Debra McClinton

What it is: An elegant, generally all-white cake with an understated design. Flowers made of sugar paste (such as the gardenias here) are popular accents, as are sugar-paste roses and calla lilies. Typically, the cakes are composed of three- to four-inch-high tiers (inside each tier are four layers of cake). One common combo: citrus-vanilla-flavored cake topped with buttercream.
What to know: No matter the icing you choose, the white color almost never varies, so don't try to match the shade to your off-white gown. A no-fail pick: pearlized white, which emits a slight luster.
Money-saving tip: Opt for buttercream icing instead of fondant―it's cheaper. And commission a simple cake. Intricate designs will set you back financially.