In the case of a cake or cupcake tower that isn't suited to having a topper, the bridal couple can turn the entire cake table into a sort of display area with mementos or figurines that add personality, Winikka said.
"I've definitely noticed that when a normal person thinks of a wedding cake topper, they think of the plastic bride and groom," said wedding planner Laura Auer, whose company is about to plan its 300th wedding.
"But I've probably seen that only five out of the 300 times. People want different skin tones, or they aren't male-female couples, or they just don't want old-school traditional bride-and-groom cake toppers."
Auer started her Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company, Blue Canary Events, in 2005, and has seen a trend toward unique cake toppers.
In addition to art pieces custom-designed for the couple, she has noticed a lot of monogrammed cake toppers, sometimes very ornate — made of crystal figurines or pretty much any other material.
If the bride is taking her husband's last name, it's not proper etiquette to use that married name until after the couple has taken their vows, Auer said. So having it on the cake might be a fun way to introduce the new shared initial for the first time.
Other popular options are edible or floral cake toppers — real decorative flowers, fruit or flowers made of frosting.