July 14, 2004

Hit Us With Your Best Shot


You may have heard that throwing rice at a couple as they leave the ceremony is no longer considered ecologically correct. Seems that someone, somewhere got the idea that rice left on the ground after a wedding is harmful to birds. Just like Life Cereal's Mikey, who allegedy died after mixing Pop Rocks and soda, birds are in danger of having their stomachs explode when the uncooked rice expands inside.

I've always been a little suspicious of this claim. If it were true, wouldn't there be hundreds of dead pigeons on the sidewalks of Chinatown or outside any restaurant where rice is delivered on a regular basis?

L and I haven't even discussed whether anyone will be throwing anything at us following our wedding, but being the curious guy I am, I figured I would learn the answer before we talked. I found this great entry on Snopes.com which busts the myth entirely: uncooked rice is not, I repeat not, harmful to birds.

The exploding bird scare seems to have begun with an old Ann Landers column in which she urged readers to throw rose petals instead of rice. It even took hold in popular culture, showing up on an episode of The Simpsons in which Marge helps plan Otto's wedding.

Marge: Let's see...candles, flowers, place cards, rice...
Lisa: Oh, Mom, you're not supposed to throw rice anymore. Birds eat it, their stomachs swell, and they explode.
Bart: Why am I just learning this now? [grabs the rice box and video camera then runs outside]

This myth is further perpetrated by reputable wedding web sites since, for some wedding writers, it's a great hook for articles on things you can throw at brides and grooms. This one from Ultimateweddings.com struck me as particularly ridiculous since it recommends releasing doves after the wedding instead of throwing rice. "Doves are a symbol of peace," the article says. Right. Nothing says peace quite like buying a few dozen birds from a pet store and keeping them in a cage for six hours during your ceremony and reception. Here's an idea: why not shower the newlyweds in a sort of ticker-tape parade made from shredded wedding magazines?

When you look at the amount of products for sale at TheKnot.com that guests can use in lieu of rice, you might begin to wonder. Are the rose petal people behind this or is it the incredibly powerful birdseed lobby? Perhaps it's just a giant conspiracy cooked up by the bubble industry. We'll never know, but don't get suckered into paying for expensive bubbles or rose petals when for the same price you can buy enough rice to feed a whole flock of birds.

Posted by The Groom at July 14, 2004 10:45 AM

When preparing for our wedding (a little over a year ago), our priest and the people at our reception site both asked us not to throw rice. Their reasoning? It attracts tons of ants. Who knew!?!

Posted by: Lillora20 at July 14, 2004 01:12 PM

I was at a wedding where the guest blew bubbles upon the couples announcement at the reception The bubble were all over the dance floor. Bad idea. Needless to say, the bride took a pretty nasty tumble. Fortunately, she was still able to dance the rest of the night away. I'm not sure how she felt the next day.

Posted by: jt at July 14, 2004 02:30 PM

our priest is also enforcing the rice ban as the entrance to the church has steep stone steps which *apparently* would turn into some sort of death trap with a coating of slippery rice. That seems fair enough and I'm sure I'll find plenty of other ways to fall on my butt that day...

Posted by: red_el at July 14, 2004 02:41 PM

All legitimate reasons for not using rice. I read one site that quoted a priest as saying the tiny grains on his church's marble floors and steps would act like small ball bearings and create a walking hazard, especially for older guests.

Posted by: The Groom at July 14, 2004 04:21 PM

When I lived in Boston, I had a problem with pigeons landing out on my deck, so being the respectable, ecological citizen I am, I placed pie tins of rice on my patio, hoping they would eat it and explode. It just attracted more pigeons!

Posted by: bird feeding at July 14, 2004 04:25 PM

When we did our wedding two years ago, we did bubbles outside as we were leaving. This way we didnt need to worry about sticky floors and for the children that were at the wedding, they got to take the leftover bubbles home with them.

Posted by: MsJava at July 14, 2004 05:02 PM

We're having the bridesmaids hand out kazoos and noisemakers -- MUCH more fun in my book!

Posted by: Suzie at July 17, 2004 09:29 AM

Just remembered the coolest wedding send-off I ever saw:

At each place setting, there was a pre-addressed, stamped post card. Guests were asked to add their own name and something they'd like to do for the couple for their first anniversary (make dinner, mow their lawn, house-sit during a trip, buy a bottle of champagne).

Just before the couple left, all of those cards were tied to helium ballons and released.

In the weeks and months that followed, the postcards began to arrive from all over the country, and later on, from places around the globe, some of them with comments from whoever had found them.

The guest who filled out the cards that returned were happy to fulfill their promises -- made for a WONDERFUL followup to the beautiful wedding.

Posted by: Suzie at July 17, 2004 09:36 AM

rice isn't bad for birds, but balloons littering trees probably isn't so good for them and other animals.

Posted by: John at July 17, 2004 09:07 PM

How about instant mashed potatoes? The tiny flakes might dissolve and couldn't be too bad for birds.

Posted by: The Groom at July 18, 2004 11:42 AM

All in all, the best reason not to use rice - it HURTS! Have you ever been pegged with a handful of uncooked rice? I remember getting beaned in the back of the head with a handful at a relatives wedding and boy did that ever sting. We went with rose petals because we thought they were pretty.... and painless...

Posted by: Mrs. Trevor.Net (I'm Back!) at July 19, 2004 05:00 PM