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Bridal Veils: History behind the Tradition

Every bride knows a wedding veil is a key component of her official uniform on the big day. Although it’s become a trend for some women to skip the customary head adornment, most brides still choose to rock the veil during their nuptials.

But do you know where the actual tradition originated? You may be surprised to discover the meaning attached to bridal veils back in the day – and even more blown away by modern society’s transformation of the original symbolism.

Origin of the Bridal Veil

Although the meaning associated with the bridal veil varies among societies and religions, most cultures tied the practice to the bride’s virginity. During the 19th century in particular, people observed the “lifting of the veil” during wedding ceremonies. The father either lifted the veil for the bride or relinquished her to her new husband, who lifted her veil at the conclusion of the ceremony for the kiss. Today, this act still represents the man’s absolute right to initiate conjugal relations with his new wife (more or less). However, in the past, it also signaled that the groom was taking ownership of his bride – hardly the case anymore!

Ancient Judaism assigned significant meaning to the practice as well. However, the veil lifting happened directly before a couple consummated their new marriage. Hence, the lifting of the veil quite literally symbolized what would happen in private soon after the vows.

Old world Christians clung to the teachings of St. Paul. According to Bible Gateway, Paul taught believers that husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the church. Some Christians maintain that the unveiling is symbolic of his comparison.

Bridal Veils Today: The Rules Have Changed

For many modern-day couples, the symbolic association behind the traditional unveiling of the bride has largely been erased. At its core, the shift occurred because most couples have already entered into a sexual relationship – which renders any symbolism attached to the practice obsolete. Of course, some brides still choose to remain veiled until the kiss at the end of the nuptials – and that’s perfectly fine! The beauty of modern weddings is that couples have the unbridled ability to play by their own rules.

MSN outlined some old school wedding traditions that it’s perfectly kosher for today’s couples to skip. For instance, checks out the article’s take on the whole “wedding dress must be white” angle:

Other “rules” the article banished include the mandate that there should be only two wedding colors. Many couples are opting instead to use an entire palette for flowers and other elements of their wedding day festivities. Think crisp fall colors for an autumn wedding or a spectrum of cool blues to complement a wintertime marriage celebration.

You don’t necessarily have to stick to common practices like the unity candle-lighting ceremony, either. Many couples these days are subbing their own unique rituals into their nuptials. This includes the most popular new trend: writing your own sets of wedding vows. Remember, your wedding is yours. Don’t let tradition dictate your big day if you aren’t feeling it. Tailor the celebration to make it as unique as the two lovebirds tying the knot.

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