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Cookie Tables -- A Wedding Tradition Born in Youngstown

Delicious cookies displayed on a cookie table from a wedding in Youngstown, Ohio.

Delicious cookies displayed on a cookie table from a wedding in Youngstown, Ohio.

A Quick Story

It is a beautiful day and the sun is shining. I am attending a wedding in West Virginia. The birds are singing and love is in the air. The wedding is great and the food delicious. I then get up to get a few cookies from the cookie table

.....but wait.....

I can't find the cookie table.

There is no cookie table!

I then pull myself to reality and remember I am and in the middle West Virginia and cookie tables are a "Youngstown" thing. I am sad.

These nifty little dessert tables are so ingrained into our wedding culture here in Northeast Ohio that the lacking of a cookie table totally blew the experience for me. Yeah, everything else was fine but there was no cookie table. If the same thing would have happened at a wedding in Youngstown, everyone would also be bummed and the bride could even be ridiculed for not having a proper cookie table.

So what the heck is a cookie table?

Question!

More Cookies!

More Cookies!

A Brief History of the Cookie Table

Almost every single wedding you may ever attend in Youngstown will probably have a cookie table. It doesn't matter who the couple getting married is, you'll find kolachi, pizelles, buckeyes from Ohio, lady fingers, and those nifty little tiny cheesecakes with the cherries on top (which by the way are my absolute favorite) displayed in the most maticulous manner, awaiting guests to nibble on them at the guests leisure. The recipe for those mini cheesecakes is included later in the hub.

It is believed that the cookie table started in the Youngstown area because of the heavy amount of immigrants in the city. Different ethnicity's brought their traditions from places like Italy, Greece, Ireland, and Germany and so many other countries. As the years passed by and people attended different types of weddings from these different cultures, the traditions merged together into, what is now truly a tradition that is pretty secluded to the area. Unless someone moves away from Youngstown and carries the tradition with them.

It is believed that cookie tables became very popular during the depression era when there wasn't a lot of money for elaborate wedding cakes. There is also debate on the origins of the cookie table. Some debate it started in Pittsburgh, PA.

Research by the Arms Family Museum of Local History in Youngstown, Ohio discovered the area where cookies tables were found to be most common are northeastern Ohio (ie Youngstown) and western Pennsylvania (ie Pittsburgh). Cookie tables were also well known in West Virginia, Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. States where cookie tables aren't very well known or common are Washington, California, Texas and Nevada.

So I am guessing that the tradition of the cookie table as we know it started in both places. They are only 67 miles away from one another.

Box For Your Cookies

Cookie Table Etiquette

Typically the cookie table is available during the coarse of the entire reception. The fun part of a wedding is getting to eat the sweets first, dinner second. If you would like to invite guests to take cookies home, provide small boxes for your guests to use for transporting the cookies. These little boxes will let people know they are allowed to take cookies home. I remember stuffing some cookies and napkins when I was younger. People are going to take cookies home no matter what so let them now they are welcome to do so with little boxes. This is a great idea if you choose to have an adults only reception. Kids get bummed sometimes if when they don't get to do something so bringing home a treat is a great idea so that they also feel included. The goal is to have all your cookies eaten or taken home so they don't go bad while you are off on your honeymoon. If you do have extra cookies, you can also freeze them. Most cookies freeze well.

Wedding Cookies

A variety of wedding cookies with strawberries.  Adding fresh fruit is a great way to enhance your wedding cookie table.

A variety of wedding cookies with strawberries. Adding fresh fruit is a great way to enhance your wedding cookie table.

Where do all those cookies come from?

Almost every single wedding you may ever attend in Youngstown will probably have a cookie table. It doesn't matter the ethnicity of the couple getting married, you'll find kolachi, pizelles, buckeyes from Ohio, lady fingers, and those nifty little tiny cheesecakes with the cherries on top (which by the way are my absolute favorite). The table consists of cookies from recipes that your family has been baking in their own kitchens for years. Typically, we don't purchase a lot of cookies from outside sources, but you can if not many people in your family back. The tradition is all about saving money. The women in your family step in and bake these little gems, typically it is the bride's family that does the cooking but most people recruit everyone in their family that is a great baker.

Below are some of the recipes from my families recipe box. I have no clue where these have come from or their origins because they are just recipes on cards my family has been using for years. I assume church recipe books and other sources in that category.

Mini Cheesecakes -- My Favorite Wedding Treat

Ingredients

  • 2 packages of cream cheese
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • vanilla wafters
  • 18 cupcake liners
  • pie filling or fresh fruit filling

Instructions

  1. Bring all of the ingredients to room temperature.
  2. Cream the cream cheese and sugar together well.
  3. Add eggs and lemon juice, continue to beat until very smooth.
  4. Line the cupcake pan with the liners and place a wafer in each cup.
  5. Fill each cake cup with the cream cheese mixture and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool and store in the fridge.
  7. Put fruit filling on top of the little cakes when complete.
Three tiered cookie table display featuring lady fingers, earthquake cookies, and kolachi.

Three tiered cookie table display featuring lady fingers, earthquake cookies, and kolachi.

Displaying the Cookies

How you display your cookies depends on how formal your wedding is and how large your wedding is.

Are you having a formal evening affair with cocktails and fancy cheese plates?

I would then suggest placing your cookies on gorgeous silver platters.

Is your wedding more of an informal affair?

Ask your family to bring some of their favorite plates to place the cookies on display. It will give the table a very intimate appearance. But beware, that aunt that doesn't always listen might bring blue plates to a wedding that has no blue int it. It's a risk you take if you decide on this method.

A small wedding shouldn't have a huge cookie table and a huge wedding should have a tiny little cookie table. Adjust according to guests. I like to plan between 3-5 cookies per guest, more if you invite guests to take cookies home in gift boxes.

Have a cookie table story?

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on August 24, 2015:

I have never heard of a cookie table, but I like the idea.

Also like your recipe, will be trying that one out, will make some next time we have a family get together, very interesting article.

Georgia D'Andrea on October 10, 2014:

from Ytown and baked cookies for so many weddings I lost count. Friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers and people I didn't even know

Just because a friend asked. Being of Greek, Italian and Slovak descent my mother had delicious recipes. Love the memories.

Elizabeth Lynn Westbay (author) from United States on October 02, 2014:

I am a Warren, Ohio native :D

Mary Kay on October 01, 2014:

We own two banquet facilities in Niles Ohio and at every wedding we display all the homemade cookies made by the brides and groom family bakers in our cookie/candy room.

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on September 29, 2014:

I am from South Africa and has never heard of a cookie table. It is very interesting and actually a very good idea. We do have desserts displayed on a table for guests to help themselves, but it is not the same.

Jo Berezo on September 27, 2014:

Yes they have the cookie table in Michigan, it depends what nationality

Angela F from Seattle, WA on September 07, 2014:

I didn't know there was an actual cookie table tradition for weddings in Youngstown, but I certainly think it's a great idea, especially to keep reception expenses down.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 07, 2014:

I love the idea of a cookie table and I also love the mini cheesecakes vWe don't use vanilla wafers in our but rather crushes graham crackers that have been mixed with melted bitter.

Karbyn on October 09, 2013:

Great lens! I love cookie swaps, too, especially as an alternate event for valentine's day for all the single folks to enjoy together.

Rhonda Lytle from Deep in the heart of Dixie on August 17, 2013:

What a neat tradition and who doesn't love cookies?!

anonymous on July 23, 2013:

i love cookies!! yum yum my fav table

DebMartin on July 21, 2013:

My Grandmother was from Ohio and the best cookie maker I ever met. Your photos took me back to days in her kitchen. So many varieties just because, no special occasion.

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on July 21, 2013:

I just love hitting the wedding dessert table and the cookies are always my first pick :)

Michey LM on July 18, 2013:

I think it is a great tradition, which we don't have it, but we can adopt...

amosvee on July 16, 2013:

I don't think this tradition has made its way to Michigan, but I hope it does! I love it!

Sundaycoffee on July 11, 2013:

Oh, I love these recipes!

A cookie table is a great idea not only at weddings, but at random parties / family gatherings too. Thanks for sharing.

KimGiancaterino on July 10, 2013:

We did a sugar cookie bouquet and a huge platter of Italian cookies for my parents' anniversary party. It was so much easier than cake. We also provided a chocolate fountain, so everyone was happy.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on July 07, 2013:

I love cookies, so a cookie table at a wedding sounds like a fabulous idea to me, especially when it includes Buckeyes and your other selections! What a wonderful idea for take-home favors, too. Yum!

Lorelei Cohen on July 05, 2013:

I have seen candy tables at weddings and they are gorgeous but I think a cookie table would be even better. I so love cookies and it would be a much simpler and inexpensive way of serving the desserts.

lesliesinclair on June 28, 2013:

This is a new one for me, and I like the idea very much.