Nothing says “romance is in the air” like….a pigeon pooping on Gramma!

Okay, no death threats after my last post, so I’ll give this another shot.

I’m going to start with my biggest pet peeve in wedding trends: using animals as decorations or props.

Butterfly releases…

Dove Releases…

Fish Centerpieces…

NO. Just…no.

The irony is that most of the people who do these things tend to say things like “I love butterflies!” or “I’m doing this because I love nature and want to incorporate it in to my wedding!”  I consider this a case of being misguided more than anything else. I don’t think there is ever an intention to cause harm to these animals, but the truth is – it does cause harm. Its also completely, one hundred percent unnecessary.  Your wedding, your marriage, and your future as a family will not be altered in any way because you let some white pigeons out of a cage after you said your vows. The pigeons don’t give a crap about you or your wedding, but they do crap while they’re flying…so watch out.

In the interest of actually hoping this post will help someone reconsider the decision to use animals as props, I’ll offer some alternatives along with explaining why using real animals is a bad idea…

Fish Centerpieces:


Here we see a beta fish in a vase with floating candles over it.  How modern and edgy!  Do we care about the fact that flames consume oxygen, which the fish needs to be able to breath? Do we care about what happens when the candles melt a bit more, and hot wax drips in to the water, maybe landing on the fish and possibly heating up the water to an uncomfortable or unlivable temperature for the fish?  Just a few things to consider.

Ok fine, no candles:


Whats the problem here? What are you, some PETA nutjob?   Well, who is taking all of the fish home after the wedding? The average wedding has 18-20 tables. Are you absolutely certain that 18 or 20 people, after drinking for the better part of the day, and maybe staying at a hotel for the night, want to take home a new pet, and properly care for it?  Are you providing a way to properly transport the fish on the way home? Because that vase doesn’t have a cover.  Are you sure that your 9 year old nephew (or your jolly drunk cousin Jimmy) won’t decide that its funny to share a beer with the fish? Or dare someone to swallow it and joke about the “sushi appetizers”?  Yes, I see your eyes rolling, but I was at a wedding where both of those things happened to the goldfish centerpieces.  You wouldn’t put kittens in cages on your tables and expect your guests to take them all home to care for them properly, would you?  So why are fish different?  Yes they’re small, yes they’re affordable, yes they look cool – that doesn’t mean its right to use them as a decoration with no regard for their well being.


It turns out, fish look even cooler when there is no possibility of them floating upside down in the vase by the end of the night.  Here are some great non-living fish as wedding decor:

Orchids that look like betas, on a string to suspend them in a vase of water:


Origami Koi! Aren’t these amazing? Here is the source for this idea, they sell a DVD if you wanted to DIY:


Hanging origami fish.  This picture is from my friends’ Ray and Cantor’s wedding. Not only do they look great (we actually brought one home and have it hanging in our living room), they are extra eco-friendly, because they can be made with repurposed magazine pages.  They were also really easy to make.


As a final option, if you are SO obsessed with fish that you will absolutely die if you don’t have live fish at your wedding, have one, at a central table, like next to the guest book or by the seating assignments. Don’t put candles in the vase, and have a person assigned in advance who will be taking the fish home in a container with a cover.

Butterfly Releases:

Butterflies are shipped in envelopes, like this:


They can’t fly, they can’t move their wings, they can’t move at all.  The fact that this is how butterflies arrive to you to release for your wedding should be enough to convince you its a bad idea, especially if you actually like butterflies. But in case that’s not enough, once they arrive, you have to pick them up out of those envelopes by their wings – which are incredibly delicate and easy to break. The oils from our fingers can also harm them.  If you picked it up carefully enough not to kill it (that is, if it survived the shipping to begin with- which some don’t), there is a good chance it is stunned and in shock, and will just fall to the ground when you let it go.  This will lead to one of two possible fates for your pretty butterfly: getting stomped on by a guest, or getting snatched by a bird (nom nom).

Cruelty aside, butterfly releases also potentially mess up breeding and migratory patterns, spread disease, and introduce species in to regions they shouldn’t be in.  Here is a great article from the North American Butterfly Association:   The key point the article makes is that you’re only “releasing” butterflies that are captive because you ordered them.  The notion of doing it because you like butterflies doesn’t even make sense.


Here is a great blog post from Crafty Moods on how to make a butterfly garland. They look gorgeous! I bet you could even attach them to a neat, vintage-looking fan to have the effect of them flying at your ceremony


And here are some really neat centerpieces using faux butterflies, found at:


And finally, if you live near a zoo with a butterfly garden, you can get photographs taken there surrounded by real butterflies who are cared for by professionals and not stuffed in envelopes. For my fellow Massholes, we even have: The Butterfly Place, which actually hosts weddings!

Dove Releases:

Dove, in terms of the type of bird released at weddings in the US, is a fancy name for a white pigeon.  First of all, lots of people are freaked out by birds flapping over their heads (my mom is one of those people, Hi Mom!)

Even according to the professionals who release them, many things need to be considered before releasing doves at a ceremony.  For example, they can’t be released after sunset, and they can’t be released in rain or bad weather (which in New England, is pretty much unpredictable).  While it seems there are plenty of reputable people who take good care of their birds, there are also those who don’t. If you’re not an expert, you’re taking a risk that the doves you are releasing are being cared for by someone who knows what they’re doing.   If this is something you feel strongly about, please read some info here.

Despite the fact that it appears dove releases can be done humanely, I still don’t quite get why we need to use live animals as props… that, and there is no way to promise the bird doesn’t fly right out of the box and go <<FWAP>> head first in to the glass door next to your ceremony space. Or poop on someone’s head.



everything related to birds and birdcages is very trendy right now in the wedding world. Just google it, but here’s one cute bird themed wedding without using real birds from Prima Donna Bride:


If you have any other ideas for alternatives, please post them!  I’d love for people to stumble across this post while searching for information on using live animals in their wedding, and change their minds because there are so many great ideas out there that completely eliminate any chance of being unintentionally cruel to animals.

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4 Responses to Nothing says “romance is in the air” like….a pigeon pooping on Gramma!

  1. Trish says:

    Love the Orchids in water idea…

  2. Jane says:

    Right on!! Why people think that animals are only “things” is hard for me to fathom. Thanks for this wonderful, funny and inspiring blog.

  3. Turd Ferguson says:

    I am going to have an alligator, and swimming kittens and puppies, those things love water!

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