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Supreme Court of the United States

Custom Wedding Cake Designs and Floral Art Don't Express a Message? Kate Middleton Might Disagree

October 17, 2017

By: Jared Dobbs

The British royal wedding cake is back in the news: Fox News reports that a slice of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cake will be auctioned off on September 27. Bidding is expected to climb substantially; Business Insider reports that another slice of the cake sold for $10,000 in 2014.

Fiona Cairns, who designed the eight-layer cake for the 2011 wedding ceremony, revealed that Kate Middleton told her to design a wedding cake that would speak through the “language of flowers.” And Fiona did not disappoint—Business Insider notes that 17 different kinds of symbolic flora and 900 sugar-paste flowers adorned the cake.

But let’s not miss the significance of the Duchess’s instructions to the wedding cake designer. The fact that the Duchess wanted a cake that communicates with the “language of flowers” suggests two things:


1. One of the purposes of custom wedding cakes is to speak to their viewers


A wedding cake doesn’t have to be an eight-layer masterpiece in order for it to qualify as artistic expression, because high art isn’t the only kind of art that receives First Amendment protection. Still, the royal wedding cake especially demonstrates the artistic possibilities of custom wedding cakes. The cake, which stood at over three feet tall, took six weeks to construct. The stunning results showcase Fiona’s mastery of the craft—she has training both as a graphic designer and as a pastry chef.

Like Fiona, our client Jack Phillips, who we are defending before the U.S. Supreme Court, also loves putting his artistic skills to work when designing wedding cakes. He wants to make sure that the cake he makes worthily commemorates the wedding. As our opening brief, filed last week with Supreme Court notes: “Although [the couple] and their guests eventually eat it, that happens well after family and friends admire it, the couple takes photos with it, and all witness the cake-cutting celebration. No one pays significant sums for an ornate wedding cake just for its taste.”


2. Floral designs help celebrate the festivities


Kate Middleton specifically wanted a wedding cake adorned with the “language of flowers.” According to Elle, the cake had “17 different types of flowers with individual meanings.” Additionally, Fiona Cairn used a technique called Lambeth piping, “where intricate piping is used to make three dimensional scroll work, leaves, flowers, and other ornaments.”

Thus, while the average onlooker might not recognize Lambeth piping, she should intuitively recognize that the flowers on the cake are hand-crafted art that contribute to the beauty and meaning surrounding the wedding.

Barronelle Stutzman’s longtime customer Rob Ingersoll sure thought so when he asked Barronelle to make the floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding. Unlike Fiona, Barronelle works with actual flowers. Rob and Curt knew that her original floral designs at their wedding would speak to them and their guests; according to them, she was their favorite florist.


Although Barronelle and Jack will serve anyone who comes in their doors, they cannot create art to commemorate all events. Because of their firm convictions about the nature of marriage, they both politely declined to use their artistic talents to celebrate a same-sex wedding.


Flowers and wedding cakes, flowers and wedding cakes—it seems that the Duchess of Cambridge has helped show that Jack and Barronelle are both creative professionals who use their artistic skills to help celebrate their religious view of marriage.

It is wrong to mandate that Jack and Barronelle must set aside their religious convictions to celebrate an event that violates their faith. Rather, let all creative professionals work peacefully in accordance with their conscience.


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Alliance Defending Freedom advocates for your right to freely live out your faith

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