Here's What You Need to Know About Throwing Rice at Weddings

The rumors about birds and rice aren't exactly true.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Sep 26, 2022

Throwing rice at weddings has been a wedding tradition for a long, long time. And despite a rumor that rice is harmful to birds, this wedding tradition has a continued presence in many modern weddings. But if you and your partner are considering including the rice toss at your wedding, you may be wondering, "Why do people throw rice at weddings?" or "Does rice actually hurt birds?" Read below to get the answers to these questions and learn how you can use this delicate and auspicious little grain that symbolizes prosperity, good fortune and fertility at your wedding. Being showered by your loved ones is the perfect way for you and your partner to transition into your new life together.

What Is a Wedding Rice Toss?

The wedding rice toss is when wedding guests shower the newlywed couple with uncooked rice as they exit the ceremony or leave for their final send-off. Throwing rice at weddings is an ancient nuptial tradition that acts as a blessing for fertility and prosperity.

The Origin of Throwing Rice at Weddings

It's widely believed the throwing rice at weddings origin comes from ancient Romans, but instead of throwing rice, Roman wedding guests tossed wheat or oat. In ancient Rome, wheat and oat nourished the Roman people, which eventually led to these grains being associated with prosperity, birth and new life. So by tossing wheat or oat at the newlyweds, the guests are symbolically showering the couple with good wishes for a prosperous new life together.

But why do people throw rice at weddings? The ancient Roman tradition carried on with corn and other cereal grains, but it wasn't until the Middle Ages that rice was incorporated. Rice symbolized wealth, fertility and good health. Some historians believe rice was used to cast away evil spirits and help the bride become pregnant. Now, thanks to numerous cultures, the rice throw wedding tradition has been altered with other items representing prosperity and fertility. In Italy, they use candy and sugared nuts to symbolize the sweetness of marriage, while in Morocco, they shower the happy couple with figs, dates and raisins to inspire a fruitful union.

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Does the Rice Hurt Birds?

The rumor that birds would eat rice thrown at weddings and subsequently explode because of the rice expanding in their stomachs (sorry for the visual) became so problematic that a Connecticut state legislator passed a bill in 1985 banning throwing rice at weddings. In 1985 and now, ornithologists (people who study birds) have weighed in to say there isn't much (or any) evidence of birds getting harmed by uncooked rice. The moral of the story: Having your guests make it rain with wedding rice as you exit your ceremony or reception won't kill any innocent birds looking for a snack.

How to Plan a Rice Throw for Your Wedding

Now that you know what the wedding rice toss is, why people throw rice at weddings and that it's not harmful to birds, you're ready to incorporate this tradition into your wedding. Here's everything you need to know to do this ancient tradition the right way.

Schedule the rice toss for the ceremony or reception exit.

Usually, the wedding rice toss occurs immediately after the ceremony while the couple recesses down the aisle. But remember, where the rice toss falls in your wedding day timeline is completely up to you and your partner. If you're planning on hopping into a fun getaway vehicle after your reception exit, we suggest doing the rice toss right before getting into your ride––making your exit even more spectacular.

Once you've decided when you're having your rice toss, make sure to put when it will be happening in your ceremony program or have your wedding officiant announce it before the ceremony so you and your wedding guests are on the same page. (If you're doing the rice toss after the reception, ask your DJ to make the announcement.)

Make sure to do the rice toss outside.

It doesn't matter if you're having an indoor or outdoor wedding, you should always do the rice toss outside. This makes for better lighting for your wedding photos and easier clean-up. Ask your officiant or honor attendants to organize your guests into two lines outside (the order of the lines isn't significant) so there's no confusion, and you and your partner can seamlessly exit down the middle.

Figure out who will clean up the rice.

Even though the tradition of throwing rice at weddings is fun, it has one major setback: having to ensure all of the rice is cleaned up immediately after the rice toss. Some wedding venues don't allow the rice toss because of how tedious the clean-up process can be, so before you decide on having the wedding rice toss on your big day, double-check with your venue to see if doing one at your wedding is okay. Also, ask if your wedding venue offers clean-up services, so you don't have to worry about picking up each grain of rice yourself.

Another reason some wedding venues may not approve of the rice toss is that it poses a potential hazard because of how slippery the rice can be. This can cause you, your guests or vendors to slip and fall. For that reason, we suggest you acquire wedding insurance to help cover any incidents that may occur.

Determine how you will give the rice to your guests.

You can put the rice into small paper cones, packaged in sachets or mini envelopes, whatever you feel works with your wedding theme and decor. Once you've decided what container your rice will be in, think about how you'll get the rice to your wedding guests. You can have ushers hand guests small bags of rice as they find their seats before the ceremony or have a "Toss Table" so guests can grab a bag of rice on their way out of the venue for the reception exit. We encourage you to get as creative as you like with the tradition.

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