Wedding veils have been in and out of fashion for the last
two hundred years or so in Britain. The traditional white wedding with full
veil is an upper class Victorian invention, before then most people just wore
their best clothes for the ceremony. In the 1860s brides wore their veils
hanging behind their heads with a wreath of orange blossom keeping it in place.
In 1863 when Princess Alexandra married the Prince of Wales she wore a white
dress and veil as did her eight bridesmaids. By the 1870s some brides came into
the church with their veils over their faces and by the end of the nineteenth century
it was only the bride who wore a veil, the bridesmaids wore hats or bonnets. In
the 1900s fashions changed again and many brides wore hats rather than veils.
If veils were worn they tended to be only waist length and hung down the back.
Fashions became simpler during the first world war and veils became less
elaborate. In the 1920s those brides who wore veils had them low down on the
forehead in a style that mimicked the fashionable cloche hats of the period. Many
brides wore veils that had become family heirlooms, for example when Lady
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons married the future George VI in 1923 she wore a veil
loaned to her by Queen Mary. Princess Marina who married the Duke of Kent in
1934 wore her veil with a diamond tiara rather than flowers which started a
craze for headdresses made of glass or paste. An indication of how royal bridal
fashions have always influenced the wedding customs and dress of the general
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