Credit: William Meppem

For centuries, monograms have been used to embellish items we cherish and hand down from generation to generation. They have rarely been used to decorate wedding cakes, those fleeting monuments to love meant to be devoured in a single night. But why not? The cake is a highlight of the wedding reception, an exquisitely personal event that is also an age-old rite reflecting the lives of families and communities. A monogram -- the symbol of a name -- captures both of these aspects, the personal and the tribal.

Besides, what could be prettier than the bridal couple's initials, artistically rendered on a beautiful cake? You might borrow the ornate script monogram from your grandmother's heirloom tablecloth. Or you can pore over calligraphers' samples, old books in libraries, and even modern magazines for evocative lettering styles.

If a bride is changing her last name to her husband's, the couple can celebrate the transition by creating a three-letter monogram using the initial of their last name, flanked by both first initials. Or they can just use the first letter of the new shared last name. If the bride is keeping her last name, she can use her own first-name initial along with her husband's, making a two-letter monogram.

Originally emblazoned on the possessions of monarchs, monograms still seem to have an aristocratic air, even though the notion has been fully embraced by the bourgeoisie for more than a century. The powerful effect a monogram can have is seen in the linens in a Victorian bride's trousseau -- say, napkins embroidered with a delicately scripted, majestic M. That monogram expresses the mystique and beauty of letters, the joy of fine design, and our enduring fascination with names.

Brides may no longer come to marriage with snowy, embroidered linens, but they can still mark the wedding day with a monogram -- an edible one. Although the cake will certainly be gone by the end of the festivities, neither the dessert nor its love letters will soon be forgotten.

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