A bride. A groom. A bouquet. A bower of flowers arching over the couple.
If you've seen one wedding cake topper, you might think you've seen them all.
But Barney and Patty Deden may be able to prove you wrong.
The couple have collected nearly 1,700 wedding cake toppers that date from the 1800s through about 2000. They originate from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe.
Now the collection, given to the Douglas County Historical Society by the Dedens, is part of a yearlong exhibit at the General Crook House.
The exhibit can be seen from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The Dedens started collecting in 1994 and they grew their collection up until four years ago.
The Dedens became interested in wedding cake toppers because they were so different, often personalized by the bride or someone in the family or hinting at the times and the cultures of the couple.
"That's what got us going, wondering what was the story behind the cake topper," Patty Deden said.
Sometimes the couple would catch a glimmer of the topper's history. A short note found with an 1895 cake topper said, "From my grandparents' wedding in Pennsylvania." Another topper told of a military marriage, with a bridegroom in a dress uniform, not a tuxedo.
Some of the toppers were apparently homemade, including one with peanut-shell wedding characters, another with a wedding party made of pipe cleaners and one with the bustled skirt of a 19th-century bride made from a swatch of satin, likely the bride's wedding gown fabric.
Before online shopping, the Dedens found cake toppers in antique shops, at garage sales and estate sales.
But when an entire room of their Omaha home became filled with wall-to-wall, lighted, display cabinets brimming with cake toppers, the Dedens decided to stop collecting and start selling. Some friends suggested they keep the collection intact. That's where the historical society came in.
Its collection of wedding fashions dates from the 1870s to the mid-20th century and includes gowns, veils, headpieces and shoes. Now the Dedens' cake toppers can be seen with some of the wedding fashions at the Crook House.
Deden said she is happy just to visit the collection of toppers made of porcelain, crystal, papier-mâché, gum paste or resin, among other things. She will even give guided tours, if arranged in advance.
The Dedens haven't cleaned, restored or repaired the cake toppers, but they have been catalogued on a spreadsheet that includes details such as purchase price, dimensions, composition and date.
The Dedens have favorites and, mostly for sentimental reasons, kept 48 of the cake toppers. But you won't find the couple's own topper among the keepers or in the Crook House display. Like many 1960s couples, the Dedens' cake was topped with fresh flowers. And they're a long-gone memory.
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