There is nothing quite like a veil to surreptitiously hide and tantalizingly reveal at the same time. Thus, the tradition of bridal headpieces with veils has spanned centuries. Veils were worn to conceal beauty and blushing cheeks, and for other reasons as well, including attempts to repel evil spirits. Many cultures had customs that included draping brides in veils of yellow, red, light blue, black or other colors. In ancient Rome, the bride wore a voluminous veil called the flammbeau, which covered her from head to toe. Often described as being red, the flammbeau was more likely deep yellow, orange-yellow, or yellow-red in color. It was only in relatively recent centuries that the white veil became popular in western cultures, signifying the purity of a bride.
Regardless of color variations, through the years the flowing veil became a symbol of innocence and propriety. The veil, rather than the dress, was of primary importance since it was common for the bride to be fully covered. It was often decorated with gold or silver threads and crowned with orange blossoms, wreaths of fruits and flowers, or other enhancements. In arranged marriages, a bride may not have been seen until after the ceremony, at which time her father would remove the veil and present her to the groom. In some cultures, the lifting of the veil did not even take place until just before the consummation of the marriage.
A veiled bride was protecting her beauty, symbolizing her purity and modesty, and proving her submissive acquiescence in entering the union. For the father, a veiled daughter offered assurance the groom would remain until custody of the bride was transferred at the conclusion of the ceremony. With the unveiling, the groom’s rights to conjugal relations were affirmed and the bride’s beauty was finally reveled.
Veils have remained popular throughout centuries due to both tradition and religious edicts requiring head coverings. However, as modern societies and styles changed, so have customs. The focal point shifted to the bridal gown and veils were reduced to a complementary accessory. There is no longer a need for full coverage of the face, nor is it necessarily desirable. In some eras, hats were popular and veiling, if it remained at all, often dropped coquettishly just over the eyes. Headpieces of all sorts have had their day; jeweled caps, stylish hats, trailing diaphanous clouds of silk tulle, circlets of flowers, decorative headbands and single showy blooms.
Today, bridal headpieces are chosen to enhance the dress and hairstyle. They reflect the personality of the bride and even the ceremony venue. While the majority of brides continue to select all white or ivory, an increasing number are adding joyful splashes of color to their accoutrement. Whatever you choose, keep in mind your headpiece or veil should not obscure the focal points of your dress or detailing in your hairstyle. Your choice of a headpiece should complement your entire ensemble, and express your personality.
Whatever headpiece you choose, it will be your crowning glory. Wear it with style!