Rice, Birdseed, and Weddings

by Jennifer Cram (04/02/2018)  | Categories: | Wedding Traditions |
Wedding RiceRice, traditionally thrown at weddings, represents good wishes for Protection, Rain, Fertility, Money, but it is rarely seen nowadays because churches, reception venues, and local authorities usually ban the throwing of rice, along with confetti.

Possibly because the real reason they do so – reducing cleanup costs together with minimising risk to humans – does not grab the imagination, there is a widespread belief that the ban on throwing rice is in place to protect birds, which will explode if they eat uncooked rice.

This is a myth, but a regularly repeated myth. Uncooked regular rice only expands by a third when moistened, whereas bird seed expands by 40%. Uncooked rice is no more harmful to birds than birdseed or the rice they may feed on in the field. Indeed, many migrating species of birds depend on winter-flooded rice fields to build strength for their return to their breeding grounds.

On the other hand, it is the human who use these venues who are at real risk of harm if rice is Review of Jennifer Cram, The Celebrant Who Gives
                  You Morethrown. There is the chance that a grain will go into an eye, but the big risk comes from uncooked rice on floors and walking surfaces, particularly hard wooden, marble, stone, concrete, and tiled surfaces. This poses a danger both to guests and staff because it puts them at risk of slipping on it and falling, and to the proprietor of the venue, or the local authority because it puts them at risk of being sued.

Nonetheless, the banning of rice tosses has created a link in the mind of the public between rice and harm to birds, and given rise to promotion of birdseed as an alternative. Unfortunately, birdseed presents the same risk in regards to injuries to guests from slipping and falling. In addition, there is the added risk of the sharp parts of many seeds injuring eyes.

Further, there is no such thing as generic birdseed. Different species of birds will feed on different types and sizes of seeds. Birdseed designed for exotic caged birds is not suitable for wild birds. The wild birds native to the location of your wedding may eat the birdseed toss if it was thrown on lawn, but what is more likely to happen is that some of the seeds will germinate, and, because bird seed is a combination of seeds for plants that are rarely part of normal garden planting, hey presto, you have weeds.

Finally, though this may seem to be stating the obvious, birdseed attracts birds. Imagine a birdseed toss in a city with a large pigeon population that has no fear of humans. The marrying couple, the guests, the photographer, the videographer, and the celebrant would be unlikely to escape without catching bird droppings in their hair and on their clothes, and frenzied birds swooping and diving are guaranteed to ruin any attempt at taking happy, relaxed, photographs of the couple.

Polished white rice, by all means, out on a private lawn or in a paddock.  It is not going to germinate. But elsewhere stick to petals or bubbles - but check with your venue first, some ban even those.