12 September 2018
The History Of The Wedding Veil
Roman women wore bright red or yellow ones, and at one point in history, they were much more important than the wedding dress. What we are we talking about? Why WEDDING VEILS of course, Whether long or short, made from lace or tulle, or worn over the face or behind the head, even flowing from the shoulders, veils have played an important role in weddings throughout history.
While some brides choose not to wear one, I have to say that I love veils. I think they can bring an element of mystery and drama to the ceremony, especially if it covers the bride’s face. They look fantastic as well, they create an amazing soft flowing silhouette for the shape of the dress.
However, there was even more drama attached to the veil in the time of the Ancient Romans. Back then, it was believed that evil spirits were attracted to the virgin brides, so bright yellow or red veils called flammeum were used to cover her face. This, the Romans felt, would conceal her features and confuse the evil spirits.
Roman brides also wore their hair twisted and waxed into a punk-like spike, which was aimed at defending their heads from little horned demons. This presumably had to be taken out before the bride went to the marital bed that night, to avoid unfortunate injuries to her new groom.
In medieval times, wearing a veil was seen as a sign of the bride’s purity and chastity. At this time, it was common to have an arranged marriage, and prospective suitors applied to the prospective wife’s father for her hand in marriage.
If he agreed, the veil wasn’t lifted to reveal the bride’s face until after the ceremony was completed. While this must have been frustrating for the groom, it prevented him from backing out of the arrangement if the bride turned out to be a horror. So we can only hope that they all lived happily ever after, despite the disappointment on the new husband’s face!
It worked both ways though, because in some cultures, the veil protected the bride from being seen by other men. If she was beautiful, this prevented them from stealing her away from her prospective husband before the wedding. And, of course, the groom would have been delighted when he finally got to see her.
While today’s brides would be horrified at the suggestion, veils were once used as a symbol of a bride’s willingness to obey her husband after marriage. When the veil was lifted by the groom to reveal her face, it symbolised him taking possession of her as a lover or as his property. These days, many brides don’t wear the veil over their face, and other brides lift their own veils, therefore presenting themselves to the groom as equals.
There was a point in history where a wedding veil was seen to represent a woman’s status. For example, Assyrian prostitutes and women who were deemed to be “common,” were forbidden from wearing veils in the 13th Century B.C. And in the 18th Century, the veil was considered so important that brides actually spent more on their veils than on their dresses.
Instead of a veil, Japanese brides at traditional, non-Western style weddings wear a white headdress called a tsunokakushi. As tsuno means horns, the idea of the headdress is that it hides the bride’s horns of jealousy, ego and selfishness, and symbolises her resolve to become a gentle and obedient wife. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t caught on in the Western world.
There are various superstitions surrounding the wearing of the veil, some of which have survived to modern times. For example, as some people believe that it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony, the veil can be used to conceal her.
Others believe that a veil borrowed from a happily married woman will bring happiness and fertility to the next bride. And there are those who deem it unlucky for a bride to wear her veil before her wedding day, and believe that if she must try it on for fittings, it should never be worn along with the dress.
History has shown us that brides through the ages have worn veils for different reasons. Although brides marrying for the second time were not supposed to wear a veil in the past, it’s considered perfectly acceptable to do so these days.
While veils are still very popular now, some brides choose not to wear them. There are no rights or wrongs when it comes to veils – it’s your day, so it’s completely up to you whether you choose to wear a veil, a headpiece, a hat, a fascinator or nothing at all! At least, unlike the unfortunate brides of the past, you have the comfort of knowing that your groom is unlikely to run back down the aisle screaming when they set eyes on you.
I hope you found this blog interesting and helpful.
All my love, Franc xxxx