Donna Kim-Brand

The Mystique of Bridal Veils

Wedding season is upon us and today we wanted to explore at Hairchatter a crown of glory other than hair – the bridal veil that is.

Nowadays, bridal veils are considered part of the traditional wedding outfit, along with gown, shoes and bouquet. Styles abound based on tradition, match to the dress or hairstyle, photogenic appeal, ceremony venue and likely weather conditions, or view to the rear, which is how guests (and photographers) will view the veil.

Modern brides don’t usually consider why veils are part of the equation. There are several origin stories, most going back to ancient Rome or Greece, where bridal veils were flame colored to ward off evil spirits from the vulnerable bride on her wedding day. Some speculate it also hid her nervousness and emotion as she headed towards an unknown future.

The veil also obscured others from attracting the bride’s attention as she marched towards her intended, which inadvertently had the result of making it hard for her to see where she was going. This is said to be the original reason why her father or other male family member walked her down the aisle to ‘give her away’; it was to keep her steady and from bumping into things along her route to the front and her new destiny.

Arranged marriages were also common across cultures over the years, and some speculate the veil had the role of preventing her future husband from bolting if he didn’t like the look of his intended before the knot was tied. After all, the dowry had already been paid and there was no turning back from the family perspective.

From a religious perspective, the veil acted as a head covering of reverence and respect to the divine, as well as denoting modesty and humility as part of a sacred ceremony. Some also say the veil denotes the bride’s submission, obedience and chastity before her husband as part of the marriage vows.

Over the years in certain cultures, veil length, fabric weight and lace quality became status symbols. Royals were expected to have the longest and finest veils, as we recall from Princess Diana’s long train when she married Prince Charles in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Veil styles and names vary, from blusher veils that perch on her head and barely cover the bride’s face, to flyaway veils which end at the shoulder. Then there are fingertip veils which span the bride’s arm length and reach to her waist, and sweep veils that reach the floor.  Long, flowing cathedral veils are worn, no surprise, in cathedrals since they can be shown off to great effect.

Veils are held in place with head pieces, which vary in style and means of affixing to the bride’s head according to the bride’s preference and hair style as well as how much work it has to do to hold the veil in place.

While cultural, ethnic and religious traditions may still dictate how a bride (or her matchmaker or parent) chooses a veil for her wedding, in many western cultures at least, the veil choice is simply one of stylistic preference. The best advice is to try on a variety of styles, on their own as well as with your gown and desired hairstyle, and remember that a wedding day tends to be active and busy. So choose accordingly and bask in bridal beauty and mystique. After all, it’s your day!

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