Article written by Pam Black, owner of Pam Black Weddings.
First published in Die Burger Leefstyl newspaper
To wear a veil or not to wear a veil – this is the question asked by many brides-to-be. I recently spoke to the mother of a bride who was aghast that her daughter did not want to wear one, as she (the mother) felt it was the ‘right’ thing to do. It made me wonder about the origin of the veil and, while many theories abound, one of the most likely suggestions is that in ancient times, as marriages were usually arranged by the bride’s family, the bride’s face was kept covered until after the ceremony, when the groom finally got to see who he was marrying. This was done to prevent him reneging on the deal if he didn’t like the look of his future spouse!
In biblical times, it was customary for the elder daughter to be married first. Many know the story of Jacob, who was in love with Rachel, but was tricked by Rachels father, Laban, into marrying her elder, less beautiful sister, Leah – whose face had been concealed by a veil. This gave rise to the Jewish custom called the ‘badeken’, whereby the groom meets with his bride before the wedding ceremony and places the veil over her face himself. In this way, he ensures that he is marrying the right woman.
In Muslim tradition, after the ‘Nikaah’ – the ceremony held in the Mosque attended by the menfolk – the groom goes to the bride’s home, where she is waiting for him, fully attired in her wedding outfit. He then lifts her veil and places the wedding ring on her finger, signifying that they are married.
The wearing of the veil (especially the covering of the bride’s face), used to be regarded as a sign of chastity. However, over the years this tradition has slowly faded and today it is acceptable for the bride to make her own choice as to whether or not to cover her face. It has also become more acceptable for brides who are marrying for the second time to wear a veil.
A leading wedding dress designer once told me that in his opinion no wedding gown is complete without a veil. He said he often found that a bride who was opposed to wearing a veil would change her mind at the final fitting of her dress, when she saw how well the veil could complete the look. As he says, why short-change yourself on this special day, since wearing a veil is part of the whole tradition. I must agree with him that a veil adds a wonderful air of mystique to the bride’s overall appearance.
At one of the National Wedding Shows in London that Celebration House exhibited at, our stand was opposite that of a company selling wedding dresses. Over the three-day period of the show I watched hundreds of brides trying on wedding dresses, and every time the assistant placed a veil on the bride’s head, the transformation was amazing; suddenly the whole outfit came alive and looked complete.
Tips for wearing a veil:
- I was once given a good piece of advice with regard to the wearing of a veil, namely that when fixing it to your hair, you should always ensure that the shorter piece is uppermost. It might seem like common sense, but brides who are planning to cover their faces for the ceremony have been known to panic on arrival at the venue, when they find that their veil is firmly fixed onto their head with the longer piece on top!
- If you are planning to have a veil, practise wearing it around the house; if it is long, this will help you get used to the feel of it.
- Choose a head-dress that is light and easy to wear with the veil. If the groom is the same height as you, go for something flattish, or settle for a few flowers.
- Veils should be made of fine tulle (called ‘bridal veiling’), as they need to be soft, light and billowy, like a cloud. Organza and chiffon don’t work as well.
- Short veils are only suitable for wearing with a short wedding dress.
- For a long wedding dress, the back of the veil should reach at least to your fingertips (or even longer), and the shorter piece over your face, should come to your elbows.
- Whatever length you choose, veils look better with a defined edge – not just a cut edge. Satin-edged veils are no longer popular, but beading can be added to give a bit of sparkle.
Are you concerned that your veil might be a bit long – or would you like to make it into the Guinness Book of Records? At a wedding in the Philippines, bride Analen Baba wore a veil measuring an incredible one kilometer in length, at her marriage to Jun Arrojo!