Holiday Cheer

So, you’ve made it through summer’s wedding season, and business is picking up for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other fall and winter holidays. But is wedding season really over? As non-traditional weddings continue to gain popularity, Christmas and winter weddings aren’t so unheard of anymore.

“Christmas weddings aren’t quite as popular as the regular wedding season, but we’ll probably still have between three and five weddings a weekend during that time,” says Michelle Schenk, co-owner of Pennsylvania Bakery in Camp Hill, PA. Although weddings during this time mean more work for an already busy season in bakery, Schenk has found with advance planning and good old-fashioned teamwork, Pennsylvania Bakery can take on holiday weddings with little to no hiccups in production.

Planning ahead

As with your wedding business any time of year, getting orders in early is of critical importance to ensure you can give your clients the best possible wedding cake. If you are seeing an uptick in wedding business during the holiday season, start promoting it now, and encouraging brides to schedule consultations as far in advance as possible.

Take advantage of marketing and merchandising to promote your holiday cake business early on, so that winter brides will think of you in advance. Utilize instore signage, place Christmas wedding cakes prominently in your photo galleries (online and instore), and if you attend any bridal expos in late summer or early fall, be sure to highlight that you have these capabilities, as well.

“We usually suggest that our brides get in between three and nine months before their wedding,” Schenk says. “We have some placing orders right now for that time of year.” Be sure to order now any special materials — like ornaments, tinsel or extra glitter you might need for Christmas- or holiday-themed wedding cakes — items that you won’t already be using for decorating other holiday treats. Remember, your suppliers are going to be just as busy as you during the holidays, so get the orders in early.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

It’s already a given that your staff will be working harder during the holidays. But when you’re taking on extra wedding cakes, be sure that you’re working smarter, too. This means you might need to do some reallocating of (human) resources. Identify your staff members who have specific talents that can make the most efficient use of your decorating production time.

“I have one decorator who does a great job making sure wedding cakes are iced, smoothed and stacked, if it’s a stacked cake. I also have a girl who’s great at making flowers. I’m usually the one who does the crazy stuff, like painting and other things,” Schenk says. “So when you combine all these talents together, it’s kind of quick work, if you will.”

Set realistic expectations

In a perfect world, you’ll get all your Christmas wedding orders at the end of summer, and you’ll have all your supplies ordered months in advance, and tasks will be perfectly delegated for seamless holiday-time production.

But behind-the-scenes in bakery is hardly a perfect world. So when you’ve done all the planning and delegating you can do, and that bride still comes in Thanksgiving week and needs a Christmas wedding cake in two weeks, it’s time to start managing expectations.

For starters, you can limit your capabilities for the wedding cake — if she wants hand-formed gumpaste poinsettias, the answer will need to be no. At this point, you’ll want to keep it as simple as possible, and inform the bride up front that you can only provide basic designs. “It’s a shame, because you never really want to do that — you want your bride to have all the options she could possibly have,” Schenk says. “But that’s a busy time of year, and you have to be able to accommodate all your orders.”

That doesn’t mean that you can’t create a beautiful cake with simple accents. For a Christmas- or winter-themed wedding, white-on-white with some silver luster dust can create a striking impression. And if you run into trouble with ordering last-minute supplies, don’t forget to check into local craft stores for decorations.

With a little advanced planning and a lot of strategy, you can take on Christmas wedding cake business and still maintain a semblance of sanity — if not a little bit of cheer.

Joanie Spencer

Wedding libations

Winter weddings provide an opportunity for brides to incorporate a little extra cheer at the reception. Use some of these drink and flavor ideas for inspiration for your cake flavor or design. These signature drinks can also be coordinated to serve with or after the cutting of the cake.

• Peppermint-infused martinis with candy-cane garnish

• Cranberry cosmopolitan

• Champagne cocktails with frozen pear wedges or mint sprigs

• Hot buttered apple cider