Throwing rice used to be a popular wedding tradition but it’s one we’ve stepped away from more and more in modern times for a number of reasons, including the fact that it isn’t allowed in most venues. Originally guests threw oats, grains, dried corn, (for Czech newlyweds it was peas), and eventually it was rice. Showering the newlyweds with this “life-giving” seed was meant to shower the couple with good fortune, prosperity, and fertility.
One of the reasons rice isn’t thrown much today is due to an urban legend which says rice is harmful to birds, but this has been proven false. The story speculated that the rice expanded in the birds’ stomachs and caused our feathered friends to explode. In 1985 a Connecticut state legislator even introduced a bill to outlaw the practice and those caught throwing rice would be fined $50.
Other issues with throwing hard grain is that it can actually hurt, get in your ears, poke your eyes, etc. If people toss the grain underhand it gently showers the bride and groom, but when hurled like a major-league pitcher, with speed and purpose, it hurts.
If you like the traditional symbolism associated with throwing “life-giving” seed to wish the newly married couple good luck as they leave the church, there are a variety of other options. Probably the most popular is birdseed or sunflower seeds. While these are bird-friendly options, like rice these can hurt if thrown with vigor and be slippery on sidewalks creating a slipping hazard. For those wishing to avoid that risk, some people have turned to blowing bubbles, but this too can be really slippery if done indoors as bubbles from so many well-wishers land on the floor and pop creating a soapy film, so be careful.
Other options include flower petals, which can provide beautiful color for some stunning wedding pictures. I’ve also seen people release butterflies (which dates back to the 90s), but environmentalists point out that this will cause an imbalance to the ecosystem.
So what is the best alternative to throwing rice at a wedding? They make biodegradable confetti which is lightweight, comes in color or white, and falls gracefully which makes for great wedding photos -- plus it dissolves when it rains so there’s no mess to clean up. That's a big plus in my book.