Six year ago, I married my partner. I wore a veil on my wedding day, and I didn’t consider the significance or the reasoning behind the veil, to be honest. I think that veils are beautiful and it seemed like one of the few times that it would be socially acceptable for me to wear one in public without it being Halloween, so I jumped on it!
I understand that many brides see no point to the wedding veil. In contrast, others see the rich cultural and traditional significance of the piece, and some, like myself, just think they’re beautiful.
For today’s blog, we’re going to focus on the wedding veil and why we wear them and where this trend originated.
The wedding veil has changed forms, colours, and significance throughout the years and yet is still something we commonly see in wedding ceremonies. Why has this tradition lasted? Why do we (sometimes) wear wedding veils, and where did this tradition begin?
Why Wedding Veils?
Unfortunately, I do not have a crisp and clear answer; however, through research, I’ve found many different suggestions and many various examples and stories to pull from to piece together this ancient tradition. I have selected only a few examples as I would be writing an extensive book if I discussed all the available history on the wedding veil.
Greeks and Romans
Let’s go back to the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks and Romans believed that the wedding veil served as a decoy to ward off evil spirits and demons and was a tool to protect the bride!
Though this seems absurd to us today, this was a genuine concern for the ancient Greek and Roman society as spirits were a widely accepted belief and something to consider in daily life.
In the article titled “History Behind the Bridal Veil,” the author Metro Creative explains how brides would wear bright red wedding dresses with matching veils as a means to ward off these evil spirits who were jealous of the bride’s marriage.
There is also speculation that this is where the matching bridesmaid dress trend began! Bridesmaids might have dressed similarly to the bride as a decoy for the evil spirits!
Other discussions suggest the Father walked the bride down the aisle, not as a way to “give her” to her partner, but to guide her because the veil was not see-through, and she needed help down the aisle.
On the website Tinted Weddings, the author discusses this ancient Roman and Greek trend and describes a veil known as the flammeum which is a veil that is painted with fire and flames designed to frighten away those evil spirits. This is incredibly different from the see-through, lace and sparkle veils we see today!
Moving on to the Middle Ages, the article “History of the Wedding Veil” further describes how in the Middle Ages:
“most marriages were arranged or by capture. Therefore the veil served as a method of shielding the bride’s face from her future husband. It was also believed during this time that to see your intended face before the final aspect of the ceremony, was considered bad luck. Hence, covering the bride’s face would ward off any ill fate.” — Tinted Weddings
This is certainly not the romantic scenario that we now associate with our typical modern weddings—I can’t imagine how horrifying this was…
The Jewish badeken ceremony is a beautiful and emotional interaction between the bride and groom (one they often share with their audience). I believe, this is where the “first look” originated. In the tradition of the badeken, the groom veils the bride before the ceremony under the chuppah (this is a canopy where Jewish ceremonies occur).
Tinted Weddings continues:
“a statement by the groom to his bride that by wearing a veil you are “As beautiful as you look today, my love for you is not skin-deep. It is not just your eyes that dazzle me; it is your persona, your character, your views on life—the real you. I can cover your sweet face with a veil and still marry you because your face is just one level of your true beauty.” — Tinted Weddings
Tinted Weddings further describing how:
“It is believed that all Jewish brides, when they stand under the chuppah, are in an elevated state, as they are about to unite as one. All Jewish brides are so radiant, that they possess a piece of God on that special day. Therefore, God shines through the face of the bride. This light is so intense that it must be veiled; holiness needs privacy.” — Tinted Weddings
On the website, Smashing the Glass author Karen elaborates on this discussion by adding a biblical reference as the reason for the badeken as:
“dat[ing] back to the Bible, when Jacob was tricked by his father-in-law Laban into marrying the older (and slightly less attractive) Leah, as opposed to Rachel, who Jacob thought he was marrying. Before the ceremony, the groom has a chance to double-check that the woman sitting there is indeed his bride!” — Karen from Smashing the Glass
If we move to a Christian origin, we see the veil representing values like modesty, chastity, and purity.
In the website People of Our Everyday Life the author Ava Lee discusses this Christina origin in more detail and that the tradition can be attributed to:
“the apostle Paul, who exhorted the Corinthian women to “cover [their] head[s].” The veil became a symbol of modesty, and it is still considered a sign of “chastity … festivity and fun.” The bride’s Father traditionally lowers the bride’s veil before the wedding procession, and the groom raises the veil after the ceremony before he kisses his wife.” — Ava Lee from People of Our Everyday Life
Wedding Gown History
The wedding veil has shifted in style and significance through the years, much like many traditions. For example. the white bridal attire that is so customary today was not always fashionable. As mentioned above, the ancient Greeks and Roman brides often work bright red wedding attire.
My final history piece of wedding veil history comes from the website Seiyaku. In this article, the author discusses how veils were common to protect faces from the harsh environmental elements. So, the wedding veil was viewed as a statement of class and beauty.
“So the veil is worn by the well-to-do to protect beauty; ergo wearing a veil means you are beautiful…” — Seiyaku
But Wait, There’s More…
There are, undoubtedly, more traditions, histories, and cultural references about the wedding veil than I could fit into this little post.
Can you think of any other origins or share some more cultural wedding veil history?? Did you wear a veil? If so, what was your reasoning? I’d love to see pictures of your veils! Mine is the photo above.
I’ve cited all my references below! I encourage you to check out each of these websites to read the full articles that I quote above 🙂
Creative, Metro, and History behind the Bridal Veil Metro Creative Richmond Times-Dispatch. “History behind the Bridal Veil.” Richmond Times-Dispatch. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.
“History of the Wedding Veil.” Tinted Wedding. N.p., 2015. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.
Karen. “The Badeken – Jewish Wedding Traditions Explained #4 – Smashing the Glass | Jewish Wedding Blog.” Smashing the Glass Jewish Wedding Blog. N.p., 2014. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.
“Wedding Veil Why?” Wedding Veil. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.
“Why Do Brides Wear Veils?” Our Everyday Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2016.