The Origin Of Throwing Rice At Weddings

Weddings are weird. Where else do you expect a room full of your friends to watch you exchange jewelry under the guidance of clergy? And when the ceremony is over, many brides and grooms are pelted with rice. Before you whip a handful of starch at your newly married friends, let's examine why.

Food Fight

The custom began with the ancient Romans, and is meant to wish fertility for the newlyweds. Originally, Romans threw wheat, but soon afterward, rice became a universal symbol for fertility. (Imagine the conversation that went down when someone decided rice made more sense than wheat as a fertility symbol.)

In some versions of the tradition, the rice or wheat is eaten after it is thrown, which is meant as a compliment to the bride, but probably involves more dirt in your mouth than you typically want. Today, Italian weddings end with candy and sugared nuts being thrown at newlyweds. In Morocco, they lob raisins.

The rice toss lost some luster in recent years after a rumor that birds' stomachs would explode if they ate the rice. The rumor is false. That didn't stop Connecticut state legislator from introducing a bill in 1985 that would have banned the practice. Today, thankfully, you're free to throw rice as often as you like without fear of harming our feathered friends. Happy tossing!

Hear Dr. Eli Finkel, relationship expert, explain how the best marriages work on the Curiosity Podcast. Stream or download the episode using the player below, or find it everywhere podcasts are found, including iTunes, Stitcher, and Gretta.

Why Do We Throw Rice At Weddings?

It's sweet, but really strange.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Throwing rice at weddings is a tradition that wishes fertility upon the newlywed couple. 00:10

  2. Ancient Romans threw wheat at weddings. 00:26

  3. Rice is a universal symbol for fertility. 00:44

This History of Wedding Traditions

Why do brides throw the bouquet? And why do women dive for it?

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Brides used to carry herbs instead of flowers. This practice stemmed from the belief that certain herbs would protect carriers from the black plague. 00:20

  2. Snatching a piece of the bride's dress was considered good luck in medieval France. 01:48

  3. Bridesmaids were originally dressed to look like the bride, thus confusing anyone who wanted to kidnap her. 03:01

5 Countries Where Brides Don't Wear White

It's not a worldwide tradition.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Queen Victoria began the "white wedding" trend when she married in 1842. 00:08

  2. Traditional Irish brides wear blue dresses, which symbolize purity. 00:44

  3. Traditional brides in China wear red gowns to symbolize good luck. 01:39

Why Do Men Propose On One Knee?

It's complicated.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. According to recent surveys, 76% of men think you should get down on one knee when proposing. 00:39

  2. "Genuflection" is bending at least one knee to the ground as a gesture of deep respect for a superior. 01:56

  3. Queen Victoria is the one who started the white wedding gown tradition. 03:01

Written by Ben Bowman August 14, 2017