As an encore to Susan Cuadrado’s article “Break the Cake” from the May/June 2015 issue of Special Events magazine, I’d like to share some insight about two particular traditions and present day trends in Brazil weddings.
This past July, I attended the wedding of Lia Esposito Roston, who is a partner at a prestigious law firm in São Paulo where my husband works. The majority of the wedding festivities had many familiar elements that you find at traditional weddings; however, there were a few things that I found quite peculiar.
WHERE’S THE CAKE?
I had the chance to sit down with Lia a few weeks after her Big Day to inquire more about the planning process and why she made certain choices that made her wedding celebration memorable for all who attended. As good wedding planners in Brazil are booked well in advance, Lia confirmed a wedding coordinator to manage the tasks for just her wedding day. In organizing most of the event on her own, she actively sought vendors and inspiration from attending wedding trade shows, various online blogs and even Instagram. As I observed the wedding ceremony and dinner party, I noticed that the most traditional element of the wedding--the cake--was missing. When I asked Lia about this, she mentions her love for desserts and said, “I have been to several weddings and I have never eaten a cake at any of the weddings that I went to. It was not something that I thought would be important for my wedding.”
SWEETS, SWEETS AND MORE SWEETS
After skipping the cake, Lia’s alternative included a full dessert buffet with a half dozen options served at an action station. But wait, there’s more!
In addition to the dessert buffet, there was also a lavish grand display table with more than 15 different flavors of doces (Portuguese for "sweets"), which were hand-placed and blossoming out of the center of light-colored parchment paper resembling a flower. (Photo courtesy of Daniela Picoral.)
Most doces can be described and related to the size of typical Valentine’s Day boxed chocolates. I experimented with about 10 flavors that ranged from an exquisite white chocolate lemon grass, milk chocolate hazelnut, Brigadeiro (the "national truffle of Brazil"), and other traditional sweets. Lia visited four different confectioneries in São Paulo that provided her with a box of about 30 different flavors each that she sampled and selected over the period of a few days--with the help of her mom and brothers of course. Much like a cake tasting, this was an important moment for her to ensure that wedding guests would enjoy and appreciate the flavors selected.
STRAYING FROM TRADITION
Lia gathered quotes from a few local bakeries to obtain an artificial cake, but the price of over $500 USD didn’t seem like the right investment for only a few photographs in the wedding album. In straying from tradition, Lia initially recalls, “This was an issue for my family because my mother was really angry with me because I didn’t opt to include a cake.”
Though the wedding cake is a tradition that is highly regarded by the older generations in Brazil, Lia says that she felt the cake would be too much because there was already a large selection of desserts in addition to the display of doces. Further, “It is very traditional at weddings to have many options of desserts,” in Brazil, she notes.
Though Lia didn’t feel that she was missing out on this traditional aspect of her special day, she acknowledged that “it depends on the bride,” and what makes sense for each one. Judging by the excited expressions and comments from guests regarding the variety of desserts and doces, no one seemed to be disappointed with the absence of a traditional wedding cake. Something else for event and wedding planners to note about doces is that the confectionery should also prepare a to-go box for the new bride and groom on their wedding night.
WHAT IS BEM CASADO?
Like most traditional weddings, Brazilian weddings typically include a toast where attendees give best wishes and cheers to the couple. This is occasionally followed by providing departing guests with bem casado. This most important aspect of the wedding and has deep roots in Brazilian wedding customs. Lia stressed that “You cannot miss this in any wedding,” as it represents good luck for the couple. In Brazil, it is completely unheard of to attend a wedding without this special item.
Literally translated from Portuguese as “well married,” this miniature cake is filled with dulce de leche. It is delicately wrapped in cellophane (to preserve moisture), and then intricately wrapped again in beautiful paper with ribbon and/or flowers of choice. (Photo courtesy of Daniela Picoral.)
This special tradition originates back for centuries to Portugal. Bem casados are made available for all departing guests to take as a memento and to bring luck and prosperity to the newlywed couple. Additionally, it is customary that the confectionery supplies a to-go box of bem casados for the couple either to take with them immediately upon departure from the wedding party, or to have delivered to the hotel room immediately afterwards. Lia and her husband finished these delicious treats within a few days on their honeymoon. (>Photo of bem casado table courtesy of Daniela Picoral.
Also, it is important to note that a box should be made available or delivered to the mother of the bride and mother of the groom as well. In Brazil, Conceição is the prominent supplier of bem casado; however, outside of Brazil there are a few bakeries in the United States that produce bem casado for Brazilian weddings that can be located and ordered online for delivery.
So, next time when you are working with a client that wants to either scrap the cake or wants something totally unique for their wedding than what mom or grandma had, be sure to think of Lia and what other brides are doing nowadays in Brazil. And don’t forget the bem casado!
Photos courtesy of Daniela Picoral Fotografia, São Paulo.
Brandon Lindley, CMP, CSEP, CPCE, currently resides in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is completing his masters of hospitality administration at the University of Nevada Las Vegas through distance education. He has 11 years of hospitality and event planning experience from both Marriott Hotels and The Venetian Resort and Casino, Las Vegas. He enjoys the beach, cycling, exploring new and favorite restaurants, reading, visiting museums and exhibitions, and on weekends, holding an ice-cold caipirinha in his hand.