dove release meaning

John Lewis

What is the Meaning of Releasing White Dove?

dove, dove release, dove release meaning, pigeon

The tradition of setting free white doves has gained popularity at events like weddings, funerals, memorials, and celebrations. This symbolic gesture embodies notions of hope, peace, and fresh starts, lifting the spirits as one envisions aspirations taking flight. Discover the origins, symbolism, logistics, and profound meaning behind this poignant tradition of setting these graceful birds free.

The tradition beliefs say releasing white doves uplifts human spirits by taking inspiring symbolic messages to the skies. From weddings to memorials, it represents peace, hope, purity and new beginnings taking flight.

History and Origins

Releasing doves at meaningful occasions traces back thousands of years:

  • In ancient Greek celebrations, doves were set free to symbolize the journey of the soul.
  • Egyptians, Romans, and Chinese honored marriages and deaths by setting these birds aloft.
  • In the Bible, Noah’s bird returned with an olive branch, signifying hope and renewal after the great flood.
  • Throughout WWII, military homing pigeons played a crucial role in delivering vital messages, valiantly saving lives through their dedicated service.

The enduring legacy of these birds as symbols of peace, promise, and the human spirit continues in contemporary ceremonies where they take flight.

Symbolic Meaning of White Doves Release


  • White doves represent ongoing peace between parties after conflict. Their release marks a pact or resolution to live harmoniously without violence.


  • Doves set free inspire optimism for the future and belief that aspirations can take flight even from adversity.


  • The white color symbolizes purity of intentions, cleansing past burdens to enable a fresh innocent start.

New Beginnings

  • Seeing doves sail skyward signifies lives transitioning gracefully to new horizons and destinations full of potential.

Souls in Flight


  • White doves evoke feelings of pure love between partners, families, friends, and even strangers sharing the experience.

These positive symbolic meanings of released doves resonate across cultures and occasions. The sight elicits shared emotions of optimism, comfort, and goodwill.

Meaning of a White Dove Release at Weddings.

During the wedding, the act of setting free these graceful birds is viewed as a lovely and meaningful ritual, symbolizing the commencement of the couple’s new life together.

In traditional practices, the couple and their guests often let fly pairs of these birds. Additionally, a solitary bird is set free, representing collective approval for the impending nuptials.

A third solitary bird may be set aloft to symbolize the presence in spirit of someone unable to attend the wedding, adding a poignant touch to the ceremony.

Meaning of a White Dove Release at Weddings

Let’s explain the reasons behind it:

Divine and Purity

A dove’s white feathers have long stood for pristine innocence. This might represent the purity of the bride and groom’s love and the fresh start they are getting from their marriage. Dove releases are a common way for newlyweds to celebrate their new lives together after their wedding.

Happiness and many blessings

White doves are a symbol of peace and good fortune in many faiths. Since weddings are joyous events, releasing a caged bird is a fitting symbol of the joy that comes with marriage. Some cultures believe that if a bride and groom witness a dove cooing together on their wedding day, they will have a happy and prosperous marriage.

Devotion and Dependability

Many types of doves in the wild are monogamous, meaning they stay with the same partner for the rest of their lives. The doves’ release during a wedding signifies the bride and groom’s eternal love for one another. To do so demonstrates commitment and dedication.

After saying their vows, the couple will show their loved ones how much they appreciate them by releasing two doves. The loyalty these birds symbolize may serve as a motif for the wedding day, appearing on stationery, glassware, and even the bride’s jewelry.

Releasing Doves at a Funeral Meaning

In funeral or burial ceremonies, the act of setting free these elegant birds becomes a poignant and memorable gesture for everyone present.

Releasing Doves at a Funeral Meaning

During a funeral, memorial service, or cemetery ceremony, the act of letting these graceful birds take flight serves as a touching expression to convey your deepest condolences.

Significance of Number of Birds released at Funerals

Doves carry varied symbolic meanings, and the number of these elegant birds set free during a funeral ceremony can hold different significance based on the context. A single dove taking flight symbolizes the journey of a departed loved one’s soul after death. When two birds are present, it signifies that the spirit of the deceased is accompanied on their afterlife journey by a guide. In honoring a departed loved one, it is customary to let soar a multitude of these birds as a tribute.

Unique Variations

Some popular adaptations on traditional mass dove releases:

  • Release a single dove representing the soul leaving the earthly world.
  • Have select guests each release an individual dove.
  • Release a second wave of doves after reading a meaningful poem or verse.
  • Attach ribbons, notes, or rings to doves to take special messages skyward.
  • Release butterflies before doves to represent transformation.
  • Coordinate dove and ground firework release simultaneously from separate locations.
  • Have doves fly over a spectacular scenic vista for dramatic backdrops.

Adding personalized creative touches makes the experience more meaningful for guests while sharing the universal symbolism.

The Truth Behind the Release of the Doves.

Contrary to common perception, the real world differs significantly from fantasy.

The “dove release” business spreads the misconception that caged white birds prosper after being “freed.”

Even in the best-case situation, trained “wedding doves” risk being injured, lost, or killed on their return voyage.

To make matters worse, many people go out of their way to buy and release white Ringneck Doves and King Pigeons. Most of them are bound to die.

Do Dove Releases Impact Birds?

Responsible dove releases that adhere to bird welfare guidelines have minimal environmental impact:

  • Professionals only use bred white homing pigeons accustomed to interactions and transport.
  • Handlers bring temporary transport cages and remove after release events.
  • Homing pigeons fly back to protected home lofts. They avoid disrupting wild populations.

However, illegally releasing wild native doves and pigeons causes harm:

  • Birds freed become disoriented and lost unable to survive alone.
  • Dumped exotic birds introduce disease and displace local species.
  • Abandoned domestic white doves die from predation and starvation.


To wrap things off, we’d want to let you know that although it’s true that releasing doves during a wedding is a lovely ritual believed by a lot of traditions, but most of the birds don’t make it back to their home after being released free into the wild

It is advised never to purchase birds for a ceremonies, whether it be a wedding, burial, prayer, blessing, “good gesture,” or anything. The white doves you’re sold won’t know how to survive, so they’ll be in pain and eventually perish. They won’t be a worthy symbol of your celebration. Moreover, it may be considered cruel and could potentially be against the law in your location.


Where Is this tradition of Dove Release found?

Christenings, weddings, funerals, and graduations globally include dove release. Any noteworthy occasion or milestone may be marked by the releasing of white doves, representing peace and new beginnings. Whether celebrating a wedding, a new life, a loved one’s death, or academic achievements, releasing doves is a universally cherished tradition.

Why are only white doves released?

White doves are only released for weddings and funerals for their symbolic meaning. White doves symbolize love and innocence in this millennia-old custom. These peaceful birds are often associated with the afterlife and carry the souls of the dead to their ultimate resting place. White doves are used at such serious events because their spotless feathers symbolize purity and love, spirituality, and the gentle departure of souls.

What does the white dove represent?

The white dove symbolizes love, prosperity, wealth, and fidelity. Dove releases at ceremonies have been done for centuries to give events a feeling of success. White doves are connected with motherhood in many cultures due to their loving and sympathetic nature. The white dove symbolizes love, devotion, purity, and peace, making it a strong and flexible symbol in Christian art and culture, bringing depth and meaning to rites and festivities.

Why do some think it’s an act of cruelty to release Doves?

Act of cruelty to release Doves

Due to the dangers domesticated birds encounter in the wild, some consider releasing doves—often Homing Pigeons—cruel. These little, all-white, dove-like birds are prey for hawks, gulls, ravens, dogs, cats, raccoons, and cars. Lack of dove release restrictions in the US might lead to pet store birds being abandoned, raising welfare issues. White ring-neck doves sold at pet stores for wedding or funeral releases may die in the wild, raising ethical concerns.


American Dove Association

The Spruce

Audubon Society

Bird Watching HQ

John Lewis
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