Apr 122013

How I Predict Divorce Based on the Wedding Cake

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. (See: The Number One Cause of Divorce)

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. (See: Pride–The Only Enemy of Marriage)

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. (See: One Sign of a Healthy Marriage)

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. (See: Respect–A Necessary Ingredient For a Successful Marriage)

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. What other common situations reveal the true character of a relationship?

For more, see: The Warning Sign of a Bad Marriage You Might Miss The Top Five Sex Posts of 2013

41 Responses to How I Predict Divorce Based on the Wedding Cake
  1. RobertM Reply

    This is one popular tradition that I have never understood. There was a degree of intimacy in feeding my new wife a piece of cake without getting any of the frosting outside of her mouth, coupled with the excitement of exhibitionism in sharing this intimacy with the public.

    • Edie Watson DeLorme Reply

      I agree with you, Robert, smearing each other with cake has always seemed like a disrespectful and uncaring way to treat each other. I always enjoyed the weddings more when the bride and groom showed great care for each other. I expressed this to my husband before we married. I asked him to please not give in to hecklers and smear me with cake. He agreed. Our reception had fun moments (making faces trying to cut our semi frozen cake, etc), but we both took great care of the other when it was time to share cake. This Nov. We will have been married 20 years. We still take care of each other and are mindful of treating each other respectfully in front of others. We do our best when at home, but we don’t always succeed. We keep trying though!

  2. Ashli Reply

    So what you’re saying is… We should do the cake before the ceremony and signing of the marriage license? You can just come in and analyze, then people can call it quits before its too late!

  3. sheila blair Reply

    Funny because Scott has said that every since I met him. When we attend weddings he really likes to focus on the exchange of wedding cake. He is a pretty smart fellow I would say. Oh and you are too of course.

  4. Spiritual Klutz Reply

    I think that you can learn a lot by watching how a couple tells stories about shared experiences. I admit that it hasn’t always been flattering to me either. Oftentimes, my verbal bulldozing during these moments has communicated: I’m smarter than her, what I have to say is more important, she doesn’t know how to communicate well. Yikes.

  5. Becky Reply

    I remember you saying this in a sermon a few years ago, and it totally stuck with me. Now I find myself watching for it at every wedding. Such interesting insight. I’m happy to say that Chris and I had a sweet cake exchange. Whew. :)

  6. Seth Reply

    Gold, Kevin! Pure gold!

  7. Leighann Reply

    We were having so much fun at our wedding we didn’t even cut the cake LOL

  8. Kristin Alexander (@SaidKristin) Reply

    I’ve long heard this – how a couple feeds each other their wedding cake indicates how healthy their marriage will be. Interesting insight coming straight from a pastor!

  9. operationhaveitall Reply

    Love this, Kevin! In reading the comments, I realize I’ve been guilty of leveraging my husband for a laugh… but perhaps it’s not a bad thing when we both are VERY good at laughing at ourselves and each other? I think another real indicator is how much of a “fan” you are of your spouse publicly. I am SO very lucky to have a husband who shouts my praises regularly, showing me so much support for my work. I’m so blessed to have found my soul mate… of that, I’m certain.

  10. [...] opposite end of the spectrum entirely is a piece by pastor and blogger Kevin A. Thompson entitled How I... saidkristin.com/2013/04/friday-tapas-peanuts
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  13. Connie Reply

    Interesting… what about those of us that didn’t even have a wedding cake or a wedding? Are we doomed? (Married for 14 years this July) :)

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Connie, ha. Sounds like you are doing just fine.

    • CigarDawg Reply

      It’s a little telling that instead of commenting on the content of the article, you made it all about you and your personal experience. 14 years is in no way indicative of being divorce-proof, so don’t declare victory yet.

  14. April Reply

    I agree with this so much based on a past experience. My friend’s husband playfully shoved the cake in her face. As she stepped back, she stepped on her dress with her heels and fell backwards. She got up and sucker punched him in the nose. They lasted 3 years but I am surprised they lasted even that long.

  15. Kim O'Sullivan Reply

    Completely agree & have thought this myself for many years.

  16. Marcia Reply

    I went to look for our pictures, but I didn’t see any of us feeding each other. Now that I think about it, I don’t think we participated in this tradition. We had a cake, but I don’t think we wanted to do the feeding each other thing. We’re kind of nonconformists, I guess. But we’ve been happily married for almost 24 years.

  17. amber Reply

    My Husband and I were both thinking of doing it, we could tell, and I said, Please dont, I dont want it all over my dress.. he just smiled, and fed me very sweet and caring and I did the same.. the whole time w locked eyes and smiled at me, we both were thinking, dont u dare do it.. we didnt it. The crowd boo’d us and we thought it was great we kissed and almost 15 years later were still strong as ever. We were married at 19. We were already against the odds, but younf true love is real! Were good examples of that. Just yesterday I told him how much In love w him i was :)

  18. Kim Reply

    I am going to go back to our video from our wedding. We must have done it right…we will be married 25 this August! Thank you for the insight! Really enjoyed this read!

  19. Nancy Reply

    When going over the details of our upcoming wedding, my husband made it clear he didn’t want to do that whole shoving-cake-in-the-face thing, and I agreed with him. So we kept it sweet and respectful, and got a few chuckles but no boos. Happily married 14 years and counting.

  20. Henry Thoreau Reply

    I haven’t noticed who divorces based on this, but I have noticed who stays married. There is no animosity or rubbing cake all over their mouth. I’ve never seen that, actually. The weddings I attend are Roman Catholic mainly, and after 3 hours of kneeling, if you had any doubts about how hard marriage is, you don’t by the time the reception starts.

    Only a self-absorbed punk would do that to their new wife. And only a miserable worthless b|tch would do that to your new husband. Respect, empathy, & honor are the only way you can keep your word to death. In Catholic weddings, you take your oath to God- not your wife. And you don’t mess with the Big G by humiliating who he’s given you as a partner.

    In any case, I think this article is likely very accurate. I can make the same prediction about dying. Multiple that wedding cake incident by 7 consecutive events and you’ll notice a pattern of people leaving this world. But that’s another topic. In short. You are here to serve, not humiliate. Until you get that you will never succeed at marriage or business.

  21. Julie Ann Reply

    I just shared this with my husband. During our engagement & the first year of our marriage, he was a Banquet Manager for an upscale hotel. He used to tell me horror stories from wedding receptions. We couldn’t believe that people spent many, many thousands of dollars to host a grand party & then routinely checked their manners & decorum at the door. One of the worst were the cake exchanges. Neither of us find it classy to mash food in someone’s face & on their formal clothes during a special event, ESPECIALLY someone you treasure.
    We opted to exchange a piece from a plate, using a fork (Robert’s description was spot-on).
    The dance floor is where we let loose! Polka, anyone? ;)
    BTW, we grew up together from ages 2 & 3. He began pursuing me romantically at 21 & we will joyfully celebrate 20 years with our 4 children this December <3

  22. Bekah Reply

    I dislike being the center of attention unless everyone is at their ease – and preferably laughing – so I was very glad when my new husband caught the gleam in my eye as we began exchanging our cake. We both ended up with it all over our faces (I even got some on my dress, which was perfect, as it kept me from worrying about messing it up for the rest of the reception), laughing with all our guests, and got some sweet and extremely crumb-y kisses out of the deal. Respect and love can be messy and hilarious!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Very true Bekah. I have no problem with a couple doing whatever they want as long as they are on the same page.

  23. Glenn Harris Reply

    Fascinating, and truly insightful, Kevin. Thank you! I am going to start paying extra attention to that little tradition!

    BTW, one correction: under the heading “Force” you typed “determinate”. I believe you meant to say “detriment”.

  24. Rob O'Donnell Reply

    My bride was adamant that we would not smash the cake into each others faces and I was happy to agree. I did pull the cake back playfully and when I allowed her to bite the cake, she gently bit down on my fingers and held them in her teeth briefly for a moment. The guests laughed and so did we. Our 24 th anniversary is 4 months, and we still respect and love each other.

  25. James Reply

    We have been married 22 years last Friday, May 30 2014. We were both kind to each other and did not smear or shove cake, despite some calls in the crowd to do so. Good article Kevin. :)

  26. Noah the X-Man Reply

    Interesting. I’ve been a wedding photographer for 8 years now and I’ve done close to 200 weddings. I’ve never seen the correlation at all. Some of the sweetest, most gentle couples all around are divorced now and the ones that fought all day, shoved cake, etc are still married.

  27. Shanna Reply

    I have been married to my husband for 22 years . . . and when the moment for cake arrived . . . I admit that I DID smash it in is face. But I didn’t know that people actually DID that . . . I just remember standing there, holding that cake right by his face . . . we made eye contact and he had such a playful look on his face, I couldn’t resist! It was just a little smear, though . . . I didn’t bludgeon him with cake. And in return . . . he chased me around the room with cake all over his face and kissed me! We were both covered in cake . . . no one had hurt feelings and it was a happy, playful moment. Our wedding photographer captured us afterward licking frosting off of our hands. You can still see where the icing got on my husband’s tux jacket . . . and to us, it is a fond memory!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Shanna, sounds great. I especially like that he chased you to kiss you instead of to get you back with his own piece of cake. Great story.

  28. Mommyof3 Reply

    We definitely did a “shove in the face” kind of cake deal which we both thought was hilarious. We kissed with cake smeared all over our faces and it was the best kind of fun! We’ve been happily, blissfully married for 14 years.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Mommyof3, I have no problem with that if you both were on the same page. That’s probably why your marriage has worked for 14 years. Congrats.

  29. Michelle Reply

    There’s a lot ot be said for the Australian tradition of wedding cakes. The bride and groom take a knife and cut the cake together. That’s it. One cut in the cake. Then other guests may take photos of you with the knife in the cake, hands entwined on the knife.

    I have never once been to a wedding where the bride and groom feed each other cake.

  30. Am80 Reply

    My parents shoved cake up eachother’s noses, and they’re 32 years strong. But then they always raised us to have fun in the moment and not sweat the small stuff. Like frosting in your hair. =)

  31. Grant Van Leuven Reply

    This is interesting timing for me to read about this topic. A few weeks ago, during fellowship at church, we were responding to a sermon on the Westminster Larger Catechism on what is forbidden in the 9th Commandment (in this case, mocking, contempt, scorn, etc.), talking about another cultural tradition of pushing the birthday person’s face into his or her cake (and generally questioning the practice as disrespectful and unkind and jesting not proper or becoming of Christians, Ephesians 5:3-4). In the conversation, with my Mother in town visiting at that time (and whom I affectionately called over into the recollection), I recalled in the conversation how she would drill into me and my brother that when we got married we MUST NOT push the cake into our brides’ faces during the exchange. It was always kind of comical how much she impressed this upon us, but we took her seriously. This careful respect against what many do was an ultimatum to her for us, one of the most intense warnings we ever got from her in our lives (no joking). I’m pretty sure her refrain or warning that increased in frequency as our wedding days approached was not because she experienced cake smeared over her face in her wedding. I think she just thought the practice was crude and not the way to treat your bride on her wedding day, especially before a watching audience. It simply is no way to treat a lady, really, ever. I’ve always appreciated her for “beating that into us”, and my brother and I honored our mother’s wishes and our wives’ honor when we gently fed them the token of our future meals and fellowship together, careful not even to get a little icing on the edge of their lovely lips, let alone their precious cheeks. May the way we treat our spouses, including how we serve cake, be different than the world and reflect conformity to Jesus Christ, Who humbled Himself to the point of dying on the cross for His Bride and is preparing a great Feast for Us in Heaven that we can trust will be served to us with the utmost care and adoration, as He took pains to present us to Himself as a Bride without spot or blemish (Ephesians 5:25-33). Indeed, as this article seems to intimate, who we are and how we view others is seen in the little things, and can become big things.

  32. Janet Reply

    I believe there is a correlation!!!! My former husband smashed the cake in my face, across my cheek and into my hair, and crumbs and frosting ended up all over my dress. My mother said he had a vicious look on his face while he was doing it, and begged me not to go on the honeymoon. She didn’t like what she saw at all. The abuse started on our wedding night, and it was a miserable marriage that finally (thankfully) ended in divorce.

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