The TTKS guide to bridal veils

Know your birdcage from your blusher? When to wear a mantilla? What length constitutes cathedral? There’s a world of veils out there, and we’re not about to have you set off unprepared. We’re all about transparency…

Martha Juliet cap veil, from £310, Precious Veils

Admit it: you’ve draped toilet roll over yourself and pretended to be a bride at least once in your life. My girlfriends and I were regulars, pros even, staging playground nuptials on a weekly basis and fighting over who got to don that scrap of tissue. For us, the appeal was never who’d meet us at the end of the ‘aisle’ (sorry, boys), but the thrill of wearing the veil.

There’s something magical about the first time you fasten on that simple, gauzy piece of material. Its effect is immediate. “It’s the same as trying on a garment,” notes Nicola McCormick at accessory and alterations specialists Elizabeth Wallace. “You know it’s right when you look in the mirror and have butterflies. It all comes down to what makes you feel the most beautiful.”

“It’s an essential part of the outfit now, rather than an add-on,” argues designer Sassi Holford. “Weddings are steeped in tradition and the veil is an integral part of that.” In an age where we have more freedom of choice than ever, it’s funny that we would hold on to an element with relatively negative connotations (the unveiling symbolises the passing of ownership from father to husband).

But, like anything, it’s about your interpretation. What’s ours? Well, what we’ve decided is that veils are too darn pretty, with too many plus sides, to do away with (and we’re no one’s property, thank you very much).

From left: Penelope veil, from £110, Accessories by Elizabeth Wallace; Grace veil, from £200, Accessories by Elizabeth Wallace

Rainbow Club’s managing director Richard Marsh puts it this way: “Traditions remain important to the modern bride – they actually seem more popular than ever. Besides, your big day is the only time you’ll wear a veil, so why shouldn’t you?”

Think about your veil when you’re styling your outfit

If you’ve come to the (correct) conclusion that it’s veil or bust, your starting point is your gown, which, the experts unanimously agree, should be in place long before you choose a veil. “I believe wholeheartedly that you should have your dress first,” Sassi stresses. “Ideally, you’ll also have thought about how you’re going to style your hair.”

“We’d always advise that your veil complements your gown,” Nicola echoes. “But we have had brides in the past who’ve had their mind set on a veil and then based their dress around it.”

Does that sound like you? Be aware that you’ll need to adjust your vision for your frock. “If brides are a little more adventurous with their choice of veil, they’ll need to ensure they pick a streamlined dress, with either minimal or no detail,” cautions Richard.

Orient Express veil, from £275, Ivory & Co

The conventional path involves more trial and error – and if you have a plan for your accessories, as well as your dress and hairstyle, your future self won’t be quite so bamboozled. “We’d encourage you to try on as many styles as you can,” Nicola says. “This helps rule out what you don’t like. It’s all down to the full ensemble. We find that, when styling up veils, the process is much smoother when you have all of your accessories and adornments.”

“There are so many different options, such as length, material, trims and embellishment, that it can be overwhelming,” considers Richard. “It’s easier to choose once you have your gown and know how you’d like your hair to be. Only then can you land on a suitable length and fabric.”

What veils types are out there?

Speaking of styles, what’s out there? At one end of the spectrum, there’s the retro birdcage, a small, face-framing veil with a larger net; at the other, there’s the cathedral, a dramatic, sweeping number that trails along the ground, past the gown’s hem. “We have some veils that are even longer than that,” adds Nicola. Decisions, decisions.

Sassi has a step-by-step guide. “First, determine whether you want a blusher,” she says. “This is the layer of tulle that falls over your face when you walk down the aisle. Second, weigh up the proportions: think about the veil’s volume and how it gathers around the head. Thirdly, if you opt for a long veil, make sure it sits in line with the length of your train.” And fourth? “Go for it! There is no other time in your life where you can make such an entrance.”

“One style that never goes out of fashion is the hip-length veil,” advises Richard. “Blending into a full skirt, it gives the illusion of longer length, without obscuring any of the details on the skirt.”

From left: Palm Springs Glitter Leaf chapel-length veil, £225, Rock n Roll Bride x Crown and Glory; Sophie veil, £POA, The Couture Veil (produced by Sassi Holford)

Want to go for something that really makes a statement?

Statement veils can come in the shape of a Juliet cap or a single-tier Spanish mantilla, which sit further forward on the head, proving it’s as much about the position of the veil as it is about the design. “Where you place the comb can make or break the look,” points out Sassi. “I tend to favour the back of the crown, so as not to interfere with the hair or face.”

Embellishments, too, are important, at the risk of tipping the balance into OTT territory. “If you have a pared-back gown, play with Swarovski crystals, ornate laces and trims,” Nicola suggests.

What if you have a headpiece already in mind? “Think carefully,” warns Richard. “A voluminous fountain veil isn’t going to work with an equally theatrical tiara. Try a classic floor-length instead.”

Still struggling to find the perfect veil?

Can’t find a veil that clicks with you or your gown? Bespoke might be the solution. “We’ll have a consultation and take a look at your dress,” Nicola offers. “For example, a heavily beaded shoulder calls for a silk veil, as it won’t catch on the claws of the jewels. We don’t want the veil to fight with the gown.” As long as it’s an upgrade on the toilet roll…