Wedding Veils: A Brief History

Wedding day attire has changed in many ways, but one component that has withstood the test of time is the wearing of a wedding veil. I thought it might be fun and interesting to look at the history of wedding veils, and also to showcase some of my older images of wedding veils, in addition to the historical examples in the beginning of the post.

Although there is no definitive reason for the wearing of a veil, and of course the meaning has shifted over time with both religious and secular meanings, many surmise it originally had to do with ancient Greeks and Romans’ fear of evil spirits and demons - For example, Roman brides wore an intensely flame colored veil called the flammeum, which was intended to protect the bride from evil spirits on her wedding day. (This is also where many bridal traditions actually come from, including bridesmaids wearing similar dresses in order to serve as decoys for the bride.)

But in many cases, the veil prevented the bride from seeing well. That is why her father or another person "gave her away.”. The veil also served as a method of shielding the bride’s face from her future husband, especially in the cases of arranged marriages.

Before wedding veils came into common use brides would wear their long hair flowing down their backs to symbolize their virginity. Thereafter veils that covered the hair and face became a more symbolic reference to the virginity of the bride. The lifting of the veil was often a part of ancient wedding ritual, symbolizing the groom taking possession of the wife, either as lover or as property, or the revelation of the bride by her parents to the groom for his approval.

In Judaism, the veiling ceremony (the badeken) takes place to ensure the groom is marrying the right bride - long story. As a sign of modesty (tznius), the bride being the center of attention, covers her face so that no one other than her husband will gaze at her beauty. Also, by covering her face, the groom recognizes that he is marrying the bride for her inner beauty and her spiritual qualities. I absolutely love this btw!

By the mid-20th century the veil had become almost purely ornamental, and it’s nice to see them making a return, since - you know - they look really cool.

That's all, y'all!