The bridal veil is a beautiful accessory, and its style options are seemingly endless. From simple blushers to dramatic cathedral veils decked out in everything from beads to lace to monograms—not to mention all the choices of fabrics—the veil can come in many forms. And while there is no one definitive reason for why wearing veils came to be, there are almost as many traditions and symbols behind them as there are types of veils.
In Ancient Greek and Roman culture, there was a great fear of evil spirits and demons. The bride was presumed to be vulnerable to these forces, so she was draped in a floor-length, fire-red or vibrant yellow veil to ward off the spirits. In fact, many wedding traditions stem from this practice. To further protect the bride, the bridesmaids wore similar dresses to serve as decoys. The veil also made it so difficult for the bride to see that she needed an escort down the aisle, creating the tradition of the father of the bride walking alongside his daughter.
The veil has also historically served to shield the bride’s face from her groom, especially in the case of arranged marriages. The veil eventually came to symbolize purity and modesty, and in many religions, it is a symbol of reverence for women to cover their heads. When women began to wear white wedding dresses to symbolize chastity, the white veil followed suit. In addition to reverence and purity, the veil became a status symbol during the Victorian era: the quality and length of the veil denoted the bride’s status. The veils royal brides wore were the longest, as were the sweeping trains on their dresses.
In the religion of Christianity, the bridal veil can be viewed as a reminder of the Temple veil, which was torn in two when Christ died on the cross, and symbolizes the lack of separation between God and man. Because Christian marriage is seen as a picture of the union between Christ and the church, the removal of the bridal veil shows that, similarly, the couple now have full access to each other.
Modern brides are often free to choose any style of veil to don on their wedding day and whatever symbolism or religious tradition is meaningful to them. But no matter what they choose, that addition to their bridal attire is sure to be treasured for a lifetime.