The wedding cake is a defining element of any bride and groom’s special day. With some planning and flexibility you can have a beautiful cake while being mindful of your budget.

You need to consider what is most important to you about your cake then find a balance between your wishes and your budget. Here are pastry chef Tandra Watkins' top three tips to help you do just that without breaking the bank:

1. Keep the Flavor Simple

Having a traditional white cake is one way of keeping costs down. It requires basic ingredients that bakeries already have so there is no added cost from purchasing special ingredients. And remarkably it is still one of the most popular flavors for wedding cakes.

2. Keep the Design Simple

Uniquely shaped cakes and intricate cake designs require more time and artistic talent to create. Time and talent equals money, so bakers charge more for these special requests. Again, keep it simple, yet be sure to include elegance with a few thoughtfully placed embellishments that give your cake the look you want.

3. Keep it Short & Sweet

Rather than having a large traditional cake for the reception, opt for a smaller cake placed on a tall cake stand. Then have sheet cakes of the same flavor prepared and plated in the kitchen, ready to serve to the guests after the bride and groom have cut their cake. Sheet cakes are cheaper to prepare for bakers and these savings can be passed down to you.

Capital Hotel Pastry Chef Tandra Watkins infuses every one of her creations with innovative culinary techniques and classic French skills from her days at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with the foodways of the South. Her desserts feature fresh seasonal ingredients that are a melange of colors, flavors, and textures. Tandra is an active member in Southern Foodways Alliance and her work has been featured in Little Rock Soiree and in Arkansas Bride "Real Weddings". She'll share her expert wedding cake advice on the Arkansas Bride blog monthly.