And what other countries (and eras!) use(d) instead.
Photographer: Collin Hughes
There's something special about getting others involved during the wedding ceremony—we throw bouquets, ask our friends and family to be a part of our wedding parties, and eat and drink alongside loved ones to create memories that last a lifetime.
Tossing rice is a wedding tradition that gets everyone involved, which may be why it's persisted throughout the centuries. Exit tosses date back to the ancient Romans, but how did the ritual start?
In olden times, marriage meant expansion, from building a family to increasing one's assets. Rice (most likely chosen for its availability and low cost) symbolized both fertility and prosperity, and tossing it at couples implied best wishes and good luck—for newborns, good harvests, and everything in between.
Alternatives included wheat (the Roman tradition) and oats, but regardless, the message was clear: Seeds and crops are things that grow.
Nowadays, the tradition takes many forms, from candy and sugared nuts in Italy (for sweetness in marriage) to figs and raisins in Morocco (for fruitfulness).
Right here in America, things have also changed. With creative couples and a plethora of themed weddings, newlyweds have the flexibility to offer guests something less messy, slippery, and hazardous (no bride wants to take a grain to the eye) than rice.
Whimsier options include confetti, pom poms, and paper airplanes, and seasonal replacements—like autumn leaves—are equally festive. And if you'd rather not have anything airborne, sparklers and streamered dowels make perfectly acceptable send-offs.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with sticking to what you know (as long as your venue allows it)—besides, science has proved the rice-is-bad-for-birds rumor totally false.