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Throwing Rice At A Wedding: Is It Dangerous?

We've all heard the warning time and time again. "Don't have guests throw rice. It's harmful to birds!" But is it true?

You may be surprised to learn that it is an urban legend. Rice is no more harmful to birds than birdseed or breadcrumbs.

Don't believe us? Just ask the experts!

National Wildlife Federation says: "You may have heard that when birds eat rice thrown at a wedding, the rice swells so much inside their bellies that they pop. Sounds awful, doesn't it? But have you ever seen any exploding birds after a wedding? It never happens. In fact, birds are often big pests in rice fields. Some rice farmers may wish the pesky birds would explode, but they never do!"

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: "This is a good example of an urban myth. And like many myths, it doesn't go away easily. Many wild birds eat rice in agricultural fields, including house sparrows. Some birds cause so much damage to rice crops that they are considered agricultural pests. You can throw rice at weddings without worrying about the birds."

Mary Jo Cheesman of USA Rice Federation says: "This silly myth pops up periodically, and it is absolutely unfounded. Many migrating ducks and geese depend on winter-flooded rice fields each year to fatten up and build strength for their return trek to northern nesting grounds. Uncooked, milled rice is no more harmful to birds than rice in the field."

Biology Professor Ned Johnson at Berkeley says: "It's a myth. There is no reason why birds, including small songbirds, can't eat rice."

Ornithology.com says: "These statements are absolutely not true... [such as] don't throw rice at weddings because birds will eat it and their stomachs will explode."

hands filled with rice, coins, and flower petals

So if it's a just a myth, why do so many churches and ceremony sites prohibit throwing rice?

It may be that they have bought into the urban legend, but more likely, they prohibit it for another reason. Rice can pose a safety hazard to your guests! That's right, because rice is very starchy, it forms a slick layer when wet and it can make walkways very slippery for wedding guests in dress shoes. To avoid an accidental slip (and a lawsuit), many venues simply don't allow it.

Looking for an alternative to throwing rice at your wedding? Maybe your ceremony site doesn't allow guests to throw rice. Maybe you're still not sure if you want to take a gamble with the birds. Or perhaps you simply want to skip tradition and do something more original. Whatever the case, here are some fun, romantic and unique alternatives to throwing rice at your wedding:

  • Blow bubbles
  • Toss flower petals (rose, hydrangea, jasmine, daisy)
  • Release doves
  • Throw confetti
  • Pop party streamers
  • Release butterflies
  • Ring mini wedding bells
  • Toss birdseed or dried berries
  • Throw rice paper
  • Wave sparklers
  • Spray silly string
  • Throw popcorn
  • Raise candles
  • Release balloons
  • Toss potpourri

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