Why Do Brides Wear Veils? The Tradition Goes Way Back, & It’s Pretty Sexist

by Korey Lane

There are tons of wedding traditions out there, from the something borrowed and something blue, to the bride's father walking her down the aisle. Traditional weddings usually include rehearsal dinners, ceremony music, flowers, cake, a wedding party, and so much more. Obviously, not all of these traditions are necessary, but they're still pretty interesting to learn about. The real reason brides wear veils, for example, is oddly sexist and honestly a little scary!

These days, not all brides wear veils, which is totally fine and completely up to them! Veils can seem somewhat traditional, and if you're having a more modern, simple, or trendy wedding, veils might seem like they'll just weigh you down. Well, back in the day, that's kind of what they were for. As Bustle reported, one of the original purposes of the veil was to weigh the bride down so she couldn't run away, according to the book Byzantine Women by Lynda Garland.

In addition to the ancient tradition of keeping brides from running away, the veil was also used to makes brides appear more virginal. Nowadays, virginity is an outdated social construct, but back in the day, it was a pretty big deal. According to wedding historian Susan Waggone, who spoke to Brides about the tradition, veils "wrapped brides from head to toe to represent the delivery of a modest and untouched maiden." Yikes.

Pretty outdated, but it makes sense, as Waggone also told Brides that the veil is the oldest, most unique and original part of the bridal outfit, outdating the white dress. Finally, Waggone added that the veil "hid her [the bride] away from evil spirits who might want to thwart her happiness." It's a strange tradition, but my deep dive into the internet has informed me that there's even more to the veil than that. (I know. Stay with me.)

A bride who wore a veil on her wedding day kept the veil on her face the entire time, until the ceremony ended and the groom lifted the veil to kiss his new wife, symbolizing his right to have sex with his bride, according to the book, Altared: Bridezillas, Bewilderment, Big Love, Breakups, and What Women Really Think About Contemporary Weddings by Colleen Curran. Double yikes.

Looking back on the tradition of why brides wear veils, it's clear why it can be such a tricky choice, because it's not just about a gorgeous photo opp. Truly, the history of this tradition is troubling, so it makes sense that a bride wouldn't want to participate in it.

Now that times have changed, many brides opt out of wearing a veil entirely, or decide to only wear one during the ceremony, or they'll just wear a veil that doesn't cover their face. It's not necessary, but some brides find that their wedding day might really be the only chance they ever get to wear one. Whatever the case, the tradition of the veil may have an unexpected history, but as long as the bride is happy and feels beautiful in whatever she wears, that's all that really matters.