Rice Toss Tradition – History, Meaning, and Alternative

Christine Steuber
Apr 28, 2022
Wondering what the rice toss tradition implies and what its origins are? Read my article to learn more about it.

You’ve probably witnessed the rice toss tradition before. But do you know what’s the meaning behind it and where it comes from?

If not, you’ve come here on time, as I’m going to cover everything related to the fascinating tradition of throwing rice at a wedding. I will share everything from the origin of this tradition all the way to its alternatives.

Read on to learn all the details!

History and Meaning of the Rice Toss Tradition

The rice toss custom comes from ancient European and even Roman times when people thought that newlyweds brought good luck. That’s why wedding attendees and regular passers-by used to shower the bride and groom with grains to ensure a generous harvest and many children for the newlyweds to have a new generation to work on the land. 

The tradition also symbolized fertility and the birth of a child. This way, people wished the couple to have a big and happy family.

Rice toss tradition Pinterest
Credit: Pinterest

Today, the wedding toss lives on, and you can often see people throwing rice at the bride and groom during their wedding. However, there have been many speculations regarding the danger of rice to birds and the surrounding environment. Due to this, many venues banned the use of rice during the ceremony. But despite all the myths, people still use rice at weddings as a symbol of a prosperous and joyful life.

Rice Toss Tradition FAQ

I know you might still have many questions as to whether this tradition deserves to be a part of your ceremony. You may still be wondering where this tradition derived from or how it is performed, and so on and so forth. So, below, I’m going to tackle some of the most common questions regarding this wedding custom.

In which cultures is the rice toss tradition common?

Different cultures follow different practices when it comes to weddings. However, there are also some shared customs. One of them is the rice tossing tradition. 

Although it traces back to Roman times, rice throwing continues to be a popular tradition in many countries. For instance, in Italy, this tradition has always been very popular, however, in the past years, people have stepped back from it since venues ban the use of rice due to cleaning issues. Another country where the rice toss tradition is popular is England. The tradition dates back to the times of Queen Elizabeth I when they used to throw wheat cake instead of rice.

Also, since traditions tend to evolve, some cultures slightly altered the rice toss and started using other kinds of wheat and grains instead. Others have even begun using flowers, confetti, etc.

How to perform the rice toss?

First of all, you need to pick the time when the rice toss will be performed. The timing of this ceremony depends on the wedding length as well. If it takes place after the couple walks out of the church or walks down the aisle, you should hand out the rice packs to the guests beforehand. 

Usually, an organizer or someone responsible for that hands out a small bag of rice to the guests so they can toss it towards the newlyweds as they walk out of the ceremony. 

If the rice toss takes place at the venue, you can attach the rice packs to the chairs. So, each guest will easily find a pack of rice on their seat and toss it at the end when the newlyweds leave the venue.

Tossing rice after wedding ceremony
Credit: Pinterest

As for the main process of rice toss, guests should make sure not to hurt anyone with the grains of rice. To avoid such an unpleasant experience, people who participate in this ceremony should gently sprinkle the bride and groom with rice instead of throwing it straight into their faces. The image above illustrates the how-to process perfectly.

Who throws rice?

Usually, wedding guests are the ones who throw the rice. Anyone who participates in the ceremony can toss rice to the bride and groom. This way, they celebrate their union and wish them good luck.

Of course, this is not mandatory, so anyone who doesn’t want to participate can simply wait at the side. And anyone who wishes to take part is given a small bag of rice by the wedding organizers. Usually, the rice is displayed on a table where anyone who wants to toss it takes a bag and waits to take part in this beautiful ceremony.

When does the rice toss take place?

There are two parts during the wedding when the newlyweds can be showered with rice. It’s either when they leave the church before the receiving line ceremony or when they leave the reception. It’s up to the bride and groom to choose when they want to have the rice toss tradition during the ceremony. 

When planning to include this tradition, you also need to understand that if people throw rice while the couple is leaving the church, the grains may get stuck in the bride’s hair. So, it might not be the most pleasant sensation to carry on to the party having rice in hair. However, if they throw rice at the end of the ceremony when the couple leaves the reception, it’s not going to be such an issue.

Who cleans after the rice toss?

Showering newlyweds with rice is a beautiful wedding tradition. However, it leaves a huge mess afterward. So, if you’re planning to have a rice toss ceremony at your wedding, you need to plan who will clean it up afterwards. 

Usually, if the venue has cleaning services, they’re responsible for it. However, if there is no such option, wedding planners should take care of it. The easy solution is to hire someone to clean the rice once the ceremony is over.

Rice Substitutes to Use at Your Wedding

Nowadays, some wedding venues ban the rice toss tradition explaining that it’s non-environmentally friendly or it’s hard to clean up after the ceremony. Therefore, many people look for alternatives to throwing rice at their weddings. Or simply, if you want to enjoy the process and entertain your guests with that gesture, but you want to use something more fun, you can pick from the alternatives I’ve listed down below.

1) Rose petals

This one’s my personal favorite. You can get mono-color rose petals or even colorful ones in a small paper bag and hand them out to your guests for the ceremony.

Throwing rose petals instead of rice
Credit: Pinterest

Rose petals add a touch of beauty to the entire process and also look great in photos.

2) Flowers or herbs

In case you don’t like roses and prefer other flowers, you can pick any flower for the ceremony.

Throwing herbs instead of rice
Credit: Pinterest

Or, if you opt for something more simple, then you can go for your favorite herbs.

3) Confetti

Another favorite alternative of mine is beautiful confetti. Just like with flower petals, you can hand out sparkling confetti to your guests for the ceremony.

Throwing confetti instead of rice
Credit: Pinterest

Compared to flower petals, this option provides a more festive look.

4) Ringing bells

If you want your guests to remember your wedding day for years to come, this is the perfect substitute for rice toss.

You can give each guest a small bell which they will ring instead of throwing something at the bride and groom. It’s a perfect way to cheer up your guests and celebrate the union of the newlyweds.

5) Soap bubbles

This last one is probably the most joyful alternative. You can give small bottles of soapy water to your guests to blow out during the ceremony.

Blowing bubbles instead of throwing rice
Credit: Pinterest

The bubbles will create a magical and fun atmosphere for everyone.

Is Rice Harmful to Birds?

Despite all the joy that throwing rice brings at weddings, there’s a popular myth that it’s dangerous for birds. According to it, when birds eat the rice left on the ground after the ceremony, it can be lethal for them. The grains of rice can expand in the bird’s stomach just like in the cooker and make it explode. 

Back in 1985, Connecticut’s state legislator banned throwing rice at weddings because it was harmful to birds. Although, they didn’t have any evidence to prove their point. Instead, people tried to use other grains or alternatives. However, nowadays, that myth is busted since it has been proved by various experiments that rice doesn’t hurt birds.

During one of the experiments, people put a small amount of rice in the water and waited for hours and even a day to see how much it would expand. The results showed that there’s no chance the rice can increase in volume as much in the bird’s stomach to make it explode. Moreover, some wild birds feed on rice and other grains, so it just cannot be harmful to them.

Basically, there’s a huge difference between a cooker and the bird’s stomach, and people should understand that the rice cannot cook the same way in the bird’s stomach as it does in a cooker. To illustrate my point, I’ll quickly compare how much time it takes for rice to cook in the pan and how long it could take to digest in the bird’s stomach. 

Usually, it takes less than an hour to cook the rice, but based on the bird’s body temperature, digesting it could take up to four hours. During this time, the bird’s digestive system works and breaks down the rice, so there’s no chance it could kill the bird. 

Wrapping Up

To sum up, tossing rice is a wholesome tradition coming from ancient times and yet quite popular nowadays as well. It’s a beautiful gesture from guests to wish good luck to the bride and groom. 

However, remember that you can always try something new and switch rice with some alternatives. As I’ve listed earlier, you can choose confetti, bubbles, bells, flowers, and rose petals as a substitute for rice. 

Rice tossing can be the highlight of your wedding and leave joyful memories not only for you but for your guests as well.

Looking for more awesome content about wedding traditions? Check out our blog, where we regularly publish captivating articles on wedding ideas, tips, and more!

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