I’m looking for inter-racial figurines. I am African-American and my husband is not. He is also in the United States Marine Corps. I’m looking for a place that can make the figurine cake-topper to our specifications without costing us a mint.

Now that I’ve tried to find a source of inter-racial cake toppers on the Web, I understand much better why so many couples opt for fresh flowers, fancy icing, or big glass hearts rather than the old- fashioned “couple” topper. Cake-topper couples seem to come from the Barbie and Ken universe circa 1972, when the lone African- American doll had to be provided with an equally ebony-skinned Ken-equivalent or she wouldn’t be allowed to date. Asians and Hispanics are completely absent.

I did succeed in finding some Web sources of inter-racial couples. The going rate for a customized cake topper seems to be around $80, which is more than I’d pay for one, but not the highest price I’ve seen for frothy bits of glass and lace with no people. If you have children, the topper has decent potential as a family heirloom, since you can’t exactly buy one in every wedding boutique.

A quick search on Google for “inter-racial cake toppers” yields good results. Plaide Palette paints the topper to look like the couple, but the groom seems to be limited to a tux or suit, and the people all have Caucasian facial features.

If you’re not happy with the selection or cost for ordinary customized cake-toppers, you can make your own without a great deal of craft skill. The base is simply a circle of thin wood, available at any large craft store, painted white or covered with white fabric. You can trim it with lace if you like. For greater stability, you can glue short dowels to the bottom so that the dowels sink into the cake when you put the topper on. Glue pre-gathered lace around the edge if you like the lacy look; a bit of narrow ribbon covers the inner edge of the lace.

If you want an arch behind the couple, you can buy little plastic ones at craft stores (paint them to look less plastic), or you can use any small-scaled silk vine that has wire in the stems. Just bend the wire into the shape you want. There are all sorts of bells, flowers, and other goodies you can add.

For people, you have a few choices. You can buy a plastic bride and a plastic groom and paint them to suit yourself-at the scale of the plastic figures, the features look like no racial group ever found on earth anyway, so you’re both sacrificing accuracy evenly. A better approach, however, might be to use dollhouse figures: not the plastic kind at big toy stores, but the more elegant cloth and wired sort that serious miniature collectors use to populate their little scenes. You can find these at “better” dollhouse stores. I’ve seen African-American figures, even though I live in a city that is not particularly racially diverse. You can usually buy people individually, so you may be able to put together a bride and a Marine and be done.

If you can’t find an African-American bride, it’s very easy to sake a bride’s dress for one of these figures. Wrap her bosom and as much of her arms as you like in white ribbon and white lace. Just glue it right on! You don’t need to do proper sleeves: for long sleeves, wrap the lace around her arms, and it’ll look fine. For the skirt, you need a piece of pre-ruffled white satin as wide as the doll’s height from waist to ankle (or foot). Just wrap it around her, with some overlap in back, and take a few stitches to hold it steady. You can put lace over that for a frothier look. A narrow white ribbon goes around her waist, and then you can use white glue to attach tiny pearls or ribbon flowers or anything you like. (The doll may end up a bit heavy in the waist, but it will look good on the cake. Her veil is simply a scrap of tulle, gathered at the top and stitched to her head, with beads or ribbon flowers glued on top as the headpiece. Craft stores sell little bunches of ribbon or clay flowers that need only some narrow ribbon to look just like a bride’s bouquet.

Glue the people to the base (you may need to put some sort of wedge behind them to keep them steady) and voila! A cake- topper!

If that method sounds more finicky than fun, browse craft stores during the pre-holiday season. There are all sorts of little figures being sold, and you may find something you can easily adapt.

Another way to make a customized cake topper (this one is more fun than fancy) is to do a two-dimensional one by mounting a photo on foam core. The WAFFys tell how to do it. Instead of using the “Lois and Clark” image they provide, have a photo of the two of you taken. You can do it in your wedding garb, if you don’t mind wearing that in advance of the day, or you can do some cutting and pasting with your faces and other clothing images from CD-ROM or the Web. It isn’t high style, but it will definitely look like the two of you!