History of White Doves The releasing of white doves at weddings has been a tradition for over four thousand years and is an expression of love and inspiration in many cultures. The tradition can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman times when the doves were gifts from the Bride to the Groom. White doves have been illustrated in art, and recorded in literature for thousands of years. An old world custom in Europe and in the South Seas was to release doves at weddings to symbolize blessings, peace, love and prosperity for a married couple.
Even in biblical passages, the appearance of the snow white dove came to symbolize peace, holiness, innocence, love and fidelity. There are over 200 species of doves, however, there are "two" species that we commonly recognize to symbolize our love for one another.
1) The snow white feral dove: Used by magicians and also found in pet stores. Although they make a beautiful display, these doves should NEVER be released. Some companies will offer either untrained homers, ringnecks or other types of pigeon or dove. Those types of birds are likely to end up in the claws of a hawk, owl or cat, since they are unable to survive on their own in the wild. They have poor flying ability and if released into the wild will quickly die.
2) The release dove: The white rock doves are used for ceremonial releases and are a breed of white racing pigeons/doves. They are intensely trained on a daily basis by a knowledgeable handler. Release doves are often used to commemorate important milestones of life and offerings of hope at weddings , celebrations, birthdays and as representing the soul's final journey at funerals.
Common wedding release ceremonies
the "hand release" in which the bride and groom hold two doves which are then released together
the "flurry" or "flock release" in which the bride and groom release two birds by hand or from a box and then a larger group of doves are released shortly afterward to join them in the sky.
Common memorial release ceremonies
the "spirit" in which a single dove is released,
the "trinity" in which a single dove representing the soul of the deceased is released followed by three doves.
the "12 dove" in which a single dove is first released, followed by twelve doves.
White dove releases were also used at funerals as a freeing of the spirit and at special events as representations of love and joy! White doves play a key role in life’s celebrations because of the beauty and symbolism associated with them.
The Chinese culture is steeped in the meanings of doves. In fact, they regularly practice bird releases to ward off evil. For them doves represent peace and a long life.
The dove also represents peace and love in Christian faiths. You will have seen this theme prominently displayed at Christmas. Indeed, the Bible has referenced the importance of doves many times throughout its different books.
Doves play a huge role in mythology, too. Historically they were associated with the gods and considered sacred. Ancient Greeks and Romans gave white doves as gifts. Doves are considered devoted, loyal, trustworthy and honest.
To early Greeks and Romans, a dove release was an emblem of love, devotion, and caring. It was the sacred animal of Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love. In these ancient cultures, the groom would give a dove to the bride, symbolizing his promise to care for her and for the family.