The veil is perhaps the single most symbolic piece of a bride’s wedding day attire. Even for those who have occasion to wear elaborate gowns on more than just their wedding day, it’s hard to picture when else one would ever wear a veil!
While traditionally a wedding veil was as expected as a white dress, nowadays a veil is certainly not essential. However, you are still likely to be asked whether you will wear a veil on your wedding day, so you may wish to consider your options.
Tradition – The lifting of the bride’s veil was originally part of ancient wedding ritual, symbolising the groom taking possession of the wife, either as lover or as property, or the revelation of the bride by her parents to the groom for his approval. Various theories exist as to why a bride customarily wore a veil. Ancient-Roman brides wore a flame-colored veil, thought to scare off vindictive spirits who might bother the wife-to-be, whereas in cultures in which arranged marriage is customary, dark veils were worn to completely obscure the bride’s face. In a number of religions, the bridal veil was worn as a symbol of humility and respect before God during the wedding ceremony.
The Veil in Modern Times – Nowadays, the bridal veil is worn less for superstitious reasons, and more as a unique accessory for the wedding gown. Like many other exclusively bridal traditions, it can help differentiate the wedding day as one that is special and unique, but of course is not essential!
Depending on the wedding dress you choose, a delicate veil could be the perfect accessory, or be wholly OTT, so consider your style, the feel of your wedding, and your dress.
Types of Veil and How to Choose – The length of veil you choose can completely change the style of your ensemble, or be totally inappropriate for it!
Take the Cathedral Veil for example, which can range anywhere from 7 ½ feet to 10 feet or more.A cathedral length veil is also best worn at indoor locations, because if your wedding ceremony is outside, wind, grass, and sand will be a factor, and the veil will need constant adjustments. For a casual beach wedding, or a tea-length gown, the Cathedral Veil is just not suited. The perfect dress for this type would be full length classic wedding gown. If your dress is beautifully beaded or features a lace train, pick a cathedral length veil that is simple and sheer, as you don’t want the veil to take away from your wedding dress. On the other hand, if your dress is on the more simple side, you may want to pick a veil with lace at the end to add detail. While a little more difficult to manage (you’ll need your bridesmaids to help!), the Cathedral Veil is a show-stopping and stunning look, and will look fantastic in photoshoots (imagine the veil blowing in the wind atop a mountain, or caught in a sea-breeze…) but you may not wish to wear it all day.
Going to the Chapel (Veil) – The ‘Chapel’ Veil or ‘full veil’ will fall to the ground at your hem, or around 6-12 inches past it. This veil length will add a soft and incredibly romantic feel to your dress. Like the Cathedral length veil, the Chapel length veil is great for indoor and formal locations. It also requires less attention since it drapes down but hangs just above the floor. The chapel veil can be combined with a second layer of tulle which finishes at your elbows. To ensure the perfect length when buying a chapel length veil, be sure to measure where it will be placed in your hair to the end of your hem. There is no doubt that a Chapel veil will make you look and feel like a real princess.
Fingertip length veil – Suitable for both a formal wedding or a more casual, even outdoor wedding (because it doesn’t touch the floor, and therefore won’t get dirty or caught on the ground. It is called ‘fingertip length’ because the length is approximately 36 inches, extending to the bride’s fingertips. This length will help elongate your body, and it perfectly matched to a mermaid shape gown (on which a Chapel or Cathedral veil can look a bit much. The fingertip length veil is also universally flattering and is a commonly worn style of veil.
Elbow length veil – This is a very common length of veil, at around 25 inches, pairing well with most wedding dress styles, while not overwhelming even a casual wedding. The elbow length veil is stunning for a ball gown shaped dress, because the veil ends where the fullness of the skirt begins.
For a Vintage Feel – The Birdcage – The birdcage veil length is the shortest out of any type, usually reaching just to your cheeks, the longest would be down to your chin, and typically made of up simple netting. The birdcage veil paired with a simple beaded clip would give you the ultimate vintage look, and has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years as this style has come to the fore.
Colour and fabric of Veil – You can’t go wrong with a tulle veil – the most budget-friendly option, and it offers a few benefits over pricier fabrics—synthetic materials like tulle tend to keep their shape better and have a lighter, airier look than silk and satin, which are more likely to appear heavy and hang straight.
With colour, you should either match your wedding gown to your veil, or choose a colour-contrasting, or colour-blocking colour. Be careful with dying an antique veil as they can be so delicate. As long as the colors are close enough don’t worry if they’re not a 100 percent match—the appeal of an heirloom style is in its uniqueness, so it won’t matter if it’s slightly off in color.
For something completely different, consider an Ombre veil!
Embelishment – As a general rule, if your wedding dress is heavily detailed, your veil should be clean and simple, with minimal embellishment. A simple, streamlined gown allows you to be a bit more adventurous with your veil – think diamante detailing, lace and layers.
For a less detailed dress, you may choose the beautiful Spanish Mantilla Lace veil, which sits on top of your head, just back from your hairline, and drapes elegantly down your face and across your shoulders. Although this style won’t work with all dresses and settings, the lace-edged mantilla can be combined with a more traditional veil to retain traditional lengths and shapes.
Hairstyle – Consider your hairstyle before you look at veil options – a more elaborate veil might need an up-do to hold it in, especially if you have thin hair. Alternatively, a talented hairstylist can work with you to create a hidden plait to lodge the veil’s clip into to secure it. Halo veils, bridal caps and mantilla veils work best when hair is worn down or in low updos, while blushers and birdcages are much more versatile and can be worn with most hairstyles. Once you’ve purchased your veil, don’t forget to take it (along with any other hair accessories you plan to wear) to your trial appointments, so you and your stylist can find the perfect ‘do (and there won’t be any last-minute surprises!).
Jewellery – If you’re wearing an elaborate dress or veil, or have flowers in your hair, go easy on the jewellery – less is more (a voluminous veil isn’t going to pair well with an equally dramatic tiara).
Heirloom – You shouldn’t need to splurge on your veil (all photos listed are linked to affordable ones on Etsy), but you could also see if there’s an heirloom veil in the family. Likewise, a veil is an easy accessory to pass on to your future children. While I’m planning on selling my wedding dress, I’ll hold onto my veil as a small token of my wedding day attire.