Every bride-to-be has her checklist of essentials for the big day. The perfect venue, gown, photographer, hairstyle, centerpieces, favors, menu, and gifts for her bridesmaids are just a few items high on the list of any bride’s priorities, whether she’s sharing her special day with only the nearest and dearest family, or celebrating her nuptials with what can feel like the whole world. Any bride hailing from the Steel City, however, knows one of the most tried and true wedding traditions – the Pittsburgh cookie table – completes her checklist!

Wedding Traditions – The Pittsburgh Cookie Table

To many of you, this may seem like a no brainer, while brides not native to Pittsburgh may be scratching their heads thinking, “Cookie table? Why would you have cookies with all that wedding cake?” The cookie table is a tradition, in some form or another, spanning throughout parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Virginia stemming from European immigrants, of primarily Catholic descent. The cookie table has a presence in industrial locations that were inhabited in part by ethnic groups consisting of Italians, and Greeks among other Eastern European immigrants.

Because Pittsburgh is the melting pot that it is, the cookie table has had a sturdy foothold in local culture for generations upon generations, traditionally prepared by the bride-to-be’s close female relatives and sometimes the women of the groom’s family, working together to lovingly bake hundreds, even thousands, of cookies of various styles such as pizzelles, baklava, lady locks, nut cups, buckeyes, thumbprints, biscotti, Italian anise drops, and cherry cheesecake cups.

As traditional as the wedding cookie table is, it can still be made your own in many ways. Some brides now embellish their cookie table with candies of their wedding colors, such as M&Ms and jelly beans. Some cookie tables are made available throughout the day, while others are presented after the meal. On occasion, smaller plates of cookies are placed at each guest table to snack on during the meal before the full cookie table is revealed. Many couples even have the foresight to provide Chinese take-out boxes, or plastic baggies with ribbon so that their guests may take cookies home with them for later, which prevents any cookies from being wasted in the rare event that there are any left over at the end of the celebration.

No one has successfully pinpointed when or where the cookie table originated, though one interesting theory implies that the cookie table grew in popularity in the states during the Great Depression as a way to combat the financial hardship of purchasing a wedding cake, because the burden was distributed among close family.

No matter where it began, it is here to stay in Pittsburgh, embraced as an unquestionable wedding staple, allowing us to indulge in our rich cultural.