My Pandemic Pittsburgh Wedding Cookie Table

Our wedding cookie table looks a little different than at a typical wedding.

I have to admit this one was a little tough – having a cookie table at my wedding reception was one of the things I genuinely look forward to experiencing. While I didn’t attend a lot of weddings growing up, cookie tables really came into vogue for my ‘my young adult’ phase of friends’ weddings. Being the singletons and/or non-wedding party friends, we often were seated in the back near the bar. And the cookie table.

Imagine a HUGE table covered with every kind of homemade cookie you can imagine, every fancy version, every precisely decorated family tradition handed down for decades cookie just spread out for you to peruse and enjoy. I usually head for lady locks. They are my favorite.

Cookie tables are a very Pittsburgh tradition. Basically, family and friends bake cookies for weddings. It is a tradition with unknown origins but is assumed to be tied to the Depression and helping the wedded coupled manage costs of entertaining their guests. But it exploded in the 1990’s (just like ‘yinzer’ culture?) as families bolstered tables with cookies made by local great family bakeries. By the 1990s, the cookie table supplemented a still giant wedding cake, not replacing it.

There’s no exact number for amount of cookies at a wedding. Some agree it’s somewhere between six per guest up to one-and-a-half dozen per guest. The world record was set in 2019 in Monongahela, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh). There were 88,425 cookies at the cookie table.

So when you sit by the cookie table, you get a lot of cookies and a lot of opportunity to slip some into my purse, just a few extra because I rarely drank alcohol. So it evened out. Sort of.

When time came for our wedding, we had to cut out many, many traditions and rituals, including a reception, for obvious reasons. We did have wedding cake cupcakes and apple cider in the backyard while standing in the snow.

After we agreed to create a wedding registry, I realized we could still have the really best parts of the cookie table by asking our friends and family (and bakeries?) to send cookies to the Northside Food Pantry. (Scroll down to the bottom of that page for the links.) We set up an Amazon list to do just that – send cookies to the pantry in our neighborhood, the second largest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania serving residents throughout the Northside.

And you’ve been doing that, sending cookies. The food pantry coordinator is posting photos of the deliveries. And that makes me smile as much as watching my singleton friends sneak extra cookies from the back of the banquet hall.

These are dark, lonely times. I don’t regret marrying last week or any moment of that day, except perhaps when I lost track of both the rings and my “bride” mask for a few minutes. But in the days since, I am surprisingly maudlin about the things I never thought I would miss – the ‘normalcies’ of this ritual of wedding activities like cookie tables and sweet cards from friends and even that chicken dinner.

Mostly, I miss being able to celebrate this amazing moment with my friends and neighbors and community. I am so grateful to everyone who has sent us a gift or a note or a card or cookies to the pantry, they do help fill that void between our hearts and yours. Your good wishes are like a virtual cookie table, minus the need for to-go containers.

If you are able to contribute, please do. So many neighbors relying on food pantries these days. All donations are welcome. We encourage you to consider more than cookies, but don’t forget the value a sweet treat can add to a difficult time – it can lift the load, much like the original cookie tables are reputed to have done.

Now where can I find some lady locks?

Pittsburgh Cookie Table Pandemic Pittsburgh Cookie Table Pandemic Pittsburgh Cookie Table Pandemic


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