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Cookie Table

The cookie table seems to be a Pittsburgh tradition. I understand that there are some unwritten rules about a cookie table - one of them being that you never ever put chocolate chip cookies on the table. Can anyone tell me of any other rules???? Can you buy the cookies? Do they have to be baked by relatives? Are they baked by the bride's family or the grooms? Are there cookies that absolutely must be included? Can wedding guests take them home? In boxes or in their handbags???Is a cookie table used only for wedding receptions? Are there any funny stories about what can happen with a cookie table?
Cookie Hound

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  1. All of the above. They are made by friends, family, bakeries, people who do it "on the side" in their homes, some who advertise and some who are "word of mouth." The cookie table at wedding receptions is to be enjoyed at the tables and usually taken home. Sometimes you put you choices on an overfull paper plate and cover it with paper napkins and sometimes styrofoam boxes are set out. I never heard that about chocolate chip cookies, but all I ever do is eat them and take them home for breakfast. It seems that the bigger the family and the more old aunts around who cook and bake, the better the table. The first wedding reception cookie table I actually remember was about 40-43 years ago.

    2 Replies
    1. re: yayadave

      I don't remember any cookie table stories. The fun starts with the bridal dance. The custom in these parts is throw some folding into the bridesmaid's apron, twirl the bride once or twice, and have a shot. The banquet director at the Holiday Inn down in Parkersburg, WV didn't think too much of bringing our own bottles for the bridal dance. Same when we took that custom to the reception at the U of Michigan. Some one called security. By then, the bottles were safely back in their shopping bag and nobody knew nuttin. At a Muslim wedding we recently attended, the caterer poured out the trays of shots. Somehow they worked it out that it was OK.

      1. re: yayadave

        What a hoot!!! Guess there wouldn't be any interest in cookies unless they were rum balls!!!!

    2. I think it's an Italian thing or an East Coast thing. I read an article in the New York Times about someone who grew up in Pennsylvania (not Italian), but had a cookie table at their wedding. My mom and aunts made the cookies for my sisters' weddings, and we made the cookies for my niece's wedding. Chocolate chips are never included. We mostly do delicate cookies like Mexican Wedding Balls, Pignoli cookies, Viennese cookies, fig cookies, pizzelles, biscotti, etc. Wedding guests absolutely can take them home. I had an uncle who always brought a Hefty bag to a wedding and pulled it out of his coat pocket after dinner.

      1 Reply
      1. re: anita7707

        I have heard that if the bride's family makes the cookies that the groom's family always checks them out to see if they are home made and how many are made - it's almost as if the bride's family has to prove themselves!!

      2. I went to a wedding today. The reception was held across the street from Pitt's Cathedral of Learning. Before the dinner, guests were ushered into a large bar/lounge. At one side there was a table of cut up vegetables and cheese trays. The other table was cookies. They were left up the entire time. On the way out, after dinner, I packed up several small parcels. I picked out pizzelles, nut horns, thumbprint cookies, and small lady locks or lady fingers. There were plenty of other choices. For approximately 160 guests at the reception they made and bought a total of 100 dozen cookies.

        11 Replies
        1. re: yayadave

          Were the cookies already packaged? You mentioned parcels. Did the wedding guests help themselves to cookies with their dessert or just as they left?????

          1. re: cookie hound

            The cookies were out on their own cookie table when we entered the bar/lounge for a little happy hour while waiting for access to the dinning room. While we went to dinner, the staff cleaned things up and re-arranged the cookies, but that room adjoined the dining room and the cookies were available through-out. I just made several parcels that would fit my jacket pockets with paper towels. I just used them because they're bigger than those little napkins and hold more cookies.

            1. re: cookie hound

              Been to many Pittsburgh weddings including my own. Some weddings the cookie table is open the same time the appetizers are available and at other weddings they've waited until after dinner to open the cookie table. You snack on the cookies and you take cookies home. There ALWAYS seems to be way way way too many cookies and everyone gets to leave with a generous portion, usually packed away in small hamburger size take away containers. At my wedding there were two large boxes of cookies left over after everyone took cookies home. For the weddings I've been to, the bride's family and the groom's family have both contributed to the cookie table. The cookies are usually made by family and friends and bought from people who bake on the side.

              1. re: Rick

                All the replies so far indicate that taking cookies either to eat at the reception or to take home is a civilized process. But, I remember when I first came to Pittsburgh back in the late 50's we went to a wedding reception where everyone went through the buffet line and then I saw them piling cookies on top of the fried chicken, rigatoni etc. I remember thinking "how gross", so I waited until I'd eaten and then went to get my cookies. Surprise, surprise - they were all gone!!! One of the funniest stories I've been told is how friends of mine when they were teen aged boys (18, 19) would take envelopes, never put anything in them, show them to whoever was at the door so they could get in. They dutifully went to the gift box, put in their empty envelopes and then hiked off to the buffet and the cookie table where they filled their pockets with cookies and left. They never told their parents, of course.

                1. re: cookie hound

                  Nobody knows for certain what the origin of the cookie table was. Not even some food writers at the Post Gazette/Pittsburgh Press could find out for sure. I've never heard of a "chocolate chip problem"...when we have close friends or family getting married, I bake for the weddings as our gift. I have some phenomenal cookie recipes, from a layered apricot one to caaramel tassies and even baklava. I bake dozens of fancy ones but I also make chocolate chip and the best oatmeal raisin you have ever eaten. Never had any complaints, either. BTW, cookie hound, why are you asking for stories? Just wondering...

                  OrigCyn

                  1. re: OrigCyn

                    I always thought it was an Italian tradition. The Italian bakeries in South Philly are still making up gigantic trays of cookies (supplemented with Jordan almonds, of course) for wedding receptions.

                    1. re: Elaine

                      Jordan almonds???? Are they a tradition with Italians? I tend to avoid them because I usually crack the enamel on my teeth when I eat them.
                      I've never seen them on a cookie table - do they put them in dishes or just sprinkle them around on the cookie tray??

                      1. re: cookie hound

                        The almonds are sprinkled in among the cookies. They also used to be big as wedding and bridal shower favors, enclosed in a nylon net pouch tied with a white ribbon, with maybe a tiny spring of fake flowers tied in, too. I think cookie tables are on their way out, though. "Viennese Sweet" tables seem to be making inroads, even at Italian weddings, though I've yet to experience one that has decent goodies.

                        1. re: Elaine

                          What is a Viennese Sweet table? I was recently at a Pittsburgh wedding that had both a cookie table and a dessert table with many many pies, cakes, etc. That was fun!

                          1. re: Rick

                            The sweets are mostly filled cookies and miniature pastries, little bites of cake with overly sweet jam or frosting between the layers. I'm sure no self-respecting native Viennese would be caught dead eating this stuff.

                    2. re: OrigCyn

                      I like learning about the cookies (and yours sound fabulous), but have heard a few stories about competition between families to see which one would come up with the most cookies or the most difficult to make. It';s as if there are unwritten rules governing the cookie table. For example, I was told a number of years ago that any bride who had "store boughten" cookies on the table was in"disgrace".
                      I know that doesn't hold true today. I'm sure that in addition to the unwritten rules that there must have been some funny situations with cookie tables and weddings. I don't think that cookie tables are considered to be important at funeral lunches, but i don't know. My reason for asking is that the few stories that I've heard have intrigued me and I am curious about other stories.

            2. I attended a firehall reception today. It had to be. The bride and groom arrived at the reception from the church in a fire truck. The cookie table was decorated with an ice sculpture of a fireman with fireman's hat and ax. The ice sculpture was lit in red. They said about 300 people replied that they were coming and it looked like more. I tried to get a count of cookies. The two accurate assessments I got were "a ton" and "at least ten thousand cookies." Both families made cookies and they did not buy any and the caterer did not provide any. I know that some guests were at the cookie table before other folks had been through the buffet line the first time. Everybody hit the cookie table more than once. I had a handful at the table and packed up some to take home. At home I found I had 27 cookies of 16 different kinds. I was not rude, greedy, or selfish. There were plenty of cookies on the table when I left.

              I don't know where this idea of a competition comes from. No one said "My family made these and their family made those." They said "We made cookies and they made cookies." The caterer said "The families made the cookies. We just put them out."

              2 Replies
              1. re: yayadave

                I have been asked many times to bake for a cookie table, the mother if the bride generally asks, at least in my case. Sometimes they want a large quantity, and some times they ask for something specific, something special.

                1. re: grapevine

                  Well, as always for a project of that magnitude, many hands make light work. And I can attest that the efforts are appreciated. Maybe being asked attests to your cookie baking skills.

              2. I grew up in New Castle, PA (north of Pittsburgh) and cookie tables were always at weddings. I haven't lived there since I was a junior in high school but we had a cookie table at our first daughter's wedding and will for the 2nd in April. We're having Chinese take-out boxes at the table so people can take some home. We stamped each side so they look cute and it will be more convenient for people to take some home....as people always do. I love the tradition.

                1. Does anybody have pictures of a good cookie table? I need help with knowing how to set it up.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: maryelech

                    There are some great cookie table photos here... if you ask around to Pittsburgh wedding photographers they may have some great shots. It's such a tradition here that people photograph the Cookie Table like it's the wedding cake!!!
                    http://bethkphoto.com/blog/2009/12/16...

                    Many of the cookies shown were baked by Pittsburgh own Cookie Connection. Check them out at www.YourSweetNeeds.com

                  2. i have seen these 'cookie tables' also pop up at high school graduation parties. I have also heard that elaborate graduation parties are a southwestern pa thing. anyone know?

                    i remember doing the rounds of high school graduation parties. lots of rigatoni and fried chicken and stuffed cabbage available. I always bypassed those and went straight for the 'cookie table'. tassies, thumbprints, cheesecake cup things with the cherry, buckeyes, maybe a PB cookie with a hershey kiss - these were all classics..

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: shadysider023

                      I am from New Jersey born and raised. I was looking up something else on the PA board and the title Cookie Table intrigued me so I read the thread. This must be a western PA or PA tradition. I have never before heard of a cookie table or been to a wedding that had one. And I've been to a fair number of weddings.

                      It sounds like something I'd like as who doesn't like cookies?
                      KathyH

                    2. To answer your questions, you may have chocolate chip cookies, especially if there will be children at the wedding. Most people make the cookies, as it's more than a Cookie Table, it's families coming together to say that they approve of the match (or, our family made more cookies than yours did!). Cookies go home on the sly, or in boxes supplied by the bridal couple. I don't think I've ever seen one without pizelles, mini-lady locks, or pecan tassies, but anything can show up. And while this started as an ethnic tradition, most Pittsburgh weddings have a Cookie Table now.

                      As for stories, I went to a Scottish wedding and the colors were purple and black (from the tartan). The lady lock people decided to use purple or black filling in the cookies, instead of white, and they were delicious, but a mess to eat! My WASP parents weren't about to let me have a Cookie Table, providing wine, cheese, and appetizers instead. Of course the marriage didn't last! A few years later, I went to a banquet for a divorce seminar, and lo and behold - a Cookie Table! I turned to the midwestern pastor and asked him if he knew about Cookie Tables, then explained the concept to him. Most of the people there immediately told me that my marriage failed due to the lack of the Cookie Table. I'm getting remarried soon (another WASP!) - and trust me, there will be a Cookie Table!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: BuffyBride

                        Buffy, I understand your WASP parents not providing a cookie table. I had never heard of a cookie table until moving to Pittsburgh. New Englanders just didn't do that!! Loved the story of the purple and black fillings. Parties we attended when living in Toronto that were given by Scottish friends always were the most fun - possibly because they were willing to try something different. I'd like to publish an article about cookie tables someday but suspect that
                        others have written about them. As of last year the tradition continues strongly in wedding receptions in Pittsburgh with the last reception I attended having cookie tables set up in the dining room of the Country Club, in the banquet room and even a table in the foyer connecting the two rooms. Greek churches are holding their fundraising benefits now and it's a great place to go to buy all the traditional butter cookies, lady locks etc. They are costly but will freeze well for months. Your guests will enjoy the cookie table at your wedding reception!

                      2. Hi, here are my two cents. I grew up in PGH and remember fondly the cookie tables. I have lived in the Philly area for about 12 years now and I would like to tell you they do exist out this way, although the volume of cookie table cookies at a 'burgh wedding (preferably with reception in a fire hall) is an order of magnitude greater. Anyhoo, I found this article from NPR about cookie tables and I thought I would share. Also- if anyone is looking for a good filling for lady locks ( a true PGH treat) I have one that kicks butt.
                        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mkmccp

                          I know this is old, but if you're still around would you mind sharing your filling recipe?