While we can’t pinpoint the exact beginning of the veil tradition, fashion historians have traced its origins at least as far back as Roman times. The Romans believed that brides were tempting targets for evil spirits, making them vulnerable on their wedding day. So to protect these brides-to-be, veils were worn to disguise them from any dangerous supernatural beings (via Ancient Origins).
But while the Romans seem to be the first culture with documented use of bridal veils, they are far from the only one. Wedding veils pop up across the globe, such as the lucky red ones worn by brides in China (via Cultural Awareness International). They were also popular for arranged marriages — essentially used to hide the bride’s face from her groom until the deed was done (via Richmond Times-Dispatch).
But how did we get from these traditions to the current idea of a white veil? The classic pairing of a white dress and bridal veil was cemented as a popular tradition thanks to the high-profile wedding of England’s Queen Victoria in 1840. The queen’s lacy white gown and veil were very different from the usual attire at a royal wedding, which typically involved rich-looking dresses of silver and gold. Her iconic, virginal look became the standard for brides, including the delicate veil she had commissioned to boost the British lace-making industry (via Fashion History Timeline). Suddenly, white dresses topped with veils became de rigueur for any fashion-forward bride.