The Wedding Send-off

By DiAnne Crown

January 31, 2017 5 min read

The send-off of the bridal couple can be one of the most exciting moments of a wedding. Friends and family members watch the newleyweds set off for their new life together. There are many traditional symbolic gestures for this moment, some of which were borne of practicality and patriarchy. Nowadays, many couples are choosing fun, festive, progressive ways for guests to wave goodbye.

*Throwing Rice

Tossing rice at the couple, sometimes called an "exit toss," gets everyone involved in the wedding celebration. According to one article on the Martha Stewart Weddings website called "How Throwing Rice Became a Wedding Tradition," in olden times, marriage meant expansion (of family, assets, etc). It says, "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."

Nowadays, the tradition appears in many forms. Guests throw candy and sugared nuts in Italy (for sweetness), and guests in Morocco throw figs and raisins (for fruitfulness). In America, creative couples are offering guests things like rose petals and paper airplanes that are less messy and hazardous. No one wants guests to slip on candy and twist an ankle, or feel the sting of a grain of rice in the eye.

*Tying Shoes to the Couple's Vehicle

The forerunner to tying cans onto the getaway car bumper was tying shoes. According to the BrideandGroom website, a "bride's shoes were considered to be symbols of authority and possession." They were "taken from her when she was led to the wedding place, and given to the groom by her father, effecting the transfer of his authority to her husband and as a sign that the husband now had possession of her."

According to Mental Floss, however, this tradition started during the Tudor period in England. Guests would throw their shoes at the couple as they left because it was considered good luck to hit the vehicle. Today, however, "that would be considered a lawsuit, so we tie them to the car instead." And Americans began using aluminum cans because "walking home from a wedding with only one shoe is no fun."

*Dove and Butterfly Releases

For many, though the symbolism intended with a live animal release is that of love, devotion and inspiration, the act is often far from inspiring. Many animal rights groups argue that doves that are bred in captivity are often confused and vulnerable to predators upon release. In fact, the National Animal Protection Agency released an open letter to Pope Francis in 2014. He and two children released doves in St. Peter's Square, and the doves were attacked by a seagull and a crow. Butterflies aren't a better solution, as they often arrive dazed, crushed and cold, only to wilt sadly and die when released.

Alternatives to these traditions are aplenty. Couples nowadays often have different considerations than before, such as social change, environmental sustainability and animal rights. And creative couples tie their choice in with their wedding theme.

Balloons were once thought a better option than animals. To make them even more environmentally friendly, consider using biodegradable balloons filled with helium or vinegar and baking soda and tied with compostable string or ribbon.

Send the newlyweds off in style with paper party crackers, dazzling sparklers, streamers or confetti. These favorites of New Year's Eve celebrations will be a loud, vibrant, fun symbolic gesture of a new start.

Another option is to move the tried and true unity candle ceremony to the end of the service and invite all adult guests to light candles. Provide bubbles for kids to blow.

Brit + Co media company offers 24 nontraditional wedding send-offs, many of which are based on the theme of the wedding. For fall weddings, consider gathering beautifully colored leaves to throw. For a garden wedding, give guests dried lavender to toss instead.

These clever ways to say goodbye are sure to be memorable for the bridal couple and guests alike.

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