(illustration via Antique Lace Heirlooms)
The wedding veil.
Of all the bride’s possible accessories, this one is probably the single most controversial. To some, a woman is simply not a bride without one. To others it’s a symbol of virginity, lost to those who have sowed a wild oat or two before settling down and getting married. To yet others it’s a vicious reminder of the legal inequalities that for centuries kept women second-class citizens with no rights to their own property – or even their own children – until enough rabble rousers of both sexes managed to get women the vote and other legal protections.
Me? I just never liked wearing one. I had to in a couple plays I was in over the years, and I found the experience annoying. When I was planning my wedding, I knew from day one that there was no way in a million years of llama stampedes that I was putting one on my head again, if the choice was up to me.
Historically, the veil did start out as a specific requirement of all brides. In ancient Rome, it didn’t matter whether or not you were a virgin: if you were getting married, you wore a flame-colored veil. Period. First marriage or fifteenth, you wore it. Like another color better? Tough. It was flame-colored.
Over the centuries, though, this changed. Bridal headgear tended to be either a festive ring of flowers or else a version of whatever the currently accepted headgear of women in that area during that time. Brides wore hennins, gabled hoods, strands of jewels, or hats depending on when and where they were getting married.
And then at the very end of the eighteenth century, a world-wide mania for classical Greek and Roman styles hit everything from Architecture to women’s fashions. The veil was back for everyday wear. Soon it began being used for brides – in particular first time brides – again. And this is where things get odd.
Eventually fashions morphed into less and less classical styles and into the start of the Victorian sillhouette with the nipped in waist and very full skirt. The veil was replaced by fussy bonnets… but many first-time brides continued to wear veils. The bridal veil is the fashion version, in many ways, of an insect trapped in amber.
Whatever your personal feelings about the veil, it’s okay. Wear it. Don’t wear it. It doesn’t determine whether or not you’re a virgin or a tool of the patriarchy. You’re just as married whether or not you put a piece of lace and tulle on your head. The only way it really matters is whether you choose what makes you happy.