The veil is one of the best-known accoutrements for a bride. Walking down the aisle in a cloud of white, she is only unveiled when she reaches the altar. How did this custom start, and why have we kept it?
The first reason for a veil was customary. Girls in European societies wore their hair down. It was only when they became married women that they wore their hair in a more modest, practical style.
It may have been pulled back in a bun, hidden under a wig, or braided and circled around the head, but it was never worn down again, except around close family members. Wearing a veil during the wedding ceremony was a transitional step between girlhood and womanhood.
The second function was protective. Superstition said that the veil shielded the young bride, so full of hope, from the “evil eye” as she started her new life. This refers to a malevolent glare from jealous types. The usual suspects for such envy would be other unmarried women.
The veil probably did make it easier for the bride to ignore some jealous glares and whispers. Once she arrived at the altar her future husband’s face would be the first thing she would see clearly. This romantic moment was yet another important signal of a new chapter in their lives, together.