I have talked to a lot of brides and some of the same questions come up over & over, so I thought I'd help you out a little bit.
#1 - The question I'm asked most often is, "How much does a wedding cake cost?" That is similar to asking, "what does a house cost?" It just can't be answered with one figure. So do your research & have a realistic wedding cake budget in mind. Cakes vary greatly from person to person & bakery to bakery. Do you want vanilla buttercream frosting or Fondant? Do you want standard vanilla cake or french vanilla bean cake with raspberry mousse and white chocolate buttercream with sugar flowers? How many people do you need to feed? There are so many variables! I've heard that the cake should be approximately 3-4% of your total wedding budget ($20,000 wedding = appx $600-$800 wedding cake). That's a great place to start. Miss Daisy from church can certainly do a cake for less than a bakery can. Publix is in the neighborhood of $2.50/serving. Buddy (The Cake Boss) starts at $8.50/serving for standard yellow cake with buttercream frosting & goes up to $20/serving! This is one of those times where you will most definately get what you pay for! I can't even count the number of times people have called me in a "cake emergency" to fix something that a grocery store or relative did because they wanted to save a few bucks. Trust me on this one!!!!
#2 - Go into your cake design session as if money is no object. Design EXACTLY the cake of your dreams. Don't scale it down before you know what it will cost to begin with. We will come up with your perfect cake and come up with a price. If it's not in your budget, there are ways to lower the cost, without comprimising your design! But don't cut things out before you know for sure you need to.
#3 - Need to save money? Cut the Fondant out of your design. People usually peel it off the cake anyways. I do a pretty good job of making buttercream frosting super smooth and it looks very close to fondant. Consider supplemental sheet cakes which are around $1.00/serving for servings over 100 people. You can also use real flowers instead of sugar flowers. Your florist can provide these. Real flowers are gorgeous and a few additional loose flowers for the cake is really inexpensive, and as an added bonus - they will match all the other flowers at your wedding!
#4 - Know your colors! If you need color swatches, visit a local home improvement chain & go to the paint department. They have walls of thousands of colors in every shade under the sun! Grab a handful of paint swatches, then give those to your vendors. Your dress designer, your florist, your baker, your caterer, etc can all have the same color swatch. And they're free, so stock up!
#5 - Once you've made up your mind on something, STOP LOOKING! You've always heard "go with your first instinct"... and that's true here. Once you fall in love with the cake design of your dreams, stop looking at other cakes! You're always going to see more designs that you like & will begin to question yours. Save yourself the torture and stop it there.
#6 - Don't get overwhelmed with everything. I know it's a lot, but this is the ONE time you're going to do this.... so breathe & enjoy it.
My own little personal bit of advise: Keep in mind... EVERYONE, and I do mean EVERYONE has opinions about how your wedding should go. But the key word here is YOUR! It's your wedding. Pick what you want. Choose what makes you happy. The largest source of stress I see is when brides & grooms are trying to cater to what everyone else wants. That's not to say that you shouldn't give their wishes polite consideration, but make up your mind ahead of time that it's going to come down to you and your fiancé. That's it. Ultimately, everyone has trusted you to choose the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with..... they need to trust you with your wedding details as well! :)