[This was originally published in 2006 on DIY Bride.]
Dear DIY Bride: I love the idea of using fish as part of our centerpieces. We’re planning on putting them in fish bowls surrounded with stones and petals. Guests can take them home after the ceremony. My future brother-in-laws is threatening to boycott the wedding if we use fish. He says it’s cruel. What’s the big deal? – Lisa
In the wedding industry’s collective quest for unique and fun table decor, using live fish as centerpieces has started trending as something cool. Fish are beautiful, often inexpensive, fun to look at and, surely your guests will want a new pet to take home, right?
The reality is that, like your brother-in-law, we’re of the opinion that it’s cruel. Being big fans of our finned friends – and being experienced fish keepers – we’ve got to tell you that fish are delicate creatures that require a lot of care to keep them safe and healthy. Water conditions, temperature, exposure to light – things that you don’t have much control over at a wedding – are of the utmost importance for a fish’s survival even when it’s just for a few hours.
From first-hand experience, let me say that watching a fish thrash and struggle for life because someone put them in untreated tap water is a VERY unpleasant way to spend dinner. No one wants to see a dead fish floating while the entree is being served. And may I relate to you about the time when drunk guests (and their kids) were dropping pieces of dinner rolls into the bowls to “feed” the fish? Or at the ultra-beautiful outdoor wedding where temperature on the patio soared to 90 degrees and the fish were, literally, being cooked alive? Yeah. Live fish at weddings = not a good idea.
To play devil’s advocate, say that you do have live fish at the wedding. You’ve managed to transport them to the venue, fill their bowls with properly conditioned water, provided some sort of stable water temperature, kept them away from guests who want to tap the glass, feed them human food, etc.: what will you do if your guests don’t want to take them home? (How will they even transport them?) Are you prepared to take 30 goldfish home with you? Did you know that even 2 goldfish would require a 30 gallon tank and constant upkeep like checking water levels, conditioning water to get proper pH balances, feeding, proper heat, filtration, etc.? Expecting your guests to take on responsible fish keeping is a big presumption on your part. Even for a “low maintenance” fish like a betta, the upkeep is significant for the owner – just like any pet, really. Not many families will willingly take on that extra responsibility.
I’m not saying it can’t be done well and humanely, it’s just not likely for most couples. Do your guests and would-be fishy friends a favor and go with something else. You’ll save aquatic life and stay on good terms with your BIL.
The swoon-worthy photo of the gorgeous fish centerpiece is courtesy of Guy Dickinson’s at Flickr.
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