Considerations When Choosing Your Wedding Venue


When choosing where you want to hold your ceremony and reception there are many things to consider. The first and most important question you will need to answer is how many guests will you have? The number of people in attendance can determine whether or not you your dream venue will accommodate everyone.

Next, can your guests travel? Yes, this is your day, but it is good to also consider your guests. Do a lot of your guests have kids? Do you have older relatives who might not travel well? These are all things to consider when picking your destination. It might be hard for your closest friend with three kids to make it to your Jamaica venue.

Jet Airplane

What is your venue budget? Some locations and venues are much more expensive than others. It is good to know your budget so that you can quickly eliminate those venues that are too expensive.

Do you want a traditional, religious ceremony? If so, this focuses your venues on churches and eliminates some of the other options.

Once you answer these basic questions then you can decide what TYPE of venue you want.

Traditional: Most churches can accommodate hundreds of people. Some religious venues have rules about who is eligible to be married there or about attire, so be sure to inquire about this up front. If you and your fiancé have different religious beliefs, think about having the ceremony at a neutral location, like a reception hall. It’s good to talk early on with both families about your decision.


At a Home: Marrying at your house or a friend’s property lets you share with your guests a place that’s meaningful to you, not to mention you have the comforts of a private home (that you may be very familiar with) on your big day. A home wedding can be more intimate, but also may be pricey. If you have to have everything from china to tables and chairs, etc. this can be more expensive to bring in than some venues where all of these items are already available. On the other hand, if you are having a small wedding and some of the items needed for your big day already exists at the home then you may actually save some money.

Country Club: Country clubs are great for more formal weddings. You can count on a landscaped and clean setting. There’s usually plenty of room for a ceremony and reception at these venues. You would probably not have to worry about tables, chairs and linens either. Jacksonville offers many great locations for this type of venue. For example, the Golf Club of Amelia Island offers the Atlantic Ocean or the 18th fairway as the backdrop for your big day.

: A bride and groom may choose a restaurant wedding because they want to give their guests a fine dining experience. It might also be that was where your first date or proposal took place. A restaurant might not be able to hold hundreds of guests, so this is a good choice for a smaller guest list. This can also more cost effective because the flatware, china, tables, bar (at a cost), and more are available there.

Wedding Reception Restaurant

Beach: The Jacksonville area boasts a beautiful (practically free) outdoor space, so why not take advantage of it for your ceremony? Beaches are beautiful, open, and have plenty of seating room. When considering a beach location know that some parks and beaches impose a time limit and there might be rules about noise levels as well as restrictions for glass bottles and containers.


Hotel: Hotels are very popular for weddings. They have ballrooms, courtyards, and various spaces to use for any size party. Larger hotels typically have an in-house wedding planner, so it is possible that you might save money vs. using an outside wedding planner.


Uncommon Venues: Cookie cutter weddings are no longer the only option. Getting married in a non-traditional location can be more memorable and sometimes more cost effective. If you find a spot that doesn’t often do weddings, you might be able to get a lower price than at a place where weddings are more frequent. Museums, historic estates, zoos, libraries, public gardens are all options for out of the norm wedding venues.


It’s your special day, so make sure to explore all of your wedding venue options!

Choosing Your Wedding Cake Flavors

Wedding Cake
Fuschia, Yellow, and Purple Posies Cake

Remember when you used to go to a wedding and there was no doubt what flavor the cake would be? It was ALWAYS white cake…if the bride wanted to walk on the wild side it might be sour cream pound cake but that was about as varied as it got. There is no more need for boring wedding cake…the choices are as varied as your imagination. You can choose to have a different flavor cake and filling for each tier…and let’s not forget the frosting. But before you go all out with an original concoction like orange cake with mint filling and banana frosting, ask yourself “Will my guests enjoy this?” I once had a bride who wanted a 3 tiered cake and she wanted lemon for all three tiers. Lemon is a pretty distinct flavor that not everyone likes. Her husband to be didn’t like lemon so I really couldn’t figure out why she wanted ALL THREE tiers the same flavor. Maybe she just wanted to show him who was boss right out of the gate.

If you wish to have a sculpted cake rather than a traditional tiered cake be sure to ask your cake designer what flavors/types of cake he/she recommends. Some types of cake are more suitable for sculpting. For example, fruit or nuts added to a cake make it more difficult to get a smooth line. Denser, heavier cakes with a smoother texture are best for carving into specific shapes. They also work well as the base of a multi-tiered cake.

If your baker says you’re good to go with whatever flavor you want, then the only limit is your imagination…and how much you’re willing to consider the tastes of your guests. You could have chocolate, blueberry, lemon, carrot, red velvet, banana, raspberry, coconut, almond, sweet potato, amaretto, rum cake, salted caramel, espresso, orange, lime, pineapple, pina colada, pecan, German chocolate, cheesecake…just to name a few. You can mix it up even more by having a different filling in each layer and different flavored frostings.

With so many choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The best place to start is to ask the baker what his or her specialty is or what are the most popular flavor combinations they’ve done. If any of those suggestions appeal to you, ask for those flavors at your tasting. If not, choose some combinations of your own (for example, bottom layer, red velvet with cream cheese filling, middle layer, vanilla with chocolate filling and top layer blueberry with lemon filling) or ask one or two friends for suggestions. DO NOT ask everyone in your wedding party or your family. Too many opinions just muddy up the process.

The truth is…there’s a reason, vanilla or white cake is the most common…because that’s the flavor that appeals to the most people. So if you’re going to have a multi-tiered cake, you probably should consider having vanilla for at least one layer. That way, all the boring people will have something to eat.

These are the cake flavors we offer at 3 Sisters Chocolate and Bakery:

Almond White Vanilla Butter Pound
Strawberry Coconut Cream Lemon
Pineapple Chocolate Red Velvet
Carrot Rum Kahlua
Marble Orange Dream Grand Marnier

And these are the filling flavors we offer:

Almond Buttercream Strawberry Raspberry
Coconut Cream Cream Cheese Amaretto
Chocolate Chocolate Almond White Chocolate Cream Cheese
Chocolate Mint Chocolate Mocha Cookies and Cream
Chocolate Ganache French Strawberry Cream Key Lime Cream Cheese


Fondant or Buttercream for Your Wedding Cake?

2 Tier Buttercream Wedding Cake with Drape 5 Tier Fondant Wedding Cake Fondant Wedding Cake and Buttercream Wedding Cake


When selecting the design for your wedding cake many brides find it hard to decide between fondant or buttercream. Like most decisions in life, there are definitely pros and cons with both choices.

Fondant is better for sculpted and 3 dimensional cakes with more complicated designs. On the other hand buttercream works well for simple, traditional designs. If you are looking for a very smooth look, then fondant is a better choice as it lends itself to a smoother finish and cleaner lines than buttercream. This also allows for more decorating options like hand painting, pearls, sugar flowers and 3 dimensional objects.

5 Tier Fondant Wedding Cake
Fondant Wedding Cake with Smooth Finish


So, why not simply choose fondant? Well, some people don’t care for the taste of fondant. With that said the taste of fondant can vary significantly. A good, high quality fondant tastes like marshmallows. If you still don’t care for the marshmallow taste, then another option is to simply have your cake designer apply a layer of buttercream underneath the fondant. At 3 Sisters Chocolate and Bakery we actually do this at no extra cost for many of our brides. This actually lets you have the best of both worlds in that you can peel off the fondant (it is quite easy) when serving a cake layer to guests who do not like fondant and still have the buttercream flavor!

2 Tier Buttercream Wedding Cake with Drape
Buttercream Wedding Cake with Fondant Swag


Since Buttercream does have butter as part of its ingredients, it will start to get soft and melt in elevated temperatures. Fondant is unquestionably more structurally sound and can withstand higher temperatures. This is a consideration for an outside, summer wedding. If you want a simple, traditional design and prefer the taste of buttercream, then the buttercream cake is your answer.

When deciding on your wedding cake it all comes down to what you like. After all, it is your special day. Before selecting your wedding cake shop, be sure to taste the cake, fondant, and buttercream. Decide if you want something more simple or more elegant. It’s your wedding so you should get what you want and be happy!

Beachy Wedding Cakes

Oyster Pearl Beach Wedding Cake

Whether you’re having a destination wedding on the beach in Aruba or a land-locked ceremony in Tulsa, Oklahoma you can still have a beach themed wedding that gives everyone that “toes in the water, a__ in the sand” feeling for your reception. The first step in attaining that ambiance is to have a beach themed wedding cake. You can have a formal-ish cake with seashells made from white chocolate or a laid back flamingo and flip-flop cake like this.
Pink Flamingo and Surfboard Beach Wedding Cake


There are many elements of the beach/ocean/sea you can choose to incorporate into your cake design. Seashells are a classic and obvious choice but if you think outside the box you have a multitude of options…surf boards, bubbles, fish, sharks, corals, octopi, waves, sea grass, sea glass, boats, seahorses, pearls, mermaids, dolphins, palm trees, tiki huts, beach chairs, orchids, crabs, sand castles, driftwood, starfish, sea turtles, sting rays, eels, anchors, tropical flowers, and sand….A word about sand…I have a friend who met with her cake designer/baker to discuss her seashell themed cake. My friend wanted to have “something that looks like sand around the base of the cake”. The cake lady said, “Oh, we can’t use REAL sand. I learned that the hard way. It gets all in the cake…you can’t keep it out.” To which I would’ve replied, “Durr…ya think?” and I would’ve promptly ended the meeting and started looking elsewhere. The “sand” should be brown sugar or graham cracker crumbs or some other edible substance. If your baker suggests otherwise or even hints that they learned this from experience, RUN as fast as you can to find someone else. This is common sense. Don’t use real seashells either…all you need is for Aunt Agnes to bite into one and break her front tooth during your reception.
Sea Shell Beach Wedding Cake

Your options for beach themed decor are as endless as the sea (see what I did there?) but in order to keep your cake from being cluttered you should be pick three or four to be the main “characters” and keep any others as smaller “accent” pieces. Or better yet use them throughout the rest of the reception…as table decor, backdrops, wedding favors, candles, etc. and don’t forget the beachy music!

The Budget Bride and The Perfect Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress

Usually, the first thought in a bride-to-be’s head, after saying “Yes! I’ll marry you, you big lug” is the dress. It’s one of the most important aspects of the wedding. The dress can take up a HUGE part of the budget. You don’t have to have a custom-made designer gown to look beautiful on your big day. Here are a few alternatives to the traditional, bridal boutique, store bought gown.

Mom’s dress (if she had one) is a traditional favorite. Most mom’s save their wedding dress in anticipation of one day seeing their daughter walk down the aisle in it. If mom’s dress is out of the question, think about your grandmother, aunts, cousins, friends…anyone you know who has gotten married. If you’re not married to the idea of  a white dress, a vintage prom dress might also work.

Borrowing would be the least expensive way to go but if you can afford it, buying the dress will save you some anxiety. If you own it, you don’t have to worry about the consequences of things like alterations or stains. If the dress is yours you can have it completely redesigned if you’d like. Speaking of alterations…they can be expensive…but they’re still less costly than buying a new dress.

Consignment shops and thrift stores are another alternative. Now the chances of you walking into a Salvation Army and finding the perfect dress in your size right before your wedding are well…not very likely. But if you keep your eyes out over the years (yes, even before you’ve met your Prince Charming) or months preceding your wedding you just might find something that will work with a tweak here and there….and there…and there…and there…and….well, you get the idea.

Craigslist is a great resource for finding just about anything you need so why not look there for a wedding dress? Just be VERY CAREFUL about meeting anyone you don’t know. Take a friend with you or better yet, try to arrange a meeting in a relatively public place. I would rather try the dress on in a restaurant bathroom (you will need a NICE restaurant with a big, clean restroom) than to meet a stranger at their house. Your safety is of the utmost importance.

If you or a relative can sew, this is also an option. If you’re not going to make it yourself, ONLY entrust this job to someone you trust with your life…someone who is reliable and someone with whom you have excellent communication. And be SURE to allow ample time for the person making it to finish the job. No one wants the stress of having a very short timeline for such an important task. This is actually my least favorite option because it has the most potential for disaster (except of course, if you meet a serial killer on Craigslist).

If you MUST have a dress from a traditional bridal boutique, but price is still important, shop sales or outlets and remember, the more details a dress has (ruffles, tucks, beads, handmade lace, embroidery, etc) the more expensive it will be. Look for something simple but elegant and ON SALE!

Lastly, who says your wedding dress has to be a “wedding dress”? Some bridesmaids dresses and mother of the bride dresses come in white or ivory if you’re leaning toward a traditional color. If you don’t want white or ivory, the sky is the limit for you. I once wore a mother of the bride dress when I was the maid of honor in a wedding. It had a very sexy corset top and a mermaid skirt…not very “motherly” at all. And because they aren’t in the “wedding dress” section, they are much more affordable.

The most important thing is to keep an open and creative mind. Think outside the traditional box and see things as they could be instead of how they are.

The Budget Bride – Saving Money on Photography

Black and White Wedding Cake
Black and White Wedding Cake

I think it’s safe to say most of us are not Kardashians who have sponsors duking it out over who gets to pay for our wedding. Most of us have a budget (some larger than others) that we need to stick to and could use all the help we can get when it comes to getting the most bang for our buck.

The first thing to do when planning your budget is to prioritize…what is most important to you? (Besides actually being married to your one and only?And if that’s NOT your top priority maybe you need to rethink things)  Make a list of “Must Haves” and “Wants”. For example, if getting married at the same church your parents got married in is a do or die for you then that goes in the Must Have list. If you think you might, kind of like to have live peacocks roaming around at the reception, that goes in the Want list.

Several wedding blogs I’ve read have said to save money on the photographer by giving all the guests disposable cameras and having them take the pictures. I happen to think this is a supremely bad idea. Why? Because your cousin, Louanne, is going to take a hundred pictures of her brand new baby and that friend of the groom (you know the one…the one who always does the MOST inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times) is going to take pictures of his anatomy or every set of boobies at the reception…even Grandma’s. And if there’s alcohol on the menu, the pictures will become more inappropriate and more blurry as the night wears on. You can give out the disposable cameras but make sure you invite the friend(or friends) who is a great amatuer photographer (and has a great camera). That way, you will be sure to get some more traditional posed pictures as well as great candids. Just make sure you speak to your photog friend ahead of time to discuss which poses you want to make sure you get. If possible, have a computer and a USB cable there so he/she can download the pics before she leaves. That way, you don’t run into “Oh, I just haven’t had time to send them to you yet” and you’re sure to have the photographic evidence that your magical day really was as beautiful as you imagined it.

Real vs Fake

Black and White Rose Cake

Lately there has been a lot of buzz in the wedding industry about fake wedding cakes. For those of you who haven’t heard, a fake wedding cake is a styrofoam wedding cake form covered in fondant used in place of a real one…a “prop”, if you will. The fake can be a stock cake or custom made. They’re usually rented and returned after the event but they can also be bought. The premise of a fake cake is that it saves money by allowing you to have a “wow factor” centerpiece for your reception without the cost of a custom cake. You have the fake on display but guests are served sheet cake. The argument is that sheet cakes are much less expensive than a tiered wedding cake. Sounds feasible, right? Maybe…but before you sign up for the fake there are some things you should consider.

A rental cake can run anywhere from $175 for a plain, white, two-tiered round cake with minimal decoration (icing dots and ribbon) to $750 (and higher) for five tiers with slightly more ornamentation. Then there’s the cost of shipping and handling or delivery. Add to that a damage deposit and the cost of the sheet cakes you’ll be serving your guests. The damage deposit is, of course, to insure the fake is returned in it’s original condition…that no one has mistaken it for a real cake and tried to cut into it, that the florist didn’t poke holes in it or get water spots on it when she put flowers on it, or your Aunt Fanny didn’t fall into it while doing a drunken hokey-pokey. When you add up all the additional charges and the fact that your money will be tied up in a damage deposit for two weeks (or permanently), you may end up spending less buying a real cake from your favorite baker. If your budget is small and you need to save money on the cake, just choose a simple design…the more detailed the cake (real or fake) the more money it will cost.

All in all, it’s your decision. A real cake that you don’t have to worry about once it’s cut and served or a fake that has to be protected, packed and shipped. A real cake that you can cut right in front of your guests and serve to them immediately or a fake that has to be wheeled to the kitchen to be “cut” and the guests can be served the sheet cake. A real cake so you can have the cake cutting ceremony or a fake where a slice of real cake is hidden in a secret compartment for the ceremony. Then there’s also the embarrassment factor to consider if your guests discover the “masterpiece” they’ve been admiring is made of styrofoam.

By the time you add up the extra costs and the aggravation, a fake cake hardly seems like such a bargain after all.


Groom’s Cake Ideas

Boat and Alligators Groom's Cake

These days the Groom’s Cake is becoming a more popular idea at weddings. Approximately 30 to 40% of the wedding cakes we create also include a Groom’s cake.

Let’s face it, the wedding preparation and wedding day is primarily focused on the bride. The beautiful dress, the flowers, the rose pedals and the elaborate wedding cake. The Groom’s Cake is a great way to let your husband-to-be have a little fun with the wedding.

Most of our clients want a Groom’s Cake design that is representative of his favorite hobby.

BBQ Grill Groom's Cake
The Groom’s Cake can be used the night before the wedding at the rehearsal dinner or placed on small, separate table by the wedding cake at the big event.

Africa Groom's Cake


One thing to keep in mind when getting a Groom’s Cake is that you can reduce the size of your wedding cake servings by the size of the Groom’s Cake. For example, if you need 100 servings for your wedding reception, then you don’t need to purchase a 100 serving wedding cake and a Groom’s Cake. Most Groom’s Cakes that we create provide 20 to 30 servings. So, in this example, you could purchase a 70 or 75 serving wedding cake with your Groom’s Cake. This helps reduce your wedding cake costs.


Deer Stand and Dog Hunting Groom's Cake


Of course, there is a little kept secret for bakeries that create wedding cakes….they love to make Groom’s Cakes. The Groom’s Cake is so much fun to make. For the creative artist, there is a lot of fun and personal satisfaction creating Groom’s Cakes that represent so many different interests and hobbies.


PC Laptop Groom's Cake

The design of your Groom’s Cake is only limited by your imagination. Most of the pictures we’ve included on this page are pretty self explanatory of the Groom’s interest. This laptop Groom’s Cake is probably worth providing a little more background. At first glance you might assume the Groom likes computers. Although that’s true, the real story behind this laptop Groom’s Cake is that the Groom and Bride (before they ever met) were participating in a Facebook on-line game. The Groom was purchased by the Bride in the contest. This is how the happy couple met and well, the rest of the story is a big wedding day.If you are looking for a Groom’s Cake in Jacksonville, FL, please give us a call (904.262.9122) at 3 Sisters Chocolate and Bakery.

Wedding Trends for 2013

Wedding trends, by definition, come and go. While you don’t want your wedding to be trendy you do want to follow the fashions of today so as to not be out of date. So, in the spirit of keeping you fashionable and informed here is a list of some of the hottest wedding trends for 2012 and 2013.

– Fussy details = lots of time. Lots of time = lots of money.  Use simple, elegant lines on everything from your gown (think Kate Middleton) to your cake and you’ll  not only save big bucks, you’ll also have your friends and family oooohing and ahhhing over what a classy broad you are.

Lace – This another one we can attribute to Kate. Royal weddings are usually the catalyst for trends and the marriage of Wills and Kate is no different. Just as Lady Diana fanned the flames of passion for big poofy sleeves and mile long trains, Kate’s choice of  wedding gowns has brought a resurgence of Grace Kelly-esque elegance with just a touch of lace….that’s “just a touch” not rows and rows of lace ruffles.
Rustic – Barn weddings are huge right now…yes they’ve been around for a few years but they are still going strong. Why? Because they’re beautiful and un-stuffy.

Retro, Vintage, Antique – I Googled the difference between Retro and Vintage and, apparently there is a lot of debate about that very subject. I’m lumping them together here along with antique because I really don’t care what the difference is. The point is, if your grandma or mother had it at her wedding, it’s back in style now.

Homemade –  If you’re on a tight budget DIY is a good way to save money on things that can be done ahead of time, i.e. most of the non-edible stuff. You can make beautiful aisle markers, table decorations, bunting, favors, centerpieces, etc. It’s probably not a good idea to DIY your wedding dress because, well…sewing is hard. Unless you’ve been doing it for years and have mastered the art, the dress for your big day is no place to start trying to learn. Fresh flowers and the wedding cake must be done as close to the day of the wedding as possible…a time when you will be stressed to the max. Don’t add to that stress by taking on monumental tasks with a short deadline.

Mason Jars
– These go along with the handmade/homemade/rustic thing. Wildflowers in Mason jars, candles in Mason Jars, wedding favors in Mason jars…if you can get it in a Mason jar it usually looks cute…and rustic…and vintage…and retro.

– Casual goes along with all of the above. It’s much easier to DIY a casual wedding than a formal one.

Non-Clone Bridesmaids
– Gone are the days when the bridesmaids all had to march down the aisle in the same Pepto Bismol pink, poofy, taffeta monstrosity. It’s trendy now (and more considerate) to give them some guidelines and let them pick their own dress…because, let’s face it, it sucks big time to spend $300 on a dress you hate. Give your bridesmaids a choice of colors or styles and let them choose something that’s more flattering and that they can wear again (and you can maybe borrow).

Individuality – The biggest trend in weddings for 2013 is…not following trends.  Do what makes you happy. If you’re a pearls and pumps kind of girl, go ahead and have your black tie affair in a cathedral with a five tiered buttercream, pound cake at the recption. If you’re the world’s biggest Twilight fan and it’s your heart’s desire to walk down the aisle to a pastey, white guy covered in body glitter…go for it. (Good luck with that). If you and your hubs-to-be are gothy and you want a black wedding dress and a day of the dead wedding cake, then that’s what you should do. Don’t let anyone try to squeeze you into a box you don’t want to be in.


Wedding Cake Terminology

Before you go for your wedding cake consultation with bakers/cake designers there are a few terms you should familiarize yourself with.  Otherwise, it may seem like your cake designer is speaking a foreign language.
Purple Hibiscus Wedding Cake
Three Tiered, Air Brushed, Fondant Wedding Cake with Dragees and Orchids

Fondant – A type of frosting that can be rolled into sheets and draped.  It gives the cake a smooth molded or sculpted look.

Buttercream – Frosting that is made from…you guessed it…butter and cream…and sugar…and vanilla or some other type of flavoring. Most likely the type of frosting your mom used on your birthday cakes. Not the best choice for outdoor weddings…especially in Florida.

Filling – Used between the layers of a cake. Can be buttercream, ganache, fruit filling, mousse, curd, etc.

Sculpted Cake – The cake is literally carved and sculpted into whatever shape your heart desires and usually covered with fondant

Pig Roast Groom's Cake
Sculpted Roast Pig Cake Covered in Fondant

Tiers – How many “stories” or levels there are on your cake. Not to be confused with layers.  Each tier can have two or more layers with filling in between.

Damask and Coral Wedding Cake
Five Tiered, Wedding Cake with Quilting and Damask Designs

Dragees – Edible sugar balls used to decorate a cake.  Can be the size of bb’s, pearls, marbles or larger, usually covered in silver or gold.

Border – A continuous band of frosting around the edge or base of a cake.  Frequently piped in buttercream.

Ganache – A mixture of chocolate and cream that, in this context, is used as filling or frosting, also known as chocolatey goodness from heaven.

Gum paste – A type of icing that has the consistency of modeling clay. It can be molded to make life-like flowers and figures. When dried, gum paste items can last for years.

Piping – A method of creating a design on a cake using a pastry bag, tips and frosting.

Royal Icing – A hard  icing used to coat cakes, cookies, or pastries.  Can also be used to pipe details onto said cakes, cookies and pastries.

Airbrushing – A technique where a compressed air tool is used to spray edible paint onto a cake.

Hand-Painted – Brushes and edible paints or dyes are used to paint a design onto fondant icing.

Cake Stand – A pedestal of some sort to raise the cake up a level.

Topper – What goes on top of the cake. Can be a traditional porcelain bride and groom, fresh flowers, a crystal monogram, animal figurines or anything else you feel represents the two of you as a couple.
White Pink Red Orchid Wedding CakeWhite Buttercream, Three Tiered Cake, with Ribbon Border, and Orchid Topper Wedding Cake