The Sweet Christian Bride

The Tradition of the Veil

by admin on June 20, 2011 in Attire, Ceremony Traditions with 54 Comments

The music breaks with a swell of silence, cuing the guests to turn their gaze towards the start of the aisle.  In allegro con spirito, the joyful symphony of the bride’s chosen tune sounds at the moment the church doors opens.  Standing there, framed and silhouetted, is the stunning bride on the arm of her father. 

This is one of my favorite moments in every wedding.

What is she wearing?  How did she do her hair?  Is she wearing a veil?  What color are her flowers?  My mind goes through every detail, taking in the culmination of the bride’s meticulous planning.

Each bride has her own personality, styles, and details.  One of the most revealing (or perhaps literally not revealing) variables is the wedding veil.  The last wedding I went to, the bride had no veil, not even a hair ornament.  The one before that, the bride wore a flower in her hair.  I myself wore a cathedral veil that swept the floor behind me.  From one end of the spectrum to the other, the veil has become an accent to the dress and a reflection of the location’s ambiance. 

I like that.

Traditionally, back in the Roman heyday, brides wore veils to keep out evil spirits that might snatch the bride away and break up the marriage.  Also, traditionally, the value of modesty that runs deep in the Arab cultures drove the head veil to be a common act of protecting the bride from unwanted “solicitors,” in addition to protecting her from the desert’s harsh environment.

We saw the significance of the wedding veil in the woes of poor Jacob who was tricked into marrying Leah instead of his beloved Rachel (Genesis 29).  Often times a veil was kept over the bride until the process of bargaining and negotiating between the groom and the father of the bride was completed.  The lifting of the veil became symbolic of both checking to make sure Rachel was really Rachel and not Leah, if you will, as well as signifying the new “owner” of the exchanged “property.”

Because the veil has become more of a fashion statement than a practical element, we have the privilege of applying whatever meaning we want to it.  Perhaps a veil is important to you because it was your mother’s veil, and her mother’s veil.  Perhaps you want it to symbolize your purity as you are covered in an ethereal net of white.

My favorite modern-day veil significance is by a friend who let her veil symbolize the one flesh between her and her husband.  When she took pictures with her bridesmaid before the ceremony, she was veil-less because she was not yet united to her husband.  When she met with her husband privately to pray together before the ceremony, she still did not have her veil on.  It wasn’t until she walked down the aisle to join with her husband that she donned the veil.  Even though she and her husband saw each other before the ceremony, he still had not seen his veiled bride until she appeared before him at the other end of the aisle.

Symbols and traditions are what you make of them.  Have fun with your veil (if you choose to wear one), and let it reflect your personality and your values.

Photos © Vladimir Surkov and © Kevin Russ respectively

By Lindsay

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