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Let Them Throw Rice ... or Seeds, or Confetti

It was never an issue — a couple got married, they came out of the church, people threw rice.

But in these lawsuit-happy days, many houses of worship are shying away from the slippery grains out of fear that wedding guests will lose their footing, fall and sue.

"It's a liability issue," said Maria McBride-Mellinger, style editor at Bride's magazine (search) and the author of "Perfect Wedding Details." (search) "The steps, often marble or granite, can be slick. And then there's the question of who's going to clean up."

The ban is commonly thought to be due to the risk rice may pose to birds, which some say can die from eating the grains — but New Jersey wedding expert Sharon Naylor says this is an urban legend.

"Liability and clean-up are the real concerns," she said.

Rice or no rice, as the wedding season kicks off, brides and grooms have refused to give up this fun part of the ceremony, leaving planners with a new dilemma: What should well-wishers throw instead?

Experts say the answer is only as limited as couples' creativity.

"Think about what kind of wedding you want to have and come up with something fun and different," said Antonia van der Meer, editor-in-chief of Modern Bride magazine (search). "There are no real rules anymore. There are so many options."

Click here to read about other wedding trends.

Van der Meer says bubbles are great for a summer wedding; for fall, she likes red and orange leaves.

Naylor says bubbles, flowers and confetti are the most popular choices.

"At craft and party supply stores, they have individual packs of little bubble bottles. You can make your own labels on the computer. Or you can send a digital picture to photofetti.com and they make confetti out of it."

McBride-Mellinger said people can also make DIY confetti with a paper-shredder machine.

"You can pick any color paper you like, or shred sheets of love songs or paper printed with words like 'I do' and 'love.' Set up a large bowl and people can grab handfuls as they exit."

Naylor says rose petals bought in bulk are a favorite among brides; McBride-Mellinger also suggests couples "make like Morticia Adams" and shred the petals off flowers like baby's breath and carnations.

Naylor and McBride-Mellinger both also like bird seed, which McBride-Mellinger says can be found in all different colors and shapes at stores that specialize in tropical birds.

That said, some wedding sites, citing safety concerns, won't allow guests to throw anything at all — but this doesn't have to rain on the big day. McBride-Mellinger says noisemakers provide a fun alternative.

"You can engrave little silver bells, give them out in the beginning of the ceremony and people can ring them at the kiss and at the end of the aisle," she said. "Guests can also keep these as a favor, which is good if you're trying to count pennies."

McBride-Mellinger added that one thing she wouldn't recommend doing is releasing butterflies.

"People are packaging immature butterflies — this is the first time they've ever flown. The poor things need to learn how to fly before they take off, so typically you get one out of the box and a bunch of trampled-upon creatures."

Historically, the rice ritual goes back to ancient Rome, where Naylor says wedding guests threw seeds, nuts and grains to wish newlyweds fertility, good luck and abundance.

"It was meant to say, 'Have a good crop,' meaning be prosperous and have plenty of children to work on your farm."

Given this test of time, it's unlikely that the rice ban will terminate the toss.

"The exit from the church or temple is such a hurrah moment — it's a way of showering the bride and groom with affection and good will," McBride-Mellinger said.