Throughout history and across cultures, brides have traditionally worn a veil.
Like so many wedding customs, from the choice of flowers, to the wearing of a garter or even slipping a coin in the bride’s shoe, a lot of it is to do with wanting to attract good luck!
- The first bridal veils were worn to protect the bride from evil spirits.
- Ancient Roman brides celebrated their fertility with a saffron coloured veil, to represent the flame of Vesta, goddess of home and provider of life.
- Veils were also a common head adornment for everyday wear at various times throughout the Middle Ages, and became fashionable for brides also.
- Queen Victoria established the current tradition after she wore a lace veil with orange blossom for her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840.
In the nineteenth century, etiquette demanded that the veil be removed immediately after the wedding. The veil was considered to be the most necessary part of a bride’s costume, according to Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1895, and it was arranged with the utmost care:
The prettiest woman can be made to look like a fright with her veil put on unbecomingly, and the handsome lace veil badly adjusted would look worse than a coarse tulle one.
By the 1920’s, shorter wedding dresses had become fashionable, but the veil remained popular. As a general rule, the shorter the dress, the longer the veil; it swept the floor instead of a train. Thee veil was attached to the head by a circlet or “chaplet” of flowers, or with a cloche style cap.
An old veil is said to bring good luck, a borrowed veil even more so! A French tradition is for the bride to cut of the lower part of her veil during the reception, so that she can give a small piece to each guest as a keepsake.
Veils are traditionally made of tulle, net or lace, although any sheer fabric can be used – for example voile, chiffon, or a crisp organza. They may be trimmed with ribbon or lace, decorated with tiny pearls or crystal bead, or feature a scalloped edge and embroidery.
The right veil should be chosen with your gown, with an eye to a pleasing proportion.
If you have a very formal gown, it is usually worn with a ‘cathedral length’ or long veil. Cathedral length veils also suit empire or high-waisted gowns.
Princess or A-line wedding dresses are currently very much in demand. These are best worn with a shorter, full veil, perhaps with several layers of tulle.
Slim-fitting sheath or mermaid style gowns look pleasing with a veil that echoes the length of the train, if the gown has one. Otherwise, a finger tip veil is dainty. This is actually the most popular style of veil, and logically enough, reaches the bride’s fingertips. It can be worn with any except the most formal wedding gown.
If you don’t want to wear a veil consider a single flower; a wreath of flowers; a bow; a tiara; jeweled combs or clips; a lace mantilla or a hat ranging from a cocktail to a straw boater! Of even nothing at all if your religion allows it (Orthodox Jewish brides for example, must be veiled).
But remember – there is nothing more flattering to the complexion, and indicate of romance, than a bridal veil!