If you are planning your wedding, then you may be wondering what all of the traditions mean and why you have to have them! It can all start piling up, and weddings are not cheap!
So, you know what the garter is for, why a bride typically wears white, and all the other traditions, but what about the veil? All we know is that the veil is lifted, to reveal the bride underneath. So, why do we do this, and what does the veil signify?
What is a veil?
A veil is a very thin piece of tulle fabric that complements the wedding dress. In a traditional wedding, the veil would be worn over the face, but nowadays many brides choose to wear them draping down the back of the dress.
Veils can be beautiful and romantic additions to the wedding dress, made of lace or embroidered with flowers and patterns. It flows over the bride, making her look like an ethereal goddess, bringing an air of elegance to the room. It is often considered the finishing touch to the bridal dress and outfit. So, where did this tradition come from?
Why do brides wear a veil?
The bridal veil is one of the oldest and most ancient traditions for brides. Some historians have dated the bridal veil back to Green and Roman times.
During these ancient times, the bride would be wrapped from head to toe in modest clothing, to make her look like an untouched, pure and innocent maiden, ready to be delivered to her new husband.
The veil was also used to hide her face and body from any evil spirits or wrongdoers that would try to thwart her happiness, or put a stop to the marriage.
In a similar way, it was also considered bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony, and so the bride’s face was shielded and covered until she made her way down the aisle to her groom.
In Western culture, as times changed and weddings became increasingly more religious ceremonies rather than an exchange, the bridal ensemble, including the veil was used to signify the bride’s modesty before God, along with her chastity and obedience, which is why the veil was always white.
Towards the end of the 17th and 18th century, veils were all but out of fashion in North America and Great Britain, but then came back into trend when Queen Victoria chose to wear a veil for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.
After this, the veil became a symbol of wealth, richness and status, with the length, quality and design of the veil signifying the social status of the bride to be wed. The veil continues to be a popular part of the bridal ensemble today, adding a touch of class and sophistication to the wedding dress.
What does a veil symbolize?
For the most part, the veil is designed to cover the bride’s modesty and keep her pure, chaste and untouched until she reaches her husband. Traditionally, the bride would be sort of gifted to the groom, along with a dowry, in a sort of exchange between the bride’s father and the groom.
Marriages in those days were more for status, power, financial gain and to create an alliance between two families. It was not often for love as it is today. These marriages would be arranged by the parents for the couple, and were often economically driven.
In this sense, the veil was to cover the bride completely until the marriage was complete, after which, the groom could remove the veil, which symbolized the changing of ownership from the father to the groom.
Nowadays, this tradition seems inherently sexist, but you have to remember it was a different time, in which women were seen as assets and objects rather than agentative people in their own right.
Marriages were a means of emancipation from the bride’s parents, and gaining new social status as part of a different family, through the union of the bride and groom. But don’t let that sway you away from the veil, these items are stunning and unforgettable additions to the wedding dress, and steeped in history.
After all, the original reason for wearing one dates back to Roman times, where the bride was covered with a sheet to protect from evil spirits that would harm her or ruin her marriage. That sounds like a good luck charm to us!
Why is the veil lifted at a wedding?
Even today, in traditional, or Christian and Jewish weddings, the virginal bride wears white and enters the marriage ritual with a veil covering her face and head. It is tradition for the bride to remain fully veiled, with it covering the face until the wedding ceremony is over.
Only then can either the groom lift the veil in order to kiss her, or the bride’s father can lift the veil and present the bride to the groom, who will then kiss her. This moment is often considered the symbolic consummation of the wedding.
Whilst the initial tradition of the veil was to ward off spirits and protect the bride from unhappiness, nowadays the veil is simply a fashion accessory that is part of the bridal ensemble.
Yes, it was there to symbolize virginity and chastity, but the same goes for the wedding dress. Some things are simply passed down through generations of traditions, and have become a part of our culture, regardless of their original meaning. If you want to wear a veil to your wedding as part of your dress, then you should do it!