Fondant is NAAAASTY IMO (you have to have an insane sweet tooth to be able to eat that stuff) but generally it is layered on top of buttercream... people peel the fondant off and can eat the buttercream icing below. Make sure your cake baker is planning on putting buttercream underneath the fondant.
Also, if you want decorations that are traditionally made out of fondant but you want them edible, gumpaste is another alternative and tastes far better. Marzipan is another option (and I love the taste of marzipan), but I have talked to bakeries that do not use marzipan because it's almond paste, and they fear allergy reactions from clients/guests with nut allergies.
Grocery stores are cheaper than cake bakeries and you can get wonderful cakes from them, but the downfall of that is that sometimes it depends on who is in the bakery at that moment making your cake... so when you 'taste' the cake and then get it later, it may be wildly different.
Try to get somebody who can talk "per slice" prices with you (and how BIG the slices are!! My favourite bakery here actually has a foam block that they can show you to illustrate how big the slice is, which really helps) - that will help you better understand how much you're really spending on your cake. How much you should be realistically looking to spend per slice depends on your overall budget, and if you're doing a full meal as opposed to just doing a cake & punch reception (if you aren't serving a meal, your cake better be AWESOME.)
The bakery should also be happy to provide references or testimonials from past brides or clients (the one here actually serves our concert hall and a bunch of other events, so there are LOTS of places to give glowing reviews.)
Don't forget that cupcakes are totally in right now and cupcake displays can be really beautiful!
EDIT: Oh gosh I forgot a few things. Make sure your reception hall is okay with you bringing in a cake from somewhere else - some places MAKE you buy your food, including the cake, from them.
Oh yeah - and some places (and this is totally hilarious to me) make a fakie cake. There's a hotel in the Chicago area that has a fake cake, and they create the layer for the bride and groom to cut into for photos... everything else is actually sheet cakes.
But on that note, if you're really on a budget, you can always get a small cake for the "cake cutting" and then have the guests actually eat from sheet cakes (or cupcakes!)
Last edited by Beanie; 02-18-2008 at 04:45 PM..