Ultimate Guide to Releasing Doves at a Wedding

white doves in flight

Are you planning a wedding and looking for ways to celebrate your special day? A white dove release is a unique way to commemorate the occasion.

Releasing doves at a wedding can be a beautiful sign of unity and new beginnings. To release doves, you should always use a reputable dove-release company. These companies train white homing pigeons to fly immediately home after being released and ensure the birds’ safety throughout the event.

If this idea sounds appealing to you, keep reading. I’ve gathered all you need to know about how and why people have dove releases at weddings.  

Why Do People Release Doves at a Wedding?

People release doves at a wedding as a way to celebrate the occasion. There are a lot of ways to make your wedding memorable– and releasing doves is a novel way to leave an impression on guests. And create a moment of grandeur for the wedding couple.  

It’s not every day you see doves being released, and it’s a sight you won’t forget. Seeing doves released evokes emotion in people. It can make guests feel excited and alive and even pull at their heartstrings.

Of the birds, white doves are released for a reason. While homing pigeons are usually used instead of actual doves. They belong to the same family of birds and are easy to train. Read on to understand why these white birds are used and their meaning.

pair of white doves

What Does it Mean to Release White Doves at a Wedding?

If you’re thinking of releasing doves at your wedding, you might be curious what releasing doves at a wedding symbolizes.

Doves are a universal symbol of peace, purity, new beginnings and monogamous love. All of which feels natural at a wedding. After all, weddings are a joyous, sentimental occasion.

However, there are more reasons behind releasing doves at a wedding than just being a sign of peace. Let’s explore all of the symbolism of having doves at your wedding.

Doves Symbolize New Beginnings

Doves also symbolize new life, new beginnings, and hope for the future. This dates back to biblical times and relates to the story of Noah’s Ark

After the great flood, Noah sent a dove out to search for land. When the dove finally returned with an olive branch, Noah knew there was land to live on again. Therefore, doves carry a message of a safe new home.

Even if you’re not religious, the story and its symbolism are powerful in American culture. Releasing doves will give your guests an awe-inspiring sight and make them think of your new journey together.

Doves Symbolize Purity

The doves released at weddings aren’t the pigeon variety you’ll see on the street but beautiful white ones. The color white is closely tied to wedding traditions and is seen as a symbol of purity and grace. Therefore, it’s thought that white doves similarly add to this color scheme and symbolism.

If you’ve read more of my blog or my mission, you know I’m not a fan of fetishizing virginity and purity for brides. But celebrating the purity of your love and devotion to each other is something I can get behind and fully support. And I think you should too if you love the idea of a gracious pair of birds in flight after you say “I Do.”

Doves Are Monogamous

Some dove species are also monogamous. Weddings unite two partners for life and are often viewed as the ultimate monogamous tradition. Therefore, it feels natural to celebrate such an occasion by releasing doves that follow a similar ritual. 

What Kind of Birds Are Released at Weddings?

You might be surprised to find that real doves aren’t actually commonly released at weddings. Instead, most people release white homing pigeons. Here’s why real doves aren’t used during dove releases at weddings:

The birds used in ‘dove releases’ are actually white homing pigeons. Traditional doves are not as easy to train and too fragile for such an event. Plus, white homing pigeons come from the same family and look similar, especially to the untrained eye.

Homing pigeons are strong fliers. As their name suggests, they also have a strong ‘homing’ instinct, allowing them to find their way back up to 600 miles. The homing pigeon’s average speed is 60 mph— similar to a car on the freeway. 

These pigeons are also more friendly towards humans, making them the perfect bird for such an event. Because of their unique abilities, homing pigeons have been used as mail carriers, to send messages during wartime, and for racing. 

a trained dove returning to its owner's hand

How To Release Doves at a Wedding

When you release doves at a wedding, it is just as it sounds! As exciting as it is, it’s essentially a straightforward process:

  1. The doves will be kept in a cage up until the moment of the release. Decorative cages with the birds inside can also be displayed during the wedding ceremony for an extra touch of decor.
  2. The dove coordinator will prepare the birds for release in an open location just beforehand. Some dove coordinators allow family, friends, or the partners to release the birds while others do it themselves. If you prefer to do it yourself, make sure to find a company that offers this option. 
  3. After a short announcement, those releasing the birds will be instructed to open the cage or lift any covering, freeing the bird. At this point, the doves will naturally fly up and hopefully circle the guests once or twice before flying away. 

Even though it sounds simple, make sure you engage a reputable company to manage your dove release for you. You want to do this at ethically as possible and not risk harming any birds in the process.

Looking for an alternative to doves that are just as impactful? What about a butterfly release? You can read more about releasing butterflies at your wedding here.

Release Doves Early Enough on a Clear Day

A dove release must happen early enough on a clear day for the birds to fly home. The birds fly back to a trained location. 

Depending on where the wedding venue is located, the birds can take several hours to get home. Therefore, you need to leave enough daylight hours for them to return safely. They also shouldn’t fly in poor weather conditions, so, unfortunately, you also must have good weather!  

Use Trained Birds for a Bird Release

There aren’t many laws protecting domesticated birds. It’s possible to turn up at a pet store and purchase a few white homing pigeons or doves and release them yourself. Nobody will stop you, but it is not recommended and is highly unethical. 

Untrained birds will not fly back home. They also might not fly at all– they simply won’t know what to do, and you’ll be left with a confusing, sad display rather than a beautiful, lasting impression.

Furthermore, they usually don’t have strong survival skills in the wild. They will most likely get attacked by a predator, hit by a car, or crash. Doves, in particular, are very fragile, which is why professional companies use homing pigeons instead. 

Trained birds will put on more of a performance. They will fly up, around, and away beautifully because they have been taught to. The bird coordinator will know how to handle any issues that arise and ensure the birds are safe. 

How Much Does It Cost To Release Doves?

Costs for releasing white doves can vary greatly.

Usually, releasing doves at a wedding will range from $100 on the low end to several hundred dollars on the high end. The cost depends on how many birds you choose to release and whether or not your guests or the coordinator will release them.

Other factors affecting price could be the distance from the birds’ homes and current market demand. 

Wondering if you can afford a dove release?

You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.

How Many Doves Should Be Released?

Anywhere between two and twenty doves can be released at a wedding. 

If a couple releases two doves, it could bring an extra element of symbolism– the unity between the two individuals or families. Two doves are also easier to manage and cost less than having many.

However, releasing twenty doves has a stronger wow factor. All your guests will surely notice and remember this many birds flying up into the air. While it does cost more and may be more challenging to handle, it can be worth it, depending on your goal. 

What Do You Say When You Release Doves?

There is no one set script when it comes to releasing doves. Some companies offering dove releases provide suggestions or guidance. However, it is ultimately up to the couple getting married. 

Typically, a short speech is made by someone at the wedding party. The speech should commemorate the occasion and the special couple. It is customary to say a few sentences about the couple and what the birds and the release symbolize.

The doves can also be released after the couple says “I Do,” as they have their first kiss, or after the officiant announces they are married for dramatic effect. The dove release can also be a private moment for the couple to celebrate their marriage with special symbolism.

If you’ve never seen a dove release before, here’s a simple but beautiful video of a couple doing a private dove release at their wedding.

What Happens to Doves After Being Released?

Since doves are too fragile, white homing pigeons are used in bird releases. These birds are approved by the American Dove Association for coordinated releases at events such as weddings and funerals. They are easy to train and can find their way home from up to 600 miles away. 

Therefore, the birds will naturally fly to their designated home after being released. The closer the wedding venue is to their home, the better. This lowers the chance of anything happening to the birds en route.

While the birds usually make it back safely, unpredictable circumstances such as predators or accidents can happen. Keep reading for whether releasing doves is ethical or not.

Is Releasing Doves Bad?

While this service can be controversial, dove release companies assure me that they have the utmost love and respect for the animals and that the bird release process is safe. 

At Romero’s White Dove Release, professionals have over 15 years of experience in the industry. They “follow strict rules and policies for releases” and put the safety of their birds first. 

Aside from the actual release, the staff ensures birds are healthy and happy, “Our doves are fed healthy with balanced meals and are allowed to fly around their surrounding area.”

PETA, however, does not condone dove releases. So if your beliefs are aligned with theirs, you should avoid a dove release at your wedding.

Looking for another unique wedding idea that doesn’t involve animals? You can try a spectacular fireworks display. Read more about how to have fireworks at your wedding here.


Releasing white doves at weddings can give your wedding a sentimental touch and wow factor. It’s a special act that symbolizes unity and future hope– not to mention it looks beautiful. 

I’ve never personally seen a dove release at a wedding I’ve attended so my experience is limited to movies and the research I did for this post. If you have personal experience with releasing doves, feel free to reach out to me with your take!

Always go through a reputable company with trained homing pigeons to ensure a safe and well-coordinated event. While dove releases are controversial, companies claim to be committed to the health and well-being of their birds. Immediately after the bird release, these homing pigeons will fly back to their home base. 



Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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