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Your cake has got to be your way or the highway. It's got to reflect your personality and the style of your wedding, and it's got to be perfect. 

Before you go crazy looking for the buttercream of your dreams, though, read this expert advice. It will not only save you money, but also ensure your cake isn't over-decorated to death.

"What happens when some people come to see me is they start over-decorating, throwing every color they've ever liked onto the cake. Then it just gets gaudy," says cake designer Michele Page, the owner of Michele's Corner Cakes in Santa Rosa, Calif. "You want the cake to be simplified yet still unique and personal."

Size Matters

The first thing Page tells her wedding clients to do when they come in for a custom cake consultation is to think of the basic logistics. "You should know how big you want the cake to be, and how many people it needs to serve," she says.

It's also much easier to match the cake to the rest of the event décor, rather than the other way around. "I like it when couples have chosen everything before seeing me, then they have their colors firm, their venue firm, and their flowers firm," says cake designer Leslie Poyourow of Fancy Cakes by Leslie in Bethesda, Md. "Some people try and do it with the cake first and they are always unable to focus easily on a design."

Style Details

Knowing what style of wedding you're having, formal, whimsical or casual, for example, will give the designer a helpful starting point. Some couples also find it's often easier to communicate what they don't want on a cake rather than what they do.

Also, be aware of your budget. Some things you can ask for will double your bill immediately, like a non-traditional cake shape or making it extra tall. Details like flowers, embossing, overlays or decals are all time-consuming to add, so they're also expensive.

Customization Without the Cost

Cake designer Lori Ann Blethen in Bridgeton, N.J., who specializes in making sugar flowers for her cakes, suggests flat-out asking for details that are less expensive. "I've had clients who want to see an abundance of sugar flowers used in the design of their wedding cake, but there are sugar flowers that are less intricate and time consuming to create than others," she says. "By simply steering [clients] to incorporate these flowers they can have what they are looking for but still remain within their budget."

For truly inexpensive customization, Page suggests a buttercream monogram. All the experts agree, though, that color is the cheapest way to personalize. "You can match the bridesmaids' dresses, even the floral centerpieces to create a look unique to your wedding," says Page.

Although you don't want the cake to look overdone or gaudy, don't worry about pleasing others. "When you get right down to it, a reception is a party given by the couple in celebration of the wedding day," says Blethen. "This day is about them, so it would be impossible for any cake to be wrong. It is a matter of taste."

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