January 16, 2009

Bridal Veil Series: A Historical Look at the Bridal Veil


Wedding veils are one of the oldest bridal traditions - much older than white wedding gowns.

The oldest record of brides wearing veils comes from the Roman Empire. Brides wore special cloths around their faces called flammeum. The cloths were painted with fire and flame designs to scare away evil spirits who might want to kidnap the bride. In fact, this superstition was so strong that families often brought bridesmaids as decoys for the bride. These maids would be beautifully dressed similar to the bride sans the veil. So if the evil spirits decided to attend the wedding, they'd over look the bride hidden behind her veil and choose one of the bridesmaids instead. Perhaps if we still felt this way today, there would be less hackling over who received the honored title of bridesmaid.

Veils were also played an important role in arranged marriages.

You know that saying that the groom isn't supposed to see his bride before the wedding? Heavy veils made it possible for the bride and groom to exchange vows without anyone seeing the bride until the groom unveiled her after the vows were completed. In old Jewish tradition, the groom wasn't allowed to unveil the bride until just before they consummated the marriage. If you think back to the Old Testament, you'll remember one such instance when this created quite a dilemma.

In the book of Genesis, Jacob fell deeply in love with Laban's daughter, Rachel. Jacob requested the honor to marry her, and Laban granted permission. When the wedding day arrived, Laban tricked Jacob by having his other daughter Leah dress in Rachel's veil. Jacob was not a happy man when after the ceremony, he discovered he had married the wrong woman. This story spurred the beginning of a new Jewish tradition where the groom, accompanied by his parents and the Rabbi, cover the bride's face with a veil just before the ceremony. Then the groom once again unveils her at the end of the ceremony. This tradition is called badeken.

In more modern Western weddings, the bridal veil represented innocence and purity. Only first time virgin brides were permitted to wear veils.

Today, bridal veils have a whole new meaning. They signify a joyous event - a wedding! It's also the final crowning touch to the bride's attire. Here's a look at how veils have changed over the last several decades.

20's - Throughout the early part of the early 20th Century and into the 1920's brides wore a lace cloche headdress encircled at with flowers. Veils were silk tulle adorned with wax orange blossom flowers and velvet leaves that matched her waist corsage.

30's - Veils started to make a more simple statement as the bride wore them hanging loose to compliment the sleek look of their form-fitting gowns.

40's - During the post war years of the 1940's, bride's began to develop a more extravagant veil look with half-crown headpieces featuring rhinestones and wax blossom flowers.

50's - Skullcap headpieces were common during this period of the 1950's for evening wear, and bridal designers began developing skullcap headpieces in velvet and satin with a circular veil. These veils ranged in length from 18" to 27" long.

60's - Veils began to take on various appearances much like today. Many style headpieces and veil combinations arrived inspired by famous motion pictures. In the later part of the decade, hippies inspired a "flower child" look by wearing real flowers in the hair along with veils.

70's to present - These decades of wedding veils was inspired by the bride's own creation and preference for veils. Headpiece styles ranged from large elaborate pearls and bead designs to simple lace and mantilla veils. Tiaras started to become a trend in the 90's up to present times

On a more personal note, my bridal veil holds a different meaning.

As I stood in front of the huge mirrors in the Mount Timpanogas Temple Bride's Room, I not only saw a young woman dressed in a beautiful gown with a flowing veil - but a daughter of God crowned to become a queen with her husband in the eternities. I love taking my veil out of storage and showing it to my daughter. I especially love the look of wonderment on her face as I place the veil on her head and tell her how one day she, too, will be married and crowned a queen in Heavenly Father's kingdom as well.

So while my veil was the crowning touch on my wedding day, it's also a symbol of the beginning of a beautiful relationship with my husband and our future potential as we work and serve Heavenly Father. I pray that your wedding veil will hold as much significance for you as well.