candy apples if you are planning an outdoor wedding in the dead of summer. Don’t leave the candy apples out during the entire event. And don’t be shy with your offerings. You want people to talk about your amazing display for a long time!
Dessert Fondue Bar
Move over cake, fondue dessert bar coming through! Tasha Bracken of SD Events in Boston, Mass., said the options on a fondue bar allow guests to pick and choose what they’d like to create for their own sweet treat. Popular dips are chocolate, caramel and butterscotch. Yum!
Do: Customize your bar — infuse what the bride and groom love. It feels much more personal that way.
Don’t: Just have one or two options to dip. A fondue bar should have several items such as fruit, pound cake cubes, pretzels and marshmallows.
Pie Pops Buffet
The reinvention of the cake pop as a “pie pop” is a Bold Catering & Design staple in Atlanta, Ga. It’s the comfort of Southern goodness, modernized into a perfectly portioned sweet yet savory dream.
Do: Use a small cookie cutter to give your pie pops uniformity. Brush on egg wash before baking for a golden-brown finish. Consider sticking the pops in mason jars or decorative glassware filled with sugar for presentation. They also can be displayed in a topiary-style using faux boxwood or greenery as a base.
Don’t: Overfill the individual tarts. You and your guests will end up with a gooey mess.
S’mores Dessert Bar
The combination of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate are an American favorite! A s’mores wedding dessert bar is very versatile; it can be as elegant or casual as you want it to be, depending on the accents you use on your table. Here are some dos and don’ts from Peace, Love and Wine, creators of unique dessert bars for all types of events:
Do: Use several different types of chocolate in addition to any non-standard choices like peanut butter cups. Make menus for each guest place setting that let them know the location and significance of your dessert bar.
Don’t: Use scented tea lights as they may give guests a headache and add a funky flavor to the s’mores.
You choose the experience
Wedding dessert bars can be extremely detailed or as simple as a table filled with snack-time favorites. Think Twinkies! Libby Rutty, a wedding coordinator for the Madison Beach Hotel, said many couples are forgoing wedding cakes and cupcakes for dessert bars with old-school favorites such as Hostess Cup Cakes, Ring Dings, Funny Bones, Sno Balls, Coffee Cakes and Fruit Pies. Wedding guests know these snacks well and often sneak them out in favor boxes!
General tips for wedding dessert bars
Here are some expert tips to help you plan:
- Create a dessert station that is specific to something you and your fiance love or that is significant to you.
- Make the dessert bar multi-level so guests can easily reach everything and all your goodies are within view.
- Place your desserts on a table cover with accents that match your wedding theme and colors. If you’re on a tight budget, a customized table runner can also add a touch of class.
- Add appropriate lighting to create the effect you want and allow guests to see what is offered.
- Select mini desserts for easier handling. Guests often feel more comfortable grabbing small bites. Estimate three mini-desserts per guest.
- Choose desserts that will add refreshment for your guests. Example, ice cream on a hot, summer day.
Have fun and don’t stress over your unique wedding dessert bar. It’ll be fabulous!
My wedding is fast approaching and we’re in the middle of deciding the menu for the said event. I think your suggestion of adding a Gelato cart would be awesome. Apart from this idea, I would also like to add popcorn with various flavor selection on my dessert bar.
Hi Rachel! Thanks for your comment. I think both of those ideas are awesome and would be much-appreciated by your guests. Just an idea … if you add popcorn to your dessert bar, you might want to also add customized paper bags for guests to scoop it into. You can have them printed with your names, wedding date or monogram or whatever you’d like. They are really cute and quite inexpensive. They also help keep the flow of your wedding theme throughout.
Let me know if you have any questions. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.