Why do we throw a hail of tiny white rice grains at the newly married couple as they make their way from the ceremony? The answer is three-fold. Rice or grains symbolize fertility and are a symbol of prosperity. The wish was for the couple to have a family, and if your fields had a lot of grain growing in them, you were prosperous.
What Is the Rice Toss?
The rice toss is a symbolic wish to the just-married couple for a life of prosperity and fruitfulness, which to the ancients meant many children. As a blessing, guests shower the couple with rice as they exit the ceremony.
Here, we delve into the ancient tradition with help from an expert.
The History and Meaning of the Rice Toss
The history and the tradition of showering newlyweds at a wedding with rice, seed, and grains predate Christianity. The Celts, mighty warriors, were also an agronomist culture who tossed rice, millet, and other grains to appease spirits and ask for blessing and fertility for the couple. Ancient Romans used wheat. Italians toss candies or sugared nuts. The Polish use rice but also place coins at the couple's feet to ensure prosperity. In Morocco, it's dried dates or figs and Eastern India's tradition is a rain of flower petals.
“It’s a tradition for family and friends to shower the newlyweds with good wishes as they walk into a new life together," adds Nora. No matter the culture, the significance of the throw is similar. It’s a demonstrative ritual performed by the guests and family to wish the couple good fortune, a prosperous marriage, and children if they desire.
Meet the Expert
Nora Sheils is the founder of Bridal Bliss in the Pacific Northwest. An 18-year event and wedding planning expert, Nora and her award-winning team have attained international recognition. Along with her business partner Elizabeth Sheils, Nora co-founded a new platform called Rock Paper Coin, an innovative solution for wedding planners to process contracts, invoices, and payments between the couple, vendors, and the planner.
Rice Toss FAQs
When does the rice toss take place?
There are two times in the wedding day that a throw or toss might happen: recessing from the ceremony down the aisle by the couple or the grand exit as they leave the reception. At modern weddings, the rice throw is usually immediately following the ceremony and not generally used for the grand exit after the reception.
Where does it take place?
If the ceremony is in a church or chapel, guests line up outside for the toss. As soon as the newlyweds exit the church the rice is showered over them. If it’s an outdoor wedding, the toss is done while they exit down the aisle.
Who cleans up after the rice toss?
Someone (likely a vendor you have hired) needs to be in charge of cleaning up. You don’t want a guest to slip on the rice, and also keeps you in good graces with the venue. Ask the venue if they offer clean up.
If you will be throwing any sort of toss, you or your planner must check with your venue or church first. Your contract may not allow rice or any other type of toss. If a throw is allowed, the contracts are very specific as to what can be thrown and where.
Does raw rice kill birds?
In 1985 a bill was introduced by a state legislator in Connecticut to ban the throwing of rice at weddings. And although Audubon officials in Connecticut said that they had never read anything to support the notion that rice was a danger to birds, the bill, unfounded by science, set off a widespread negative impact across the nation against throwing rice. The belief persists today even though subsequent testing on birds proved that eating raw rice does not kill them.
How to Do the Rice Toss
Before the ceremony, small packets of rice may be handed out by a greeter at the entrance to the ceremony space. Or an individual packet of rice could be included in a pocket in the wedding program. At an outdoor ceremony, a small cone of rice looped with ribbon might be attached to each guest's chair.
It is essential to let the guests know when the toss is to happen, so guests aren't confused. Tell them if it is happening as the couple walks out, or saved for a group photo, or the couple’s arrival to the reception. This info could be in the ceremony program or via an announcement by the officiant just before the wedding begins.
As a guest, there really is a right way to throw rice. No one likes getting hit in the eye or stung across the face. A gentle release of rice to sprinkle down on the couple is the plan. That’s why it’s also called a rice “toss.”
Rice Toss Alternatives
Maybe one of the traditional meanings of throwing rice, like having lots of children, does not align with your intention for your future together. Or perhaps you’d like to find a greener throw or something that carries the theme and color of your wedding, or is symbolic to you. Our expert has some ideas for your toss:
- Environmentally friendly options like seeds, dried flowers, or herbs.
- Include your wedding colors in your toss by using non-staining flowers or lavender.
- Set up an interactive station where guests create their own tossing mix prior to the start of the ceremony.
- If a clean-up crew is in tow, some other fun ideas are having guests toss pom-poms, rose petals, bio-degradable confetti, or even throwing paper-airplanes.
- Want to skip the ceremony toss all-together? Pass out ribbon wands or bells for guests to ring during the grand exit at the end of the night.