Rice, Birdseed, and Weddings

by Jennifer Cram (04/02/2018)  | Categories: | Wedding Traditions |
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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.

The real reason for the ban – reducing cleanup costs together with minimising risk to humans – does not grab the imagination. So the story has spread that  the ban on throwing rice is in place to protect birds, which will explode if they eat uncooked rice.

Rice is safe for birds

That birds will explode if they eat uncooked rice is a myth so often repeated that it has become a firmly ingrained belief! Here are the facts:
  • 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.
  • Many migrating species of birds depend on winter-flooded rice fields to build strength for their return to their breeding grounds.
It is the humans who use these venues who are at real risk of harm if rice is thrown.
  • There is the chance that a grain will go into an eye.
  • Uncooked rice on floors and walking surfaces, particularly hard wooden, marble, stone, concrete, and tiled surfaces, constitutes a slipping/falling hazard for both staff and guests.
  • Venue proprietors and local authorities ban the throwing of rice to minimise their risk of being sued.

The truth about birdseed

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.

Related Information

Thanks for reading!

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