It's sunset. A wonderful couple is standing at the altar saying their vows. Everyone in attendance is dabbing eyes and clutching pearls. It's a fairytale wedding; As the bride and groom take their first kiss, a man from behind releases a group of white doves. They fly upwards through the air, and everyone gasps out, "How beautiful!"

What they don't say is, "What happens to the birds afterward?"

Most wedding doves are actually Homing Pigeons, bred for color, speed, and navigation. They are rented for these occasions because they can make their way back home.

The issue with this fantasy is that it perpetuates the idea that white doves, or any white bird, can be released into the wild and that they will survive. That they'll get their happily ever after. This can't be further from the truth.

Even those professionally bred wedding doves can be injured, lost, or killed on their journeys home. However, the results are far worse for those mistakenly bought by amateurs to be released for the same kind of events.

Birds like white Ringneck Doves and King Pigeons are commonly bought because of their likeness to the classic wedding dove, but nearly all die when they're released. These are domesticated animals and have no survival skills. Their white coloring makes them easy targets for predators. If by some chance, they are not killed by hawks, ravens, dogs, cats, raccoons, or cars, they often die of diseases like trichomoniasis and chlamydophilia.

One notable instance of a 'Release Gone Wrong' is the Vatican's release of two white doves on January 25, 2014. While the intention was to symbolize peace and love, these two birds were attacked by a gull and a crow. Their easy-to-see coloring made them easy targets by these much larger birds. These were hand-raised birds without the skills to defend themselves.

Releasing hand-raised birds is both cruel and illegal. Often Ringneck Doves and King Pigeons are sold while still young, with the intention of them having long, full lives. These are animals with no skills to rely on, unlike the wedding doves mentioned earlier. Even among those professional release birds, casualties are still common.

If the intention of releasing birds is to honor the dead or symbolize new beginnings, it might be best to throw rice or confetti instead. There isn't much honor in releasing birds that are almost guaranteed to be doomed to die. These bright, intelligent, and lovely animals deserve to live their lives out to the fullest and to be able to grow old in homes where they will be well-loved.

Many people buy domestic doves and pigeons thinking that releasing them will be setting them free, but as previously mentioned, this is almost certainly a death sentence. If you desire to help these beautiful animals, do something with purpose. Donate your money or time to shelters, or adopt a pair and provide them with the life they deserve.

Releasing them does not give them their happily ever after. You do.