Wedding Cake Toppers

Weddings have always induced a traditional way of thinking – from the extravagant white dress to the exchanging of vows down to the little figurines topping a stacked pearly cake.  Well, times have changed and so has the wedding cake topper!

Wedding toppers have become a key element of weddings over the years and have a more extensive history than you might imagine.  No wedding is complete without a beautiful and mouthwatering baked delicacy.  The concept of the wedding cake extends back to the ancient Roman Empire.  Cakes were made of whole wheat flour and were not so sweetly lavished. These bread cakes would then be broken, possibly over the bride’s head, and guests would excitedly consume the pieces for good luck.

Wedding cake toppers, or wedding cake ornaments are derived from various cultural traditions. Most significantly the toppers represent a symbol of togetherness for the bride and groom.  Another traditional symbol is the white wedding cake, white being a universal symbol for purity.

In the United States, wedding cake decorations started appearing in middle income and affluent families before the American Civil War.  Cake toppings, ornaments and toppers became even more common in the 1890’s.  At this time the decorations were minimal, often including flowers, bells and small objects associated with the bride and groom.  In the 1920’s, High Society incorporated the use of placing bride and groom figurines on top of wedding cakes, along with all the other frills.

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Once introduced, the popularity of cake topper figurines was fueled by two historical United States events.

First, in 1922 revered etiquette expert and Best-Selling author, Miss Emily Post published that, “The wedding cake is an essential of every wedding reception.”  She elaborated, commenting specifically that, “It is usually in several tiers, beautifully decorated with white icing and topped by small figures of the bride and groom.”

Secondly, American retail giants such as Sears and Roebuck & Company began mass producing and selling the bride and groom wedding cake figurines.  These toppers commonly depicted the bride in a white dress, either with or without a veil, and the groom standing beside her in a tuxedo.  Some were shown holding hands, others under a gazebo, but all in the classic wedding theme.

In a 2006 article entitled “Bride and Groom Wedding Cake Toppers,” author Robert Reed writes about deals on wax toppers advertised in wholesale catalogs in 1924: “The catalog listing offered them as a couple, or in groups of 100 for wedding favors.” Reed also comments on the significance of including cake toppers in the Sears 1927 mail order catalog, stating it included an entire page devoted to wedding cake ornaments.  This anecdote helps illustrate the significance of the toppers at that time.

Wedding cake toppers maintained dominance in the Unites States through the 1950s. The ornaments were a nonperishable piece of the cake that could be kept over years and passed down through families.  However, through the later half of the 20th century toppers declined in popularity, possibly by association of being “old-fashioned.”

Today, many couples continue to embrace the ceremony of a traditional wedding.  However, the modern bride is no longer expected to hold herself to the standards previously associated with weddings.  There is a transition happening, away from the traditional wedding formula, and toward weddings as a celebration of a couples’ individuality.  On track with this trend, cake toppers are becoming more reflective of a wedding’s decorative theme or specific reception style.

With this surge in non-traditional weddings, cake toppers are making a valiant comeback. Available now are toppers that reflect diversity in marriages including: multi-ethnic toppers, same-sex toppers, comical & humorous toppers and toppers that reflect a couples’ hobbies and interests.  Cake toppers are now outlets of self-expression, as opposed to simply being icons of togetherness.

Here at The Stamp & Coin place we’ve embraced the old and new versions of the wedding tradition.  Cake toppers are a wonderful keepsake from any type of wedding, and can make a great conversation piece or even a collectible.  We’d love to see any unique cake toppers you’ve come across, so please feel free to share!

By Clever Cupcakes from Montreal, Canada (Custom Wedding Cake Topper) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Clever Cupcakes from Montreal, Canada (Custom Wedding Cake Topper) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Origin of the Ampersand

 

It’s the character that was taken out of the alphabet – but is still used every day.

The ampersand is mostly used stylistically today; it’s used as a symbol for “and”, but only to save room or for aesthetic reasons.

But the ampersand used to be much more common. Where did this strange symbol originate?

It all traces back to the 1st century A.D. and Roman cursive, where E and T were sometimes formed together as a single symbol. This ligature continued to be used through the years and became more and more stylized.

The modern ampersand that we’re so used to comes from this “et” ligature.

Medieval script

The “et” ligature in Medieval script.

Ever since printing was invented, the ampersand has been used extensively. At first it was simply called “and” or “et” (“Et” is the Latin word for “and”). The symbol had also become part of the Latin alphabet.

It even appeared at the end of the English alphabet as late as the 19th century. This is where it got its name: when children recited the alphabet, the ampersand came right after Z, recited as “and per se and” meaning “and in and of itself”.

This morphed into the abbreviation “ampersand”, which stuck around even after it was dropped from the alphabet.

With the popularity of typography these days, ampersands can be found in signs and other decor all over the place. And now you know where they came from.

 

The evolution of the ampersand.

The evolution of the ampersand.

Hidden Symbolism in Victorian Jewelry

No one loves symbolism like the Victorians loved symbolism.

 

 

In an age of complex manners and rules, Victorians used symbolism to speak a secret language.

Especially when it came to courting, jewelry held its own hidden messages. Men went through complicated processes to court women, closely guarded by their parents and chaperones, and jewelry conveyed more heartfelt messages than he was able to communicate in person.

Queen Victoria, the fashionable queen with more than a little influence on Victorian style, received an engagement ring from Prince Albert in the form of a snake, the symbol of eternity.

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The star symbolizes spirit and guidance in this Victorian star, moon, diamond and pearl necklace.

Sometimes it takes serious contemplation before figuring out the meaning behind a piece of Victorian jewelry.

There are plenty of complex symbols. Jewelry with different types of stones spell out a message as an acronym of the stones’ first letters. For instance, if a ring has a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, another ruby, and a diamond, it spells out “REGARD”. This is one of the most common words in acronym jewelry, and carries a meaning like “with my regards” or “I highly regard you”.

And that’s just the start of the hidden meanings. Symbols abound in Victorian pieces. For instance, if a couple was on their honeymoon, the bride would wear a pin with a crescent moon and flowers. The flowers represented the nectar, or “honey” part of the word “honeymoon”.

290px-Victorian_WomanSome other symbols in Victorian jewelry:
Pearls – Tears
Forget-Me-Nots – Remembrance
Doves – Domesticity
Crowned Heart – Love Triumphant
Butterfly – Soul
Clasped Hands – Friendship, Lasting Love

Do you have any jewelry with hidden symbols? Go here for a comprehensive list of symbol meaning in jewelry, and tell us if you find anything!

5 Classic Cupid Symbols

It’s not even close to Valentine season, but as it turns out, Cupid gives meaning to far more than cheesy cards and boxes of chocolates.

It all starts with the cameo.

Though the most popular cameo style today features the profile of a woman (popularized by Queen Victoria), prior to the Victorian era, numerous other styles and themes appeared on the cameo.

In older times, these images were often thought to have a kind of magic and were often given as a love token. So it makes sense that the most powerful images portrayed Eros, or Cupid, the god of love.

Some say that whatever Cupid holds or does in the image gives a hidden message. Fun Valentine activity: give your significant other a Cupid card, tell them it contains a hidden message, and watch them sweat.

A rare enamel patch box, available here.

A rare enamel patch box showing Cupid riding a lion, available here.

But for those who want to know what Cupid is up to, here’s your handy guide to five classic Cupid symbols:

1. Cupid with a rose means a secret love. Cupid often carries a rose in mythology, which comes from the Roman tradition of hanging a rose over a conference table as a symbol of secrecy. In legend, Cupid gives the god of silence, Harpocrates, a rose so he will keep the secrets of Venus.

2. Cupid riding a lion says love conquers all. This is one of the oldest cameo images, and it has lasted to this day. Cupid is also often shown riding a dolphin, which is possibly a metaphor for Apollo’s love for Daphne.

3. A blindfolded Cupid suggests “love is blind.”

4. Cupid in chains means “love-bound”.

5. Cupid shown with a bow in his hand means he is ready for battle in the war of love.

Bonus symbol: Cupid isn’t always used as a symbol of love. You can find him on pieces of mourning jewelry leaning against an urn or column. When someone is in mourning, people will often ask, “How are you holding up?” So it is with Cupid, literally holding himself up with the urn or column. A sorrowful Cupid is shown pensively standing in a somber pose, with a cameo background of black onyx or another dark material. The piece might also have pearls to represent tears.

Cupid on a Dolphin

Cupid on a Dolphin

Cupid has always been a popular subject of not only cameos, but also of jewelry and various other items. Archaeologists found a 2,000-year-old carving of Cupid in Jerusalem three years ago. The carving shows Cupid with an upside-down torch, possibly symbolizing the fading of life.

Next time you see Cupid on a Valentine’s Day card or a piece of jewelry, consider the picture’s details. They may mean more than you think.

And if you’re given a card with Cupid holding an upside-down torch, somebody doesn’t like you.

Sources:

Valentine’s day

Mythological Messages

2,000-Year-Old Cupid Uncovered