The inclusion of a bridal veil in a wedding ceremony is a tradition that varies between cultures, religions and even families. The veil is a headpiece worn by the bride to cover the face during the ceremony until the union is made official, whereupon the groom lifts the veil. Some parts of veil etiquette may be descended from popular religious practices performed at a bridal ceremony, but a veil is not required for secular weddings, and many brides wear veils for tradition or fashion.
History of the Bridal Veil
Many examples exist throughout history of women wearing wedding veils. The women of ancient Rome wore bridal veils to ward off evil spirits or ghosts, while in the Roman Catholic Church the bridal veil symbolized a bride's purity and virginity. The American custom of wearing a bridal veil started when George Washington's granddaughter wore a lace veil to her ceremony, according to HJ Planners of Washington D.C., a wedding planning company.
Bridal veils are typically made from a transparent material such as a thin gauze or lace, but this can vary depending on the religion and tradition surrounding the families. Some cultures such as the Bedouin tribes of Jordan wear opaque veils with embroidery and gold coins sewn into the cloth. Modern brides have many different lengths or types of veils to choose from, and how and when the bride wears each one varies depending on time of day, tradition and even personality.
Veils can vary in length from short "blushers" that cover only a bride's face to long trailing veils that extend past the gown's train. HJ Planners states that typically longer veils are considered more formal; and the later in the day the ceremony is held, the more formal the occasion. However, no hard rules for bridal veil etiquette exist, and a bride can choose the length of her veil and how to wear it as she pleases according to fashion or tradition.
During the Ceremony
Generally a bridal veil is worn only during the formal ceremony and is removed afterwards for the reception. This custom is derived from the Catholic tradition of the bridal veil, where the groom lifts his bride's veil at the end of the ceremony to reveal her face and symbolize the consummation of the union. Many brides include a veil in their ensemble for the romantic and traditional implications of this custom.