Planning Your Cookie Table: A Pittsburgh Wedding Tradition
As a wedding photographer, I’ve attended many different weddings over the years. The number one thing that always remains consistent is the wedding cookie table. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite parts of the reception. As a Pittsburgh native, I was surprised to know that this is really just a Pittsburgh thing.
What is a Pittsburgh Cookie Table?
Just like it sounds – a table FULL of cookies, but it’s so much more than that though. An extravagant display of often handmade cookies. Families and friends prepare months in advance baking and storing (hope you have the freezer space!) all sorts of varieties of cookies for the big wedding day. To many locals, a wedding without a cookie table just does not feel complete.
So, how did this tradition even begin?
I was curious and did some digging to learn how and when exactly the cookie table came to be. It’s said that this tradition originated in Southwestern Pennsylvania by East European, Italian, and Greek immigrants who wanted to bring a taste of their homeland to their new world. In addition, it’s also debated that it grew out of the Depression-era to save money on the cake. Regardless, of where it really came from, it became hugely adapted later-on during the early 1990s.
Therefore, for many locals, preparing the cookie table has become a very crucial part of the wedding experience, as families get together making hundreds (if not thousands) of cookies for the celebration. Family recipes are shared and each cookie is truly made with love. It gives the bakers in your life their moment to shine – making their most prized confections to share.
How many cookies should I make?
This is the million dollar question. One thing I often hear (and have seen this debated) is how many cookies should you prepare for your cookie table. There are a few factors to consider with this answer, so ask yourself – Will you also be serving cake? Will you be offering other desserts like cupcakes, donuts, candy, etc? Do you want your guests to take home cookies too? I think the general rule of thumb is 6-8 cookies per guest. You can plan for less or more depend on the answers to those questions. For my own wedding, I did have a wedding cake and cookie table. We provided take home containers for the cookies (those were part of our wedding favors) and have about 130 guests. We planned for 8 cookies per guest and only had about 4 dozen cookies left over – they went fast!
The Most Popular Cookies for Your Pittsburgh Cookie Table
Because planning out your own cookie table can feel pretty overwhelming, this next part will help you figure out just want kinds of cookies to serve. I’ve gathered a list of the most popular types of cookies I’ve seen over the years. These are in no particular order!
Apricot Crescent Cookies Or Apricot Kolaches
I’ve seen this type quite a bit. These cookies not only taste delicious, but add some diversity to your cookie table. The orange apricot filling adds that subtle pop of color to your display.
Bar Cookies can be made is SOO many different variations – from fruit, to fudge there are plenty of ways to go with this cookie type.
A must-have! Everyone loves chocolate chip and they are sure to be a popular pick among your guests. Plus these can have variations too – think m&ms, macadamias, peanut butter chip – so many options to choose.
Another huge favorite of guests – I swear these are usually the first type to go!
The two most popular Italian cookies I see are the Italian Peach Cookies (which how cute are these?!) and Italian Wedding Cookies – the small powdered-sugar cookies that everyone craves.
These might be my personal favorite on the cookie table! They’re not your typical circle-shaped cookie and add some elegance to your display. Plus, there is always that one person in your family that has the perfect recipe for them – yum yum!
Bonus points if you can make these yourself (I can’t!). These are another great way to add in your wedding colors. I’ve seen both Macaroons and Macarons on the wedding table.
Nut Rolls & Pecan Tassies
Similar in taste, but equally great. Consider adding one of these popular cookies to your table.
Oatmeal Raisin and Oatmeal Chocolate Chip are two crowd pleasers – you cannot go wrong with a classic like oatmeal.
Peanut Butter Blossoms
This is a cookie that I have seen on literally ever single Pittsburgh Cookie Table. You can customize them with colored sugar (there are those wedding colors again) or leave them plain.
These may be one of the most difficult type of cookie to make, but these anise cookies add a unique kind of flavor to the table. Plus, they’re just so…pretty.
Another cookie I have seen on every single cookie table. They can be plain or jazzed up. I absolutely love seeing those customized, royal-icing cut out cookies. Yet another great way to customize your table to your wedding’s theme or color palette.
Last, but certainly not least are Thumbprint Cookies. A very diverse cookie – these can be filled with icing, fudge, or fruit.
Consider also adding in other types of sweets to your table. Confections like donuts, cupcakes, or chocolate make for the sweetest addition.
Chocolates, chocolate dipped fruits or pretzels, and candy are the perfect way to include your wedding colors into your cookie table.
Displaying Your Wedding Cookies
So now you have your cookies made, how do you display them? The biggest thing to keep in mind is no matter how they are displayed, your guests will enjoy them all the same. Ask your venue what their options are for the cookie table display. Most venues have the trays and tiers – and will even plate them for you.
No platters, just cookies
One of the easiest ways to display your cookies – just pile them on to a table. You can add risers underneath your table cloth for depth. When all else fails, just throw them down!
Trays & Tiered Platters
Probably the most popular way to display is by a variation of platters and trays. Add tiered trays to make your display unique. I even like how this couple used a few glass jars to display smaller cookies and candy. Best part about this method is that you can usually find these trays, platters, and jars for sale from past couples. Check out the Facebook market place, or local wedding resale events. Pittsburgh has an incredible resale event called the Pittsburgh Wedding Flea market.
One trend I’ve seen develop over the pandemic, is pre-boxed cookies. A no-fuss way to serve your cookies. You can place all of your boxes on a table for grab-and-go, or consider leaving a box at each place setting for a convenient wedding favor. My only suggestion when doing pre-boxed cookies is to prepare boxes that have nut-free/allergen-free variations for your guests with special dietary needs. This couple used simple stickers with “contains nuts” which I thought was simple and efficient.
Take Home Containers
Take Home cookie containers are an absolute necessity to any cookie table. This will ensure that your guests take home all the cookies you spent countless hours preparing. The one thing you don’t want is to be stuck with hundreds of cookies at the end of your wedding night. Some popular containers are paper bags, window boxes, and foldable take-out containers. Each of which can be customized with your wedding design. You can find lots of options for bakery bags and boxes on Amazon, but my favorite (and cost effective) resource for these is Uline.
Signage on the cookie table is another perfect way to tie in the décor elements from the rest of your wedding. Plus you can add in brief information about the tradition if you have a good amount of out-of-town guests. You can also instruct guests to take some cookies home.
I hope this guide helps and if you’ve already celebrated your wedding day, comment below with your tips or experience about the Wedding Cookie Table. I’d love to hear how you implemented yours into your wedding day!