The image of a bride and groom being showered with colourful confetti as they leave the church is unquestionably iconic. In fact, the tradition of throwing confetti at weddings can be traced back to the middle ages. It’s how wedding guests traditionally say ‘congratulations’, and wish a lifetime of luck and happiness upon the married couple.
Over the decades, the symbolism and origins of confetti have mostly been forgotten. But the throwing of confetti is still commonplace at weddings all over the world. Most of us wouldn’t consider the celebration complete without it!
Today, we’ll be discussing everything confetti-related: its fascinating history, why and when we use it, and who provides it. We’ll explore the different kinds of confetti you can buy, and share some confetti alternatives for venues that don’t allow it.
Why Do We Throw Confetti?
The history of confetti dates back to the middle ages. Medieval Italians used to throw various objects during parades, such as eggs, mud pellets, bits of bread, fruit and coins. Rather than being thrown by spectators, these were thrown by the parade’s participants into the gathered crowd.
Starting in the 1700s, these objects were replaced with candy-coated seeds, such as coriander seeds. The Italian word for confetti remains, to this day, ‘coriandoli’. We get the word ‘confetti’ from another Italian sweet – sugared almonds, which were never thrown at weddings, but instead handed out as favours.
In 1875, the first paper confetti was manufactured for the Carnivale di Milano. It took the form of small paper discs, not unlike the kind of confetti we use today. It didn’t take long for confetti to catch on in the UK, where it was first used at a wedding in 1895. That year, the word even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary!
Before this, wedding guests in the UK showered the newlyweds with uncooked rice (less commonly, wheat and barley). These grains symbolised fertility. It was thought that sprinkling the married couple with rice would bring luck when it came to starting a family.
The reason that we began to replace rice with Italy’s paper confetti was probably down to comfort. Uncooked rice is hard and sharp, and being pelted with rice can be more than a little painful.
Who Provides Confetti at a Wedding?
Up until very recently, it was the norm for guests to bring confetti to weddings. In fact, this is still commonplace in some parts of the country. You may find that some of your guests, particularly those belonging to an older generation, turn up with their own confetti.
But if you have your heart set on having confetti at your wedding, you should provide it yourself, rather than relying on your guests to supply it. That way, you can choose the type of confetti – paper or petals, for example. You can also make sure there’s enough to go around, and for your photographer to get some great confetti shots.
Order your wedding confetti at the same time as your decorations and stationery. This real flower confetti, made of delphinium petals, includes 2 x 1 litre bags. It comes with 25 paper cones and a stand for them. On the morning of your wedding, simply fill each cone with confetti and place them in the stand. Have your ushers or groomsmen hand them out to your guests after the ceremony.
When Do You Throw Confetti?
Traditionally, confetti is thrown just after the newlyweds say “I do”. It’s either thrown indoors or outdoors, as the couple walks down the aisle or as they leave the venue.
Ask your venue for guidance on this, as they may not allow confetti to be thrown indoors, or near the entrance to the venue. In this case, you may prefer to have your guests throw confetti during the outdoor photoshoot (in a garden, field or park, for example).
You can also have your guests throw confetti at your reception; for example, after the first dance.
What Types of Confetti Are There?
There are two main types of confetti used at weddings. The first is throwing confetti: this is what guests use to scatter over the bride and groom. The second is table confetti.
Table confetti is not designed to be thrown around. Instead, it’s sprinkled over wedding breakfast tables or reception tables, before the guests sit down. Table confetti adds a fun touch to wedding day décor, and looks great in photos.
Throwing confetti is designed to be lightweight, so that it ‘flutters’ as it falls through the air (and doesn’t hurt when it lands on your head).
• Paper confetti is the traditional kind. It’s made from coloured tissue paper, and cut into shapes such as hearts, stars, squares or circles.
• Rice paper confetti looks similar to tissue paper confetti, but it’s more eco-friendly as it dissolves upon contact with water.
• Craft glitter is often used as confetti. It looks beautiful in photos, but be aware that it’s difficult to clean up.
• Petal confetti, like this rose petal confetti, is made from real dried flowers. It’s biodegradable and adds a vintage look to wedding photos.
Uncooked rice is still sometimes used at weddings. However, it’s lost popularity in recent years, due to rumours that it’s unsafe for birds to eat. This is untrue, but it’s still fallen by the wayside in favour of modern confetti.
For table confetti, you can of course use traditional paper confetti, glitter or petals. But most people prefer to use plastic confetti for table decoration. This is because it’s heavier, and less likely to blow into people’s hair or food.
Plastic confetti is usually dyed bright colours and has a shiny, metallic appearance. It comes in various shapes, such as this heart-shaped plastic confetti.
For something a bit more rustic, these tiny wooden hearts make great table confetti. Alternatively, if your wedding is more on the glamorous side, these table crystals add a beautifully sparkly touch. They come in 10 different colours, to suit any wedding theme.
Do All Wedding Venues Allow Confetti?
Unfortunately, many modern wedding venues, including churches and hotels, don’t allow confetti. There are a few different reasons for this.
Firstly, confetti thrown indoors creates a huge clean-up problem. Confetti pieces are tiny, and notorious for sticking to floors and tables, making them difficult to vacuum or sweep up. Plastic and metallic confetti can also leech out dye when wet, staining wooden surfaces.
If thrown outdoors, traditional paper and plastic confetti is unfortunately not environmentally friendly. It can be eaten by wildlife, such as birds, causing stomach impactions.
Not only that, but plastic confetti isn’t biodegradable. It sits on the ground until rain washes it away into rivers and ponds, causing pollution. Though paper confetti eventually rots away, it can take a long time, leaving an unsightly mess in the meantime.
Some venues will allow eco-friendly confetti, such as dried petals or rice paper, to be scattered outside. But many venues have placed a blanket ban on confetti of any kind. Fortunately, if this is the case for your venue, there are plenty of alternatives.
Alternatives to Confetti
If your venue has banned confetti – or if you choose not to use it, for whatever reason – here are some confetti substitutes that still look great in pictures.
• Blowing bubbles. You can hire or buy a bubble machine, or give each guest a mini bubble bottle to blow themselves.
• Balloons. Give each guest a brightly coloured helium balloon on a string to hold in photos. You can even get balloons with confetti inside. (Don’t release any balloons outdoors, as this is bad for the environment.)
• Birdseed. This is both biodegradable and safe to be consumed by wildlife.
• Dried leaves. You can scatter the leaves whole, or use a craft hole punch to create shapes such as hearts and stars.
• Popcorn. Again, this is wildlife-friendly and will dissolve with rain. Use plain, unseasoned corn.
• Fabric pompoms. These should only be scattered indoors, of course, but they’re much easier to clean up than confetti.
• Artificial snow. This is perfect for winter weddings. Be sure to check that the snow you’re using is biodegradable and made of natural ingredients.
• Ribbon wands. Create these by gluing or tying colourful satin ribbons to wooden sticks, and give one to each of your guests to wave in photos. You can even attach tiny bells for a fun sound effect