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For Better or Verse


Claim:   Bride's mix-up results in an embarrassingly inappropriate Bible verse being inscribed on her wedding cake.

LEGEND

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2006]

A young and nervous bride planning her wedding was increasingly terrified about her upcoming marriage. To calm her nerves, she decided to have a Bible verse which had always brought her comfort (1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love; for perfect love casts out fear") engraved on her wedding cake. So she called the caterer and all arrangements were made.

About a week before the wedding, she received a call from the catering company. "Is this really the verse you want on your cake?" they asked. Yes, she confirmed, it was the one she wanted, and after a few more questions they said they would decorate the cake as requested.

The wedding day came, and everything was beautiful ... until the reception, when the bride walked in to find the cake emblazoned with John 4:18: "For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband."
 

Origins:   We often come across tales whose key feature is a confusion of scripture, offered for a variety of reasons: to deflate the ego of someone who brashly lords his supposedly superior scriptural knowledge over others, to expose someone who exploits religion for personal gain, to make a political point, or simply because the confusion proves humorous.

The anecdote quoted above is an example of the last of these categories, a story about a nervous bride whose failure to distinguish between similarly-named but distinctly different sections of the New Testament results in an embarrassingly inappropriate verse being inscribed on her wedding cake. The bride intends to select a verse from
1 John (or The First Letter of John), a passage which speaks of the power of faith and love to conquer fear (i.e., when God's love is perfected in us, our fear of judgment is allayed), but she directs the cake decorator only to "John" (or The Gospel According to John), the referenced verse of which contains a portion of Jesus' rebuke to an adulteress!

As amusing as this story may be, we suspect it's merely the invention of someone who noticed the oppositive nature of the two verses and framed them with an amusing yarn. While inscriptions are the norm for most celebratory events that include a cake (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries, bon voyage parties), weddings are an exception; only rarely are they inscribed with any sort of message. In any case, a caterer who recognized the inappropriateness of the selected verse and was concerned enough to call back and question it likely would likely recite it to the orderer to avoid a mistake of this nature, not simply ask "Is this really the verse you want on your cake?" (Also, since the Bible exists in many different versions and translations which can vary quite widely in their presentation of scripture, the parties would probably have worked out in advance the precise wording of the passage to be inscribed on the cake.)

Real-life tale or not, this narrative does demonstrate one truism: Many texts, scriptural and otherwise, can assume very different meanings, ranging from the archly humorous to the darkly ominous, depending upon the context in which they're presented.

(A parallel, secular version of this type of legend involves a bride who is likewise mortally embarrassed at her wedding due to her failure to differentiate between two similarly-identified pieces of music.)

Last updated:   2 March 2014

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