When a newly married couple exits a church, a synagogue, a courthouse or wherever they’ve just tied the knot, people often shower them with rice (not the sticky kind, of course). Most of us have seen this in the movies or in real life.

If you’re wondering how this grain-throwing tradition came about, don’t fret. We’re going to tell you.

Rice through the ages

Rice has been a staple crop almost since human beings figured out how to farm and the tradition of throwing rice has been going on for a very long time. There are even records of rice being thrown at weddings as far back as the Roman era.

Not just rice

Besides rice, other types of agricultural products were also distributed, or thrown, during marriage ceremonies. Almonds, walnuts, and various kinds of seeds were often handed out, or tossed about at weddings in the past.

Rice and fertility

Nowadays, people marry for a wide assortment of reasons, but back in the day, producing offspring was considered the one and true reason for giving up the single life. The Assyrians, Hebrews and Egyptians believed rice was a symbol of fertility, and so pelting the newlyweds with grain could help ensure that the union would be fruitful, resulting in the birth of lots of children. It was widely held that the reproductive powers inherent in rice and other seeds could be transferred to the young couple, thus aiding them in their quest to start a family.

No rice for me, thanks

Throwing rice at weddings has become a fairly ubiquitous tradition in America, but there are actually some people who are strongly against it. They worry about the little birds eating uncooked rice off the ground after the people have departed. In order to quell their concerns that rice is bad for birds, birdseed is now a common replacement for wedding rice in many parts of the country.

While the birds may thank you for your kind gift, the sentiment behind this tradition remains the same, no mater what type of food is being thrown. What started out as a method for ‘helping’ fertility along has become a simple way to wish a couple future good luck.

[Hudson Valley Weddings]