There are myriad decisions to make when you’re getting ready to tie the knot, and arguably the most important one is what you’re going to wear on your big day. Personal style dictates most of these choices—be it dress, shoes or jewelry—but there’s one garment that inspires ambivalence in many a bride. Yep, we’re talking about wedding veils. These days it’s common for brides to forgo this traditional accessory entirely. Still, there are reasons why even the most modern bride would want to wear a wedding veil—namely, because the right veil (i.e., one that complements your dress) can really pull your whole look together. So, to veil or not to veil? That’s up to you, but our guide to the most popular types of veils will help you make an educated decision.
11 Types of Veils and How to Wear Them on Your Big Day
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1. Birdcage Veil
These small veils measure roughly nine inches in length and are intended to cover only part of your face, although they can be angled to one side for a little more exposure. The material of a birdcage veil is most often stiff, structured netting or sheer tulle, with a variety of embellishments available—you know, in case you want to glam up your retro 40s look with some rhinestones or similar. This type of veil is often seen with updos, attached to a headband, comb or pillbox hat (like Katherine Heigl did for her 2007 nuptials), but you can certainly work it with loose tresses, too.
2. Blusher Veil
A blusher veil simply refers to any sheer veil that fastens to the crown of the head and covers the entire face of the bride. This is the type of veil that in more traditional ceremonies will be lifted by the groom once the bride has been walked down the aisle, or at the end of the vows before the kiss. Blushers can be chin, shoulder or waist length and they often accompany another veil, though they can also be worn alone for a more modern look—either way it’s a romantic touch to the bride’s wedding day ensemble.
3. Elbow Length Veil
As you might have guessed, the elbow length veil is a style of veil that’s usually worn high on the crown of the head and hits at or near the bride’s elbows. First made popular in the 60s, this is an excellent choice if you’re going for a more lowkey aesthetic with an understated retro vibe. It’s also ideal for those who don’t want to fuss over a long trailing style since, needless to say, there’s never any worry that an elbow length veil will get stepped on or otherwise become cumbersome when the bride walks down the aisle.
4. Fingertip Length Veil
Probably the most versatile veil on our list, the fingertip length veil is, as it sounds, a veil that hits roughly near where the bride’s fingertips reach when her arms are at her sides (i.e., just above or below the hip). This style is a nice compromise between a shorter elbow length veil and a dramatic floor-length number, and it works well for casual and formal weddings alike. It’s also a fairly neutral style that can be paired with nearly any type of dress or hairdo.
5. Ballet Length Veil
The ballet length veil is an oh-so romantic, often lace-trimmed, option that extends anywhere between the knees and ankles. Thus, it has all the benefits of the other shorter styles—namely, that it is low maintenance and won’t be stepped on—but with an extra precious, feminine look. Wear this one high or low on the head, and make sure to get at least one wedding photo of it billowing in the breeze.
6. Chapel Length Veil
For more traditional brides, the chapel veil—a floor length veil that extends a couple inches beyond the hem of the wedding dress—is a go-to option. This choice is best suited for formal weddings, but it will add extra elegance and drama to most any full-length gown, be it A-line or sheath, and can be found in ornate (i.e., embellished) and minimalist raw hem styles alike.
7. Cathedral Length Veil
For a real fairytale wedding no style beats the cathedral veil, which trails one to two feet behind the bride’s dress and is by far the longest type of veil out there (at least for anyone who isn’t royalty). The effect is quite dramatic, to be sure, but given the amount of material involved, it should come as no surprise that a cathedral length veil is fairly high maintenance as well. Indeed, this style typically requires that at least one person, if not a small team, follow the bride to prevent it from getting underfoot and assist with spreading and straightening it out.
8. Juliet Cap Veil
This one gets its name from the way it is fitted to the top of the head, shrouding the crown and covering part of the forehead much like a cloche hat and with a similar 1920s aesthetic. As such, this type of veil is best worn with vintage-inspired wedding dresses, though it works well with bohemian themes as well, à la Kate Moss.
This distinctive type of veil hails from Spain and consists of a single layer of fabric, typically trimmed with lace, that is attached just a few inches back from the hairline and worn flat over the head, such that it drapes over both shoulders. Mantillas are a part of the country’s Catholic tradition and were worn not only by brides but by all women when attending mass. In the context of a wedding, a mantilla veil might be chosen by a bride who is concerned with modesty (i.e., no bare shoulders) for religious or personal reasons.
10. Double Tier Veil
The name of this one tells you pretty much all you need to know: This type of veil has two layers, typically of different lengths. Beyond that, there aren’t any rules—double tier veils run the gamut and can be found in many different styles. That said, the most common type of double tier veil is one that consists of a blusher attached to a second veil, which can be elbow length, cathedral length or anywhere in between.
11. Drop Veil
A drop veil, famously worn by Meghan Markle, is meant to sit over the face during the ceremony and then pulled back afterwards in order to create a two layered veil. It’s a traditional choice that is particularly well suited for dreamy and vintage style celebrations. The veil sits flat against the head without any gathers, making it a very streamlined look (think: no volume or puffiness).