For the bride, going shopping for her wedding ensemble is one of the most exciting parts of the whole event. Picking the right dress in of itself is a big thing, and then there are all the accessories to go with it…the right shoes, something for your hair if you want, the right jewelry…and most importantly, the veil.
The veil is a piece of tulle fabric, traditionally worn on the head to drape over the face as a cover, and most commonly now worn on the head so that it drapes down the back. The veil usually compliments the wedding dress, and it can be of any length, with some being as long as the dress!
But why do brides wear a veil? It is one of the most iconic and recognizable accessories within a wedding ensemble, so where does it come from? Why is it traditional to wear a veil?
There are actually many different origins and reasons for the veil, within different cultures and periods of time, so there isn’t a single reason for wearing it.
We can tell you all about the most popular and well-known reasons there have been throughout history for brides wearing a veil, and then we’ll talk about why it’s still worn today!
Traditional Reasons For Which Brides Wear A Veil
Here are some of the main reasons for which brides have been made to wear veils on their wedding day, throughout history, and through different cultures:
- To Ward Off Demons:
In the time period of the Romans, brides used to be covered from head to toe in a huge red veil which they called “the flammeum”. The reason for wearing this massive and very visible veil was to ward off demons!
Basically, Romans were worried that evil spirits would interrupt the ceremony to crse the couple, so the logic was that if the bride looks like she’s on fire, these spirits will get scared and run away, leaving the couple alone. (Don’t question it, it made sense to them okay?)
The tradition of the veil then started to evolve into the purpose of confusing the spirits, rather than outright scaring them off. If the bride wore a veil covering her face, then the evil spirits and demons wouldn’t see her face, and therefore wouldn’t be able to curse the couple.
So we could say that veils in Roman times were a defense mechanism to ward off evil…if you believe in such things.
- To Hide Their Face:
In earlier times, and still nowadays in some cultures, there were arranged marriages in which the bride and groom wouldn’t even get to meet or see each other before the wedding day. They simply had to get married because that was what the fathers had agreed.
Usually, the bride was “exchanged” for money or goods, and in order to avoid this deal from not going ahead, the bride would wear a veil in order to hide her face.
Why? Well just in case the groom decides she’s too ugly and pulls out of the wedding at the start of the ceremony! Kind of rude really, and very unfair to the poor bride.
But here’s a fun fact, this tradition still lives on, not through wearing the veil, but through the whole “the bride and groom cannot see each other before the wedding”. Yup, that’s literally the reason why the bride hides her dress until the groom finally sees her at the ceremony!
- To Stop The Bride From Running Away:
A veil is worn over your face, and that really reduces your visibility, not to mention that it gets in the way if you suddenly feel the urge to run away. So one reason for wearing veils was to deter the bride from making a runner!
- To Symbolize Their Purity And Virginity:
In older times, it was pretty necessary for the bride to be pure, and a virgin, in order to get married. (Pretty stupid if you ask us, especially as the same didn’t apply to men.)
The veil was a way to symbolize this purity, and it was also a reference to the thinly veiled hymen, as proof that it was intact, and that the bride was therefore allowed to marry.
- As A Sign Of Ownership:
Throughout history, brides have pretty much been handed over to men as payment or in exchange for payment, and women have mostly been considered the property of their husbands.
When the groom lifts the veil off the face of the bride at the end of the ceremony, it’s like he is unwrapping a gift, and the bride is now his to keep. Pretty awful as a tradition, but we’re just giving you all the information!
- To Prove That Love Is Not About Looks:
We’re going to end with a nicer reason for wearing the veil since most of them are pretty horrible. In Jewish tradition, the reason for wearing a veil is to publicly declare that looks don’t matter.
It’s like the groom is confirming that he will marry the bride even if he can’t see her face because love is not surface level, love is a connection of the souls. This one is actually sort of romantic, right?
Why do brides still wear a veil today?
Now that we’ve gone through all of the most common and well-known reasons for which wearing a veil is a traditional part of wedding ceremonies, you might have noticed that most of them are incredibly misogynistic and pretty unfair towards the bride herself.
Honestly, the veil is either implying that the bride is ugly, implying that she’s the one attracting the demons and evil spirits, forcing her to prove she’s pure and a virgin, stopping her from running away or turning her into a literal present for the man to unwrap. Not okay at all.
So…with such a non-romantic origin, how come brides still mostly continue to wear a veil on their wedding day? Why is it still traditional in this modern era?
One of the main reasons for this is Queen Victoria, you know, as in the Queen of England that defined the Victorian Era. She was the first modern monarch to be married in a big white wedding dress paired with a big veil, and she absolutely defined the image of what a bride should look like, for centuries to come.
This Queen was incredibly influential, and whatever she wore became fashionable almost instantly. And almost everything you do and wear at a wedding comes from how she did hers!