In case you were in any doubt, the veritable Wikipedia helpfully observes that the tradition of throwing confetti “often takes place at social gatherings such as parties, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs but is considered taboo at funerals”. As if you would be tempted to grab a handful of paper bells and throw them over the coffin as it processes out of the church into the graveyard or to throw a conciliatory handful as the crematorium curtain closes!
The actual word is from the Italian confetto meaning small sweets as traditionally the Italians (ie crazy Europeans) threw sweets at posh parades (at least you did if you had the money to buy them, the plebs just threw mud balls, sometimes at the posh people who had the money to buy confetto to throw at the even posher people) until, in 1875, a Milan businessman had the bright idea to start selling just sweet wrappers to throw instead. In a way this sounds like the ultimate business venture in that, just before carnival season, he and his family presumably bought up the localities entire supply of confetto, noshed their way through the whole lot and then sold on the wrappers at a profit all in the name of economy for the masses, eco-environmental benefits and civic duty. If I was more cynical I would try to draw a modern parallel!
There is also strong evidence that rice, grains and seeds were thrown at pagan ritual ceremonies (there’s probably a Time Team special on the subject) and it’s not a great stretch of the imagination to conclude that this was probably as a symbol of fertility – throwing seeds over a newly married couple isn’t the most subtle of metaphors! The Victorians started off by throwing rice at each other, this gradually became rice mixed with flower petals. We then became lazy and just bought boxes of tissue paper shapes from the newsagent on the way to the wedding but today people have become much more style conscious and often the confetti is colour matched to the theme of the day, contained in cool receptacles and bio degradable.
So, a few top tips for the use of and throwing of confetti:
1) Check with your wedding venue where, when and what type of confetti they are happy for your guests to throw and make sure that your guests are informed accordingly. I remember a recent conversation with a vicar whilst he was sweeping and scraping the wet paving slabs outside his church entrance. The bride and groom had chosen to give their guests rice to throw – the rice was now ¼ of an inch deep on the wet slabs – a gluey slippery mess. By the way, rice hurts. Fifty people flinging handfuls of Uncle Ben’s into your face really stings and it’s extremely unpleasant in your clothes as well!
2) For an even half decent confetti shot you will need much more confetti than you imagine, try to ensure that you have enough supplies for each guest to have a good handful. Your ushers should be given the responsibility of organising and distributing it at the appropriate time.
3) Decide whether you want an organised confetti tunnel to walk through or you are going to go for the free for all approach where everyone throws whenever they want! The tunnel pretty much guarantees a good shot but is rather a cliché whilst the free for all gives the opportunity for something a bit more individual
4) Check the direction of the wind. It’s actually quite funny watching all your guests trying to throw confetti over the bride and groom into the wind but it’s not really what you want. If it’s really windy I would definitely go for the organised confetti tunnel.
5) If you are organising things get your guests to keep their arms extended for a few seconds after the throw has been executed – it looks much better in the photographs.