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Grab the cake - you've pulled

A cake pull, sometimes also known as a ribbon pull, is a New Orleans wedding tradition not unlike the bouquet toss. The bride gathers a number of her single or eligible female friends around the wedding cake. Inserted into the wedding cake are various charms with ribbon tails. After a count of three each of the women pull a ribbon, exposing a charm. The charm is meant to signify the puller’s future.

There are eight classic charms historically used for ribbon pulls, each with its own meaning. The ring (which indicates the next to get married), the horseshoe or the four-leaf clover (signifying good luck), the telephone (offering good news), the anchor (encouraging hope), the heart (indicating impending love), the thimble or the button (revealing the old maid), and the penny (meaning poverty). While these are the charms used most often, a cake pull can have up to twenty different charms for the various single friends of the bride.

The charms are usually inserted into the bottom layer of the cake (after it is baked, but before it is frosted) and are often made of sterling silver so as to be a keepsake for the woman who pulled it. Many brides provide bracelets as gifts for the charm to be worn on.

Occasionally the cake pull takes place at the bridal shower or brunch, but most often it occurs during the wedding reception before the cake is cut. Being chosen to pull a ribbon demonstrates a closeness with the bride or groom and is an honor that extends beyond the bridal party alone. The cake pull is a secular tradition prevalent across all areas of New Orleans and unrelated to any particular religion or ethnicity.

Most people feel it is safe to assume that ribbon pulling is originally a French tradition, like much else in New Orleans, but this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Ribbon or cake pulling was actually brought to America from the United Kingdom. Ribbon pulling has antecedents in English, Irish, and Scottish cultures that date back even as far as the 1600s.

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