They vary in style and length almost as much as the dress, and the history of wedding veils is as long as getting marriage itself. This recap of the most popular looks over the last century will help decide what style suits you best.
A history of wedding veils
The history of wedding veils tells us that, in ancient times, the Greeks used it as a way of protecting the bride from evil spirits, while in Medieval times it was worn as a symbol of purity and chastity. Today it’s still seen as quite a formal wedding accessory but thanks to the royal wedding, one that is coming back into fashion.
The 1920s saw brides favouring the lace cloche headdresses, some of which would be encircled with flowers. Veils were usually made of silk materials and decorated with flowers and leaves that would match the blooms in her bouquet.
Veils started to make a more simple statement in the 1930s when brides wore them hanging loosely over their heads to compliment the sleek look of their form-fitting gowns.
In the post-wear years of the 1940s, small, birdcage veils became popular – a wedding trend that’s coming back into fashion! In the 1950s it was the turn of the tight-fitting skullcap veil.
This fashion-forward look mellowed in the 60s and 70s with veils taking on a more modern, bohemian vibe. Long, floaty styles became popular and took their cue from the ‘flower-power’ look of the time.
By the 1980s, bigger was better and we saw Princess Diana’s mammoth veil setting the trend for a whole generation of brides. Her amazing veil was 24 feet long but the perfect length to make a dramatic statement as she entered St Paul’s cathedral – surely the longest and most recognisable style in the history of wedding veils!
Flash forward to 2011 and Kate Middleton’s 72-inch ivory silk veil also made for a dramatic entrance at Westminster. “Kate went for the ‘celestial halo’ effect,” says designer Kelly from Richard Designs.
“Unlike most veils, this particular one appeared to be without a comb; instead skilfully pinned behind the halo tiara and resting on her ‘Demi Chignon’ styled hair. The soft veiling has been positioned precisely on to the comb to allow the correct amount of blusher to fall when it is worn forward, and the hand applied French Chantilly lace is delicate, and organically weaves along the edge with very slight scallops. An ode to Catherine, this veil is timeless and ethereal!”
Many real brides turn their backs on veils at the start of their dress shopping, seeing them as old fashioned – I certainly did. I wanted a modern, glamorous, red-carpet look so turned to Suzanne Neville – the queen of the corsets – for my gown. But even though the dress was divine, there was something missing. I didn’t feel ‘bridal’ enough. That’s when the boutique owner suggested a try a veil.
We started small with a birdcage veil – beautiful but not in keeping with my theme. Then we went to shoulder length… then a bit longer… and a bit longer… and eventually I ended up with practically a cathedral theme veil complete with satin edges! And all this from someone who hated the very thought of wearing one!
Are you planning on wearing a veil for your big day? What decade are you taking inspiration from, and is one of the styles in our history of wedding veils inspiring your outfit?
We’d love to hear all about it!