As a pastor who regularly performs weddings, I can tell that some couples are more likely to divorce than others. It’s not most evident in pre-marital counseling or private comments made before the service. I can’t see it as the vows are said or rings exchanged. It’s not even in the kiss. As a pastor, I can predict the likelihood of divorce based on how the wedding cake is exchanged.
I’ve been performing wedding ceremonies since I was 18. One of the first ceremonies I performed was pretty routine. Everything went without a hitch until it came time for the cake exchange. What began as a playful moment turned ugly. He pushed it into her face; she pushed it harder into his; and he forced her to the ground. The crowd laughed; I was shocked; and a few weeks later they were divorced. So began my interest in watching how the traditional exchange of wedding cake is played out.
The wedding cake moment gives a glimpse into the relationship in a way that few other events can. The couple is nervous because of the occasion and crowd—nerves often exploit the worst of us. The cake comes at the end of a long experience so any pretending which has been taking place is less likely to occur as time goes on. The moment requires the couple to do something which is not a normal activity. All of these circumstances create a unique moment to answer one question: which is more important, the relationship or one spouse’s reputation?
While most cake exchanges are cute, playful, gentle, and respectful, some of them get ugly. Here are the signs of a marriage in trouble based on the cake exchange:
Force: Gentleness is a trait of a healthy marriage. Specifically, men need to be gentle with their wives. Our strength is to be used for the well being of our spouses, not to their determinate. When someone uses an extreme amount of force when they are happy and in public, it makes me wonder what they are willing to do when they are angry and in private.
Revenge: The cake exchange is supposed to have a bit of “gotcha” in it. You get me; I get you. However, some individuals ratchet up the revenge. They don’t just get even, they make sure their “get back” is better. This might be meaningless with cake, but it is fatal in fights. This trait will cause every disagreement to turn into a nightmare of a battle. A spouse who does this can never have a small fight. Every word spoken to them will be returned with a harsher word. Every assumed slight will lead to a greater slight directed back toward the spouse.
Pride: If you can’t lose, you might as well not get married. Every married person is going to have to lose on occasion. Sometimes you will lose because you are wrong and sometimes you will lose because you care more about the relationship than the argument. Some people can’t lose—even when it comes to the cake exchange. If they have to be the victor at the expense of their spouse, they might win the cake but they will lose the marriage. If a person isn’t humble enough to have a little cake on their nose in a happy moment, they will never have the humility to submit to their spouse during a tough time.
Contempt: It is shocking to me how often an apparent disdain for a spouse is revealed moments after committing their lives solely to one another. It is one thing to get a playful laugh, but it is something far different to completely disrespect your spouse’s personhood in order to look victorious at feeding each other cake.
These are the negative aspects of cake exchanges gone bad. Here is what a cake exchange should reveal:
Playfulness: If a couple can’t have fun with each other (not at the expense of each other) what’s the point of getting married. Feeding each other cake is an odd tradition, but one that should be defined by lighthearted fun.
Respect: Healthy marriages are built on mutual respect. No matter the setting or circumstance, spouses should always respect the dignity and well-being of their spouse. Even if an action will get a good laugh, a wise person will never exploit their spouse in order to get the laugh.
Love: It seems obvious, but the next time you attend a wedding and watch the cake exchange, ask a simple question: “Was that done in a loving way?” You will be shocked at how often it is not loving. If the cake exchange isn’t executed with love, the couple will have little chance of navigating the difficult issues of marriage with love.
It’s a funny habit—to watch newlyweds exchange cake wondering what I can decipher about their relationship—but one that has been sadly accurate over the years. Next time you are at a wedding watch and see. Of course if the bride hits the floor as the groom laughs, take back your wedding gift, because the couple will likely be divorced within the year.