Friday, March 30, 2018

Sepia Saturday: Rice Is Not Nice

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt drew my attention to the suitcase. When I graduated from high school, my grandmother gave me a full set of American Tourister luggage. It was the same luggage I took on my honeymoon. Upon opening the suitcase at our hotel, I found a surprise.

Suitcase full of rice
Suitcase full of rice

I had become the victim of a wedding prank that was popular in the early 1970s. My friends had dumped a bag of rice into the suitcase all over my clothes. Why did we think that was funny? I don’t know, but we did. We laughed too because it was proof that our friends loved us. Right?

Barry emptying the suitcase
How to get rid of a suitcase full of rice
Just a couple years before, I had been party to a similar prank in which the bridesmaids and groomsmen sneaked into our friends’ new apartment to spread rice between the sheets on their bed. Oh yeah, hilarious.

Rice Tree wedding 1973
Rice tree at our wedding

As if rice wasn’t already cheap and plentiful, brides in the ‘70s were enablers to such shenanigans. The rice bag tree was on trend. I remember crafting little tulle bags of rice for my wedding, counting them repeatedly to make sure there was enough for each guest to have one. It was tradition. Tossing rice was meant to symbolize prosperity, fertility, and good fortune. What could be more perfect?

Being pelted with rice is actually no fun. That stuff hurts!
The Big Send Off 1973-style
Guests throwing rice at Barry and me
In later years, tossing rice was no longer an acceptable practice. Animal rights activists warned that rice could harm unsuspecting birds. Furthermore, churches did not want rice littering the sidewalks either, especially when a hard rain caused the rice to puff up and become a gummy mess. Pretty little rice bags were soon replaced with pretty little bags of bird seed. After a time bird seed was not welcome either as nobody wanted to attract birds and their accompanying bodily functions.

The next idea for a big send-off for the happy couple was BUBBLES. But even bubbles have developed a bad reputation for staining guests’ clothes.

One daughter wanted sparklers for her wedding, but in our city any kind of FIRE was not allowed. Instead she and her sister both settled for wedding wands.
Zoe and Jason wedding 2013
The Big Send Off 2013-style
Waving wands at Zoe and Jason
Jordan and Rob wedding 2013
The Big Send Off 2013-style
Waving wands at Jordan and Rob and the girls

 “Give waves of good wishes to the new Mr. & Mrs.!”

Yes, I think I would much rather be slapped by ribbons than pelted by rice.

Pack your bags and head over to Sepia Saturday for more stories and surprises.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Of course a wild wedding wand could put someone's eye out. :) I was on the lookout for rice being laced through my clothes in my suitcase when I was a bride. What I didn't expect at all the next morning was taking the cap off my hairspray can sending rice flying everywhere. Unfortunately we had spent the night in my husband's aunt and uncle's home atop Market Street in San Francisco because they were away on a camping trip, so we had to find their vacuum cleaner and clean it all up.

  2. Crikey, rice grains get everywhere.

  3. Your tale reminded me of my last day at work before my wedding. I was given a good send off by colleagues, and left to get the bus home. At the bus stop I opened my shoulder bag to get out my purse for my bus fare - and out fell a shower of confetti onto the pavement! I am sorry to,say, there was nothing I could do about it, so I had to leave it there. And I was someone who was critical of litter on the streets!

  4. Oh what a fun collection, and a story of how our rituals change as we become more aware of others (clothes, birds, the environment, safety!)

  5. I had a friend whose jacuzzi was filled with rice and the temp of the water was enough to hydrate it. The rice swelled (swollen.) into a mountain. It took a lot of effort to clean and repair. The pranksters worked for Uncle Bens and paid for it all. I love the wedding wands...haven’t been to a wedding in a long time so I’m out of touch with current practices.

  6. Haha! such fun memories! Wedding wands it is! They were hard to make until we FINALLY got the hang of it!

  7. Isn't it funny that we think we need to send them off with any of those things? I've seen all but the wedding wands. (and yes, we were pelted with rice!)

  8. Kind of a shame the rice and bird seed aren't eco-friendly because they certainly are a fun send off. However, another favorite that should probably go the same way are those rock-hard sugar coated almonds at wedding showers!

  9. Fun memories! Somehow I missed the 70s rice pranks - we just had it thrown at us. My mom made little rice-holding rose buds with leftovers from bridesmaid dresses. I still have a couple. And how prescient of you to have those suitcase photos from your honeymoon!

  10. Rice is nice, but bubbles are trouble. I've no need for seed, but I'm fond of wands. For some reason I've got the old jingle for Rice-e-Roni in my head.

  11. We were married in 1974 and since rice wasn't allowed, we were told we could use bird seed. We decided to have nothing available to our guests - we just left to waving hands.