Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Do Brides Wear a Veil?

When you stop and think about all the wedding related trappings, have you ever asked why? Many traditions associated with wedding practices and apparel go back to superstitions, and when it comes to the bridal veil it is no different.
Princess Beatrice in her wedding dress, Osborne, 1885

Bridal Veil Tradition
Bridal veil history can be traced back to Rome. This custom of veiling the bride was originally meant to disguise her from evil spirits as she walked down the aisle. Why would evil spirits even care about the bride? It was thought that they would be jealous of her happiness. So the original purpose of the bridal veil was to protect the bride who was thought to be vulnerable to enchantment.

But the original wedding veil wasn't white, it was flame red. Even the color was connected to superstition. According to the belief system of that culture, not only did the veil hid the bride from the evil spirits, but the color of the veil was thought to actually scare them off. This explains why traditionally the bride wears her wedding veil over her face.

Arranged marriage.

Lifting the Veil
Over time, of course, beliefs changed and new meanings were attached to the veil. Today some brides have the groom lift their veil; others have their father lift the veil when he gives the bride away, and still others go through the entire ceremony with their face covered until the father lifts the veil so the groom can kiss his new wife. In today's wedding tradition, brides can feel free to walk the aisle with their veil drawn back, or not to even wear a veil at all.

 Other Reason the Brides Wore a Veil
Some suggest that back in the days of arranged marriages the veil hid the face of the bride from the groom until they were married in case he didn't like how his bride looked. This way everyone would be saved the embarrassment of the groom's disappointment.
Beyond the evil spirit superstitions, veils were also considered a sign of humility and respect for God. However, during Victorian times, it became just the opposite. It became a status symbol, with the weight, length and quality of the veil a sign of the bride's status. Back then, Royal brides had the longest veils. Even in modern times I remember Princess Diana's wedding veil was 24 feet long.

Today, brides walk the aisle without worrying about evil spirits, and grooms already know what their brides look like, so for those who choose to wear them, the bridal veil tradition is more of a finishing touch to the bride's ensemble. However, many cultures never embraced wedding veils.

Photo credits: Wikimedia, wikimedia

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