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Doves and Butterflies

Photo © Roy Katalan

In many ancient traditions, white doves have symbolized love, purity, holiness and fidelity. There is a beauty and symbolism that is associated with both doves and butterflies. Many couples have decided to release doves or butterflies at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony. The winged beauties can be a unique and memorable way to cap off your wedding.


It is an Italian tradition to release a pair of white doves at the end of a wedding ceremony. The release is meant as a symbol of the couple's love and happiness. The bride and groom can each release a dove or they can be released from a special basket. Your parents, children, special family members or attendants can also be responsible for releasing the doves. Most companies provide an assistant to help with the release. Discuss with the company providing the doves how the attendant will be dressed. Since they will play a part in your wedding ceremony, you want to make sure they look nice.

Doves can be released only during daylight hours. They must be able to fly home before it gets dark. After they are released, the doves fly home as they are trained. They can fly about 150 miles. However, most dove releases are done about 50 miles or less from the birds' home.


Butterflies also create a beautiful display after a wedding ceremony. They are usually shipped to you via overnight delivery to arrive the day before the event. You should store them in a cool place to keep them in a sleeping state. (Butterfly keepers recommend an air-conditioned room or basement). About two to four hours before the event starts, move the butterflies to a warm, bright place so they can wake up and become alert. They are now ready to release.

You should probably assign a close friend or relative who is not in the wedding to be in charge of caring for the butterflies before the release. This may be a special honor bestowed on someone who couldn't be in the wedding party.

Butterflies can be packaged in two ways: in a decorative box for mass release or in individual origami envelopes for the guests to open. Up to 100 butterflies can be packaged in one box. The boxes are usually decorated with flowers to fit the occasion. Butterflies can also be packaged one per envelope so your guests can participate in the release. Some popular butterflies used for release include the painted lady, monarch and gulf fritillaries.

Be sure to order your doves or butterflies about two to four months before your wedding to ensure their availability. As with any wedding service, be sure to discuss the exact plans and prices with the provider. Make sure all of the terms are spelled out in the contract.