Wedding Veil Traditions, Explained

Learn the history and meaning behind wedding veils, straight from an expert

Wedding veils have different meanings to different brides. To some women, a wedding veil is simply a beautiful accessory to compliment or accentuate the wedding dress. For others wearing one is a deeply-honored tradition in their families, cultures, or religions (some people need to wear one for modesty purposes.) In modern weddings some brides see them as an extra cost or nuisance and prefer to skip them altogether.

Whether you are just curious about the meaning or history behind wedding veils or you're wondering if you should wear one to your wedding, we have information that might help you. We spoke to Samantha Stark, who has been creating custom wedding veils for 10 years and now has a collection named Blanca Veils. She talked us through ancient and modern customs when it comes to veils and how you know if wearing one is the right decision for you. Read on to learn more.

Meet the Expert

Samantha Stark has been making custom wedding veils for 10 years and is the owner and creator of Blanca Veils.

The History of Wedding Veils

Stark said no one is completely sure of the history of veils, and accounts vary depending on who you ask. But most experts can agree on one narrative: "You can trace its roots back to Rome, where a bride used to walk down the aisle with a veil over her face in order to disguise herself from any evil spirits who wanted to stand in the way of her happiness," she said.

Later wedding veils became symbols of a bride's chastity and modesty, and many traditions still use them for that reason. "When white wedding dresses were worn to symbolize chastity, the white veil followed suit," said Stark. "In many religions it is a symbol of reverence for women to cover their heads."

Some religions have traditions surrounding the veil. In Judaism, for example, a ceremony called the Bedeken takes place where the groom takes a look at his bride and then places a veil over her to ensure he's marrying the right person. "This tradition stems from the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah in the book of Genesis from the Torah," said Stark. "The groom is trying to not repeat Jacob’s mistake of marrying the wrong bride."

"A Jewish groom believes that the veiling of his bride is also viewed as a symbolic act of focusing on the inner beauty and qualities of the woman he is marrying," she added. "The veil requires the groom to be reminded that marriage is not only of the physical realm but that of the spiritual, as well."

For Catholic weddings that take place in a church, the veil also increases the bride's modesty. "Most traditional Catholic churches require that the bride's shoulders be covered during mass, whether that means a dress with sleeves or lace from a mantilla veil," said Stark. "Traditionally, a veil shows the interior desire for a bride being humble, and it is also a sign of purity."

What Do Veils Symbolize Today?

While some brides still wear veils for religious or cultural reasons, many others wear them because they like the look. "Modern veil traditions purely reflect personal style," said Stark. "The wedding veil is all about making a statement. Brides tend to choose veils that complement their dresses in both length and color. Lace, rhinestones, and pearls can be added to give an even more personal touch to the overall bridal look."

Stark said that many brides don't have guidelines or restrictions on what type of veil they have to wear, so they can have fun with it. They can choose from a wide variety of looks and details. "These days, there really are no rules in what a veil should or shouldn’t look like," she said. "It’s truly all about making the bride feel gorgeous on her wedding day, and that’s a tradition we love!"

Many brides also wear veils that have a meaning to their families. Maybe there is a family veil that was passed down through the generations and was worn by the bride's mother, grandmother, or even great-grandmother. Or some brides make veils out of an old dress or piece of fabric that has history and significance.

How to Decide If You Want to Wear a Veil, and If So, What Type?

"Today wedding veils are widely accepted as a bridal accessory that adds a perfect finishing touch to the overall bridal look," said Stark. "Modern brides use the wedding veil as a way to show the bride's personal style with a nod to tradition."

Because this is most likely the first (and only!) time you will wear a veil, Stark recommends trying a few styles to see what you like and feel comfortable wearing. "Longer veils make for a dramatic entrance and give an overall stunning elegant look to the bridal look, while shorter veils are fresh and fun," she said. "Another detail to consider is the blusher, or the shorter piece of a vail that is typically worn over the front of the bride's face as she walks down the aisle. Many contemporary brides choose not to wear a blusher, but they certainly can if they like a more traditional look."

Some brides might decide they don't want to wear a veil to walk down the aisle and have on during the ceremony. But that doesn't mean they have to miss out on all the beautiful photos that veils can create. "Even if a bride chooses not to wear a veil down the aisle during her ceremony, we always think having a veil in the ‘getting ready’ room is a must," said Stark. "This allows the wedding photographer to capture romantic bridal portraits that the bride will cherish forever."

You might also want to take into consideration what the more traditional women in your family expect. While you should be true to yourself and your personal style, it might mean a lot to your mother or grandmother that you wear a veil. "Mother's of the brides and grandmas love to see their daughters in a wedding veil," said Stark.

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