The Cookie Table: A Pittsburgh Tradition

A sign that reads "The cookie table: A Pittsburgh Tradition." When you think of a wedding, what comes to mind? Maybe a white gown, exchange of vows, heartfelt toasts, or a cocktail hour with a signature drink? If you’re a Pittsburgher, you inevitably picture a cookie table…and start salivating a little. Because when you attend a Pittsburgh wedding, you can count on a cookie table.

Cookie tables have a long and storied history, beginning in the tri-state area of western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and eastern Ohio. They likely originated among European immigrants during the Great Depression when couples could not afford a wedding cake. Close friends and family would step in to bake cookies instead. Many of the cookies were, and are, made from scratch using favorite family recipes.

I vividly remember the cookie table at my wedding. I think back with gratitude on the family and friends who made us cookies. As for those cookies, well, they were greeted with such enthusiasm that the line wrapped across the ballroom. I remember standing outside on the balcony looking in, and it took a minute for me to even comprehend why all those people were waiting in line. Then, it registered. Cookies.

Did you know that cookie tables have started to travel? Traditionally, the bride and groom get married in the bride’s hometown. But in more recent decades, couples have increasingly been planning weddings where they currently live. And they may be so attached to the idea of the cookie table that they are willing to introduce it to a new area, usually to the great delight of wedding guests.

For example, my sister-in-law got married in Texas, and being a native Pittsburgher, wanted a cookie table. So, my mother-in-law and I gladly baked, collected, and carefully packed hundreds of cookies for the trip. It was the only way I could participate in the wedding.

Originally, I was going to be a bridesmaid. But the wedding was scheduled for April 2020: peak COVID-19 time. So, it got rescheduled for April 2022…and I ended up with a newborn and couldn’t travel. But my cookies, made with care and enthusiasm by me and my 5-year-old, did make it to the wedding. And I was glad to know that I contributed somehow, even if it wasn’t as we had planned.

Because as I think we’ve all learned from COVID, sometimes plans change. But cookies never do. Years from now, long after we are gone, the tradition will remain. And so will the love.

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