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The Tradition of the Pittsburgh Cookie Table

Have you heard of the Pittsburgh Cookie Table? It is usually at weddings, but let's get real...we do them for EVERY event! Weddings, funerals and wakes, graduation parties, showers, and parties/holidays.

If you aren't from Pittsburgh, I am sure you are asking yourself, "what IS a cookie table?"

You may find this weird, but, I have never been to a wedding that didn't have a cookie table. And until well into my adult years, I didn't know that not everyone has cookie tables at their weddings! What??? No cookies? What do you snack on at the reception? The answer was always "we only have a wedding cake." But that's not served till folks are ready to go home. Yes, I was baffled and perplexed to learn this. We look forward to the cookie table!!

For many generations, the cookie table has been a staple at weddings throughout Western Pennsylvania. To those who are not from Pittsburgh, the idea of having a cookie table at a wedding may be baffling. However, “The Cookie Table” is a time honored tradition. And we take it VERY seriously!

Rooted deep in the history of Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Eastern Ohio lies the tradition of the wedding cookie table. To these folks, a wedding without a Cookie Table is like having a wedding without the Bride and Groom – pointless! I'm not even joking! We look forward to getting to the reception hall for the cookies!

The Wedding Cookie Table has strong ethnic and religious ties, linked mainly to European immigrants of Catholic descent – particularly present in industrial areas that housed Italians, Greeks, and other Europeans.

It is believed to have started during the Great Depression when many families could not afford a wedding cake, instead substituting homemade cookies. Traditionally the bride’s immediate family, including mother, grandmothers, aunt, cousins and closest friends spent many months before the wedding baking delicious cookies from scratch. I have yet to see a store bought cookie on a wedding cookie table. It's not that we are too snobbish for packaged cookies, it's more that cookie tables are created by folks who love to bake.

Nowadays the baking is done by both sides of the family. Every cookie made with love and with hopes that the married couple will share in as many happy years as there are dozens of cookies at the wedding. (and there are always many many dozens of cookies!)

This tradition has long been practiced by the various cultures which have migrated to Pittsburgh over the decades, including the Italian, German, Irish, Slovak, and other Eastern European cultures. At the traditional Pittsburgh Cookie Table you will see various types of cookies, but the most common ones are Pizzelle, Shortbread cookies, biscotti, Buckeyes, Lady Locks (I feel like you HAVE to have these at the wedding cookie table), and chocolate chips just to name a few.

This tradition is important and continues on because it is a labor of love for the newly married couple. I have yet to meet someone who was annoyed that they "had" to bake cookies for a wedding. Friends and relatives usually jump at the chance to bake, some without even being asked. And it always ends up being amazing.

Remember, in Pittsburgh, people don’t wonder, “How was the wedding?” They ask, “How were the cookies?”

The first three photos are from our family cookie tables (a graduation picnic, a 50th Anniversary party, and a 25th Anniversary party). The second set of three photos are from the Facebook page The Wedding Cookie Table Community (credit to them).

And there you have it. The Pittsburgh Wedding Cookie Table! I bet you want a cookie now, huh?

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