Rice tossing is one of the most enduring wedding traditions in the world. As such, many couples don’t think twice about incorporating it into their weddings.
Legend has it that rice symbolizes prosperity, good luck, and fertility, and having it thrown at you and your spouse at your wedding will bring all those good things to you.
But over the past few years, the tradition has come under attack, ostensibly due to raw rice’s dangers to birds.
Naturally, if you are planning on having rice thrown at your wedding, you are probably wondering how the tradition came about and whether it is as harmful to birds as alleged.
What Does Rice Tossing Entail?
While different cultures and couples have their specifications, rice tossing generally involves the wedding guests showering the newlyweds with raw rice.
In some weddings, the guests will be given bowls full of grain, while in others, only handfuls will be tossed.
In most weddings, however, the tossing is the last thing on the program and is typically performed as the couple exits the ceremony.
Origins of the Tradition
It is not easy to tell where the tradition began since it is widely practiced across many different cultures and regions.
However, most people believe that it was the ancient Romans who gave rise to the tradition. Instead of rice, they threw wheat and oats (their staple foods), regarded as a source of life and nourishment and widely associated with prosperity.
By tossing their most important foods at newlyweds, the Romans were symbolically wishing them fertility and prosperous lives. This tradition continued for centuries, with wheat and oat being initially replaced with other cereal grains in vogue.
During the Middle Ages, the popularity of rice grew exponentially, and it was subsequently incorporated into wedding ceremonies. However, historians are split on what exactly drove the use of rice, with some claiming that the grain was used to cast away evil spirits, while others opine that it symbolized wealth and good health.
As other cultures adopted the rice-tossing tradition, they inadvertently included other items that were relevant to them. For instance, in Morocco, newlyweds are showered with figs, dates, and raisins, the country’s most highly regarded foods. In Italy, candy and sugared nuts are used in place of rice, primarily to symbolize how sweet marriage is.
So, Does Rice Hurt Birds?
In the 70s and 80s, it was rumored that throwing rice at weddings would attract birds, who would subsequently try to eat all the rice on the ground.
The rumor went that the rice would expand in the birds’ chests and consequently make them explode.
The myth was so strong and emotive that in 1985, a state legislator in Connecticut proposed a bill to ban rice tossing at weddings.
The bill was obviously controversial, with political commentators and ornithologists (avian specialists) denouncing it.
According to ornithologists and other scientists, there was no evidence that uncooked rice posed a danger to birds at the time, and none exists now.
How to Incorporate a Rice Toss at Your Wedding
If you’re ready to include a rice throw in your wedding ceremony, below are a few tips that will help you do it the right way:
Do It At The Very End
Traditionally, the rice toss happens after the ceremony as the couple walks down the aisle on their way out.
Some couples prefer to do it right before they hop into their getaway vehicles, which generally happens after the reception. But that doesn’t mean you must follow the crowd – it is all up to you and your partner.
Whatever time you decide to have the toss, make sure to let your guests know about it beforehand. Of course, the best way to do that is to include it in your ceremony program, but you can go a step further and have your master of ceremonies announce it before the ceremony (or reception, if you choose to go that way).
Make Plans on How to Give Out the Rice to the Guests
Make prior arrangements on how the guests will receive the rice, and if possible, have someone teach them how and when to make the throw.
Regarding the packaging, we strongly recommend using themed sachets or paper cones. These can be handed over by ushers or placed in a couple of strategically placed “Toss Tables” where interested guests can make their picks on their way out of the venue.
Have the Toss Happen Outside
Whether you are having an indoor or outdoor ceremony, the rice toss should ideally happen outside. This essentially makes it easier to clean up and also provides tasty food for any hungry birds around!
Moreover, the outdoors provide better lighting conditions, and any pictures taken during the ritual will be more epic than if taken indoors.
To prevent chaos, ask your ushers and attendants to organize the guests in two parallel lines, leaving space in the middle for you and your partner to walk through. Then, the guests can start throwing their rice as you walk past them.
Make Plans for the Clean-Up
As much as rice tosses are fun and memorable, cleaning up afterward is always a pain in the backside.
The fact that the rice will need to be cleaned up immediately after the toss (rice can cause slips and falls) further complicates things. Many venues explicitly ban the practice due to this.
To be on the safe side, you need to:
- Check with your venue to make sure they are okay with it
- Ask your venue if they offer clean-up services, and make your arrangements if they don’t
- Take out a comprehensive wedding insurance policy to cover any accidents that may occur during and after the throw
Are you interested in having your wedding on an NYC yacht charter? If so, contact us today!