Everything You Need To Know About the Wedding Veil Tradition


PHOTO BY KATE HEADLEY / Design by Michela Buttignol

A veil is a romantic addition to any wedding dress. It's usually a piece of tulle fabric that complements the dress, but it does not have to be. Whether your style skews ball gown or tea-length, it adds the perfect finishing touch.

Today, couples are observing this tradition in new and modernized ways, which we'll go into a bit later. Should you choose to incorporate a wedding veil into your look, it will quickly become one of your most important bridal accessories. And as you consider integrating it into your outfit, questions will likely arise: How much does it cost? What style should I get? How should it be worn? Where did the tradition begin anyway?

Read on to learn more about this storied tradition and for answers to every wedding veil question you can think of.

Wedding Veil Styles
Bailey Mariner/Brides 

The History and Meaning of the Wedding Veil

The veil is “the oldest part of the bridal ensemble,” says wedding historian Susan Waggoner. It dates back to ancient times when people “wrapped brides from head to toe to represent the delivery of a modest and untouched maiden.” Added benefits: The veil also “hid her away from evil spirits who might want to thwart her happiness.”

Meet the Expert

Susan Waggoner is a wedding historian and author.

There are some other histories surrounding the lineage of the veil. According to Waggoner, veils might “stem from the days of arranged marriages, was the desire to hide the bride’s face from the groom.“ Queen Victoria was married in a white dress and a veil cascading down her back, “making her the first modern monarch to be married in a veil,” Waggoner explains. And at that moment, the image of a bride was defined for centuries to come.

For those who do not subscribe to beliefs that the veil wards off evil spirits, the wedding veil is used as more of a simple accessory. Some people choose to wear one over their face, but more often than not it's draped over the back of their hair and dress.

Wedding Veil FAQs

What are the different veil styles?

There are quite a few. You can go minimal and stick with simple tulle or you can opt for lace, floral appliques, or even beaded detailing.

Should it complement your dress?

It's a nice idea. You'll want something that works with your dress rather than overshadows it. There are no hard-and-fast rules, but we do have some helpful tips and advice here.

How long should it be?

Some experts recommend choosing a length based on what vibe you're going for. Longer veils feel more dramatic and elegant while shorter veils are fresh and fun. Lengths can range from a birdcage veil (4-9 inches) to a cathedral veil (108-120 inches).

What hairstyle goes best with a veil?

This comes down to what kind of veil you choose. Some are made for up-dos, others lay perfectly flat if you choose to wear your hair down, and some are great for a half-up, half-down style. There's a veil for every and any hairstyle.

Unless you have a particular veil you absolutely can't walk down the aisle without, it might be easier to choose your hairstyle first and go from there.

How do you keep it in place?

There is usually a comb attached to a veil that you can secure in your hair. But, if you want additional security (especially if you're planning an outdoor wedding), then plan on buying some bobby pins. Get some that match your hair color and place them on either side of your veil.

Do you need to have it covering your face?

The blusher is what's known as the shorter piece of a veil that's typically worn over the front of the bride's face as she walks down the aisle, and wearing one is completely up to you. Many contemporary brides choose not to, but you certainly can if you like a more traditional look.

When should you purchase your veil?

You should select your veil three to four months before your wedding, which will give your designer time to make it and help you to avoid any rush service charges.

How much does it cost?

The more intricate the detail of your veil, the pricier it will be. There are options at every price point, but this delicate tulle fabric is more costly than you might think. A simple version can start at about $250 while more ornate styles can reach up to $3,000 or higher.

How do you store it?

First, you should fold it properly over a hanger to prevent wrinkles and creases. Once that's done, place it in a protective storage bag to avoid getting it snagged on buttons or clasps inside your closet. If you plan to preserve your veil after the wedding (it can make for a great heirloom), make sure it's cleaned and stored correctly as it can discolor and weaken over time.

Do you have to wear your veil for the entire wedding?

When you take off your veil (if at all) is up to you. If your veil is cathedral-style, you might want to take it off after the ceremony and after pictures are done so that people aren't stepping on it during the cocktail hour or reception. If you have a shorter style, then your chances of someone tearing it is much lower.

Wedding Veil Alternatives

There are plenty of ways to get creative with the wedding veil tradition to make it your own, and you can modernize it in any way you want to.

One common reason for not wanting a veil is that it might blow in your face (or get caught on something and rip) when you walk down the aisle. Many modern-day brides have traded them in for flower crowns, tiaras, eye-catching hair accessories, or statement headpieces depending on what goes best with the overall vibe and style of the wedding. Or you can take a page out of these ladies' big days by wearing a veil wholly unique to you. Alternatively, if it's the price that turns you off, you can also DIY your own veil with some tulle and a hair clip.

Some people don't feel the need to wear a veil at all, and that's fine too. Don't worry, foregoing the tradition won't make you look any less bridal. It's your day after all. Stay true to your style wants.

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