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A wedding cake is usually a large cake, iced and elaborately ornamented, which is served to guests at the repast or reception following a wedding. Small pieces are often sent to absent friends. In modern American usage figures of a bride and groom usually top the confectionery edifice, and the bride, assisted by the groom, makes the first cut into the cake. Until recently, pieces of cake in tiny containers were given to unmarried girls to take home in the belief that if the cake was placed under the girl's pillow she would dream of her future husband.
The wedding cake has its origins far back in time. Among many peoples throughout the world the sharing of food by bride and groom is a significant part of the marriage rite. In ancient Greece the eating of a cake of sesame seed meal mixed with honey was the final act of the ritual, and such cakes were distributed among the guests. In Rome the early marriage rite was called confarreatio from the cake of wheat (farreus panis) which the couple first offered to the gods, then ate together.
The serving of cakes was also an important part of the marriage celebration in western Europe. The early cake was a small, unleavened biscuit. With the development of baking technology, the small biscuits evolved into a large bride cake, increasingly rich and elaborately ornamented, but always an essential part of the wedding feast.