The Southern Wedding Tradition of Cake Pulls

Updated March 7, 2019
cake with pearl charm pulls

A traditional Southern wedding won't be complete unless you've got cake pulls. The charming practice will add that little bit of Southern flavor to even the cake cutting ceremony.

History of the Traditional Cake Pull

Wedding cake charms date back to Victorian times. They were typically made of silver with ribbons attached and were placed inside the cake. A precursor to this tradition may have been charms found in "bride cakes" around Yorkshire, where each charm represented various futures for guests.

Classic Cake Pulls

During the reception, bridesmaids and other unmarried attendants pulled the ribbons and charms out of the cake. This little ceremony was called a "cake pull" or "ribbon pulling" and it is still practiced today, particularly in the South, like Louisiana.

Today's Pulls

Today, cake pulls aren't just limited to the attendants. Children, parents of the bride and groom, and other guests can all gather around the cake. The ribbons are fanned out, and before the cake is cut, guests pull the ribbons out of the cake. Each charm tells a fortune or prediction for the future and is a quaint memento of the wedding celebration.

Adding the Charms

If you want to incorporate the southern wedding cake charms tradition into your cake, you'll need to find a baker who understands how the process is done. The charms are not baked inside the cake. Instead they are hidden either in between the cake layers or under the bottom layer, making insertion and removal fairly simple. Satin ribbons or pearls are are typically used in coordinating colors or a simple white. If you plan on making the cake yourself, this is how to insert the cake pulls:

  1. Bake the cake layers as usual.
  2. Ice the cake all over except for the edging. This will be added after the charms and ribbons are inserted.
  3. Insert the charms between the cake layers or between the bottom layer and the cake tray.
  4. Be sure you insert the charms all around the cake so that the ribbons fan out around the entire perimeter of the cake.
  5. Add the rest of the icing around the edges of the cake.
Cake Pull Charms with White Ribbon
Cake Pull Charms with White Ribbon

Alternatives to the Traditional Pull

This charming tradition is no longer relegated to the actual wedding, either. The tradition has worked its way into wedding showers and bridesmaid's parties as well. You could switch things up at any wedding-related celebration by:

  • Having individual cakes on each table for guests to do their own pull, with the charm as a keepsake.
  • Adding charms below frosting on a cupcake that's packaged for guests to take home. Be sure to include the meaning list on the thank you tag!
  • Making cookies cut to represent the various charms and having them on a dessert bar table.

Charm Meanings

The charms represent a variety of symbols. For example, the trumpet pull meaning relates back to music, although not all meanings are quite as obvious. Depending on the shape of the charm, meanings include:

  • Ring: Upcoming marriage
  • Heart: New love
  • Kite: Fun and leisurely life
  • Fleur-de-lis: Love will blossom, prosperity
  • Four leaf clover: Lucky in life
  • Anchor: Adventure awaits
  • Red bean: Good luck
  • Star: Wish comes true
  • Thimble: Spinsterhood
  • Hot air balloon: A life of travel and adventure
  • Butterfly: Eternal beauty
  • Wreath: Contented life

Different cake charms sets may include different symbols, or brides may even choose individual charms to coordinate with the wedding theme, such as dolphins, anchors, shells, boats, and fish to use for a beach wedding.

After the Cake Pull

What happens to the cake pulls after the ceremony is over? The answer solves the question of what to give the bridesmaids as gifts! Many brides buy charm bracelets or silver bangle bracelets that the charms can be added to. Some wedding guests give the charms back to the bride, and she then adds them to a bracelet of her own, creating another wonderful memory of her special day.

Where to Buy

You can purchase wedding cake charms online, or jewelry stores, bridal boutiques, and specialty bakers in your area may carry them. The following sites specialize in wedding cake charms.

  • Wedding Cake Charms - Lots of great charms selections are found here, along with their meanings. Build your own set or use one of their pre-made groupings.
  • Etsy- Choose from a variety of charms with or without ribbons attached.
  • My Charmed Life - Select from four different sets of pulls, each with a different group meaning.
  • Sterling Trends - Four sets range in thematic elements on this website.

More for Your Guests to Remember

Make your wedding memorable by incorporating fun historical moments like the cake pull. Adding the cake charms tradition to your festivities can be a fun, whimsical way to add even more meaning and entertainment to your wedding reception.

The Southern Wedding Tradition of Cake Pulls