Everything to Know About Wedding Veil Lengths, Fabrics and Styles

Fingertip, mantilla or cathedral veil? Let's find the perfect style for you.
by The Knot

Between cathedral veils and bridal caps, there are so many different veil lengths, styles and details to choose from when it comes to the most iconic bridal accessory: the wedding veil. So, how are you supposed to know which one’s right for you and your wedding day outfit? Follow these handy tips to choose the perfect veil to top off your look.

Start With the Veil Length

To find the ideal veil to match your wedding style, first consider length. Test out a variety of options when you go for your first dress fitting to see what veil length works best with your gown. That means finding a style that complements your overall silhouette—you don't want your veil to interrupt the flow of your look. Designers will often make veils tailored specifically for their dresses, so you can use these as a starting point. Shorter veils, like bandeaus, birdcages and blushers, tend to lend a bit more personality as well as an informal or retro edge to your look, while longer ones (ballet, chapel and cathedral veil styles) lean more in the way of tradition and formality. If you can't find one you love, you can always go the custom route. Many companies will create a veil to your specifications, from the length to the color and the kind of embellishments. Check out this comprehensive wedding veil glossary to familiarize yourself with different wedding veil lengths and styles—again, it's important to know the difference between a short blusher, for instace, and a lengthy cathedral veil. 

Choose a Complementary Color

Aim to match the color of the veil to your wedding gown as closely as you can. And since photos may not accurately portray the correct color, bring a swatch of fabric from your dress when you go veil shopping. The one exception to this rule is antique veils—you shouldn't try dying a vintage veil (it's not worth the risk of ruining such a delicate piece). As long as the colors are close enough don't worry if they're not a 100 percent match—the appeal of an heirloom style is in its uniqueness and sentimentality (if it was your mom's or grandmother's, for instance), so it won't matter if it's slightly off in color.

Strike the Right Balance With Embellishments

If your wedding dress is heavily embellished, keep your veil on the clean and simple side, with minimal (if any) extras. And vice versa: A simple, streamlined gown allows you to be a bit more adventurous in the veil department (Meghan Markle's wedding day look—complete with a stunning, elaborate cathedral veil—comes to mind). Play around with unexpected shapes, accents and textures, like a floral-embellished cathedral veil, a lace cap or a couture-inspired bubble veil with over-the-top volume. Try to create a balance as well when it comes to the type of embellishments—while they don't have to match the ones on your dress exactly, they should complement them in color, size and style. A glam sequined veil, for instance, might feel out of place next to a romantic gown embroidered with tiny pearls.

Find the Perfect Fabric

You can't go wrong with tulle—it's a classic choice for veils—but depending on the look you're after, there are also a variety of other materials to consider, such as lace, silk and satin. In most cases, tulle is the most budget-friendly option, and it offers a few benefits over pricier fabrics. Synthetic materials like tulle tend to keep their shape better and have a lighter, more ethereal look than silk and satin, which are more likely to appear heavy and hang straight.

Don't Forget About Your Hair

Before you decide on a veil, it's smart to have some idea how you'll wear your hair on your wedding day—the style you choose may affect your final veil decision. For example, halo veils, bridal caps, mantilla veils and cathedral veils work best when hair is worn down or in low updos, while blushers and birdcages are much more versatile and can be worn with most hairstyles. Your hairstyle might also affect where you place the veil and how you secure it. If you're wearing your hair up, you can wear the veil above or below a bun or chignon. Pinning it above gives it more volume and achieves a more classic look, while placing it below feels more modern and keeps the focus on your stylish updo. Once you've purchased your veil, don't forget to take it (along with any other hair accessories you plan to wear) to your hair trial appointments, so you and your stylist can find the perfect 'do (and there won't be any last-minute surprises).

Accessorize Wisely

Your hairstyle isn't the only detail that can affect the type of veil you choose—other hair accessories make a difference too. A voluminous fountain veil, for example, isn't going to pair well with an equally dramatic tiara. Instead, a classic style, like elbow, chapel, fingertip length or a cathedral veil, look best with a royal topper or beaded or crystal headband. Mantillas are traditionally worn with an ornate comb; halo veils often require a wreath, headband or cap to hold them in place; and blushers and birdcage styles go great with unique accents, like a feather clip or floral barrette. You can use your accessories to hold your veil in place or keep the two separate and attach the veil to your hairstyle with an indetectable clear comb.

Highlight the Back of Your Dress

Does the back of your wedding gown have a daring open-back, lace panel, intricate cutout or other dramatic detail? Don't hide it under too many layers of tulle or a wall of heavy satin fabric. Opt for a super-sheer veil with just one or two layers to let those gorgeous details shine through.

Make Removal Easy on Yourself (and Your Wedding Party)

If you plan to remove your veil after the ceremony (or at any point, really), but want to leave your headpiece on for the reception, attach your veil with fabric hook and loop closures for easy on and off. Keep in mind if you remove your veil before the reception, it won't appear in pictures of the first dance or the cake cutting. If you choose a ballet, chapel or cathedral veil and want to keep it on postceremony, try a multilayered version with a fingertip-length top layer. That way, you can detach the floor-length layers and keep that classic bridal look—but you'll be able to mingle and dance with ease.

Keep Your Photos in Mind

Whether you want to flaunt your veil or keep it tucked away, be mindful that how you decide to wear your veil will affect how much or how little of it you'll see in your wedding photos. If you attach it with a backpiece, then little, if any, of the veil will show up in your photos. This is a good option if you want to keep the focus on your hairstyle or jewelry, but maybe not ideal if you consider your veil your pièce de résistance.

Make It Your "Something Borrowed"

Want to wear your mom's veil but afraid it's dated? Give it a face-lift. Take it to a trusted tailor and see if they can rework the veil length, trim or embellishments so it feels a bit more like you. Or, if the veil has seen better days but you love its vintage style, look into having it restored to its former glory, or use pieces of it to create something new, yet vintage-inspired.

Start your search for the perfect wedding veil right here.

Up Next
16 New Wedding Veil Styles You'll Love
Here's how modern brides are putting their own couture twist on this classic wedding accessory.
by The Knot5 min read