From small, birdcage veils to show-stopping floor-length pieces, wedding veils may not be as exciting as shopping for your wedding dress, but they can still work wonders to create drama and intrigue on your big day. And while not for every bride, this customary accessory remains a vital piece of the entire ensemble for many wedding traditionalists.
With so many options to choose from, it’s essential to understand how each type of veil can completely transform your wedding style. From the serious Jackie-O vibes of a birdcage veil to the modest and deeply religious roots of a Mantilla veil, let’s dive into the origins and options that will best compliment your dress on the big day!
The Origins of the Wedding Veil
While the true origin of the wedding veil depends on whom you ask, most historians seem to agree that it likely originated in Ancient Rome, when brides would wear a veil over their face to ward off evil spirits from anyone—or anything—who dare stand in the way of their happiness.
And likewise, while many associate the traditional white and wearing of a veil with a bride’s chastity and purity, that’s actually somewhat of a myth. In fact, the concept of white signifying a bride’s chastity was actually a bit of revisionist history constructed by women’s magazines in 1849, when, after Queen Victoria set a precedent by donning the less traditional white for her wedding day in 1840, they proclaimed that the color represented a bride’s innocence and purity and was the most appropriate color for a wedding dress. Since then, well…the rest is history.
However, despite its storied history, in many cultures, the veil still represents a modicum of modesty by providing a way to conceal a bride’s hair and shoulders. For instance, in Catholic culture, the bride is required to cover her shoulders with a Mantilla veil during mass in a gesture meant to signify her desire to humble herself before God.
However, today’s modern veils are more often than not about making a statement on your big day and having the perfect accessory to compliment your gown.
Should You Wear a Veil?
Wearing a veil is optional, and many brides choose to forgo the tradition altogether. Ultimately, whether you opt to honor the wedding tradition or not is up to you, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try on a few different veils during your wedding dress fitting to see what complements your gown best!
What Type of Veil Will Complement My Dress Best?
For a dramatic entrance, consider a longer veil style such as the Knee Length, Floor Length, or Cathedral Length veil. All three options fall below the waist, so they will undoubtedly make for some killer wedding photos. If the long length feels burdensome, but you still desire something with a little bit of drama, the Fingertip Length is the perfect compromise, falling just below the fingertips.
However, if your style is more contemporary or edgy, the Bird Cage, Shoulder Length, and Blusher wedding veil nod to decades past while still giving off a retro-chic yet modern twist. Likewise, if you want to add a pop of color, don’t be afraid to have fun and inject some color into your veil either— it is your big day, after all!
Types of Veils by Length
Bird Cage 4-9”
This uber-short veil made from fishnet or lace is the definition of retro glam and typically covers the eyes and nose, falling somewhere around the mid-cheek or jaw area.
What Type of Dress It’s Best for: Anything vintage or modern, such as jumpsuits, rompers, and mini-dresses. Bird Cage veils can lean edgy or classy, depending on the gown they’re paired with, making them super versatile.
As the name suggests, this veil falls at shoulder-length height. One of the more traditional-looking veils around, this style goes with just about any dress without overwhelming the design.
Somewhat vintage yet modern in its appeal, this veil falls just below the shoulder line at the top of the dress. This veil is great for brides looking for a slightly more dramatic unveiling effect but with the ease of maintenance of a much smaller train.
What Type of Dress It’s Best for: Blusher veils pair nicely with modern dresses like mermaid gowns, fit and flare dresses, ankle-length dresses, and city hall dresses. This contemporary veil design is the perfect option to mesh flawlessly with other modern gowns and can be layered for a more breathtaking effect.
Falling just below the elbow line, this veil is perfect for brides seeking a more conservative look that also conceals the upper arms and shoulders. For a striking but modest look, consider looking at the Mantilla veil, which is usually a single-layer veil with a row of lace lining the front edge of the material.
What Type of Dress It’s Best for: Single-layer, elbow-length veils pair best with bohemian and vintage designs, adding an ethereal quality to the dress without distracting from the gown.
Fingertip veils fall just below the fingertip near the hips and are perfect for creating a dramatic look that draws attention to the bride’s back.
Knee Length 48”
The knee-length veil is the perfect compromise between form and function and provides a longer veil that won’t get in your way.
A waltz veil falls at the mid-calf area and is intended to provide a striking effect, with the functionality to move around on the dance floor.
Floor Length 72”
Floor-length veils graze the floor and add a voluminous and stunning look for any bride while still maintaining some degree of functionality in movement.
What Type of Dress It’s Best for: Dresses with a statement back. Consider a sheer fabric veil without any accents or extra layers to provide a stunning, picturesque frame for your back.
If you’re looking for a veil with a train-like effect without the actual upkeep and maintenance of a train, then the chapel veil makes a great alternative to the cathedral veil.
What Type of Dress It’s Best for: The chapel veil is the perfect accessory for a beach or outdoor wedding, especially if your destination is in a windy area, as it will flow nicely without bothering you too much on the big day.
To feel like true royalty, a cathedral veil will undoubtedly make a show-stopping entrance (though you may need someone to help keep it straight as you walk down the aisle). However, don’t expect to wear it during the reception— you’ll likely end up knocking some people over!
What Type of Dress It’s Best for: An excellent option for heavily ornate or beaded dresses, a decked-out and beaded veil can give off the ultimate princess vibes. Additionally, a cathedral veil is perfect for gowns with long trains and dresses with statement backs.
Ultimately, the decision to wear a veil depends on your personal feelings (and budget). While a veil certainly creates some dramatic textures and layers that make for wonderful photos, it’s certainly not a necessity. However, there are a million and one different ways to wear a veil, and with so many options, there’s bound to be one that feels perfect for your big day— so don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun trying on different lengths and styles!