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Does the practice of brides wearing veils have its origin in either the Bible or Christian tradition? If so, where exactly did it originate and what is it supposed to symbolize?

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Famously in Genesis, Leah wore a bridal veil when she was married to Jacob. It's purpose, however, seemed to be more for Laban's benefit than anything else :) –  Affable Geek Jul 1 '13 at 17:27
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@AffableGeek I'm assuming that the custom must have been pretty standard even by that time. As despicable a stunt as that was I'm not sure Laban could have pulled it off without some convenient traditions to exploit. I'm also hoping that isn't the precedent used by today's brides! –  Caleb Jul 1 '13 at 21:56
    
I must admit, you have asked a very interesting question! :-D –  Anonymous Jul 1 '13 at 23:50
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4 Answers

As a minister I can tell you there is no biblical requirement for a vail...and while rick did a fantastic job of research of the word itself...even he could find nothing in the Bible giving example for a bride to wear a vail...no more than a man should ( moses ) ...

But here is some "church" tradition

From “History of the Wedding"

The introduction of the veil came into Europe during the time of the Crusades. In early weddings the bride was bargained for through her father. Covered in a veil, she was revealed to her husband after the ceremony. Brides also wore orange blossom wreaths in the hair on top of the veil, which is where the tiara could have originated from. Veils were used as a symbol of virginity and purity for brides given to their mates.

“History of the Bridal Veil“:

The medieval Europe enriched its traditions and customs in the XV century when crusades resulted in several eastern traditions. One of the trophies was a wedding veil though with some changes in the meaning; in Muslim countries women had to hide their faces under the yashmak even after the wedding party was completed hiding the beauty and charm of a young woman, but in Europe the perception of the veil changed and European trendsetters saw the veil as the symbol of modesty and purity. Tenderly white veil symbolized the purity and innocence of a young woman getting married and to some slight extent the traditions still keeps the meaning, possibly in some particular countries and this is the answer why only a woman getting married for the first time wear the bridal veil.

Just a couple references, I can provide more some silly, ( like because the bride is ugly to keep the groom from running...haha ) ... but it is in those times that the veil came to symbolize modesty and purity. The flowing white veil became a sign of virginity. Thus honoring church tradition, only first-time brides wear a veil....

But no...no biblical instruction or inference to do so...only tradition and superstition ...

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Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Feb 20 at 3:56
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Tertullian.sayeth

Let virgins alone be veiled, and this when they are coming to be married, and not till they have recognised their destined husband

De Corona http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0304.htm

Owing to a lack of exact biblical instructions for the performing of rite of matrimony found on the Bible. One of the instructions clearly found in the Bible is that after a marriage is settled, it is good that a woman should cease to be a virgin. So she can take off her veil.

Mr. Tertullian goes on to explain how reason can and should play a role in keeping traditions not found in the law.

tradition has given the fashion in question to custom, to find subsequently (its authorization in) the apostle's sanction, from the true interpretation of reason. This instances, therefore, will make it sufficiently plain that you can vindicate the keeping of even unwritten tradition established by custom; the proper witness for tradition when demonstrated by long-continued observance

ibid

so, this answer is probably lacking in the pre-Christian historicity, (although he makes mention of Rebecca and Susannah) but it is probably foundational for most of Christendom, and the logic applies to much more than just wearing bridal veils.

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Here's a basic explaination I found online. It gives a simple, streamlined answer to at least part of your question.

Bridal Veil

Not only does the bridal veil show the modesty and purity of the bride and her reverence for God, it reminds us of the Temple veil which was torn in two when Christ died on the cross. The removing of the veil took away the separation between God and man, giving believers access into the very presence of God. Since Christian marriage is a picture of the union between Christ and the church, we see another reflection of this relationship in the removal of the bridal veil. Through marriage, the couple now has full access to one another. (1 Corinthians 7:4)

(source)

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It would seem the veiled bride (Temple) is from the Word itself!

In John 3:28,29 John the Baptist says: “Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom”

When Christ’s work on the cross was “finished” the “temple veil was rent” (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45) and the “Holy of Holies” in the Temple was unveiled.

In Ephesians 5:25 “for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it

One could and if qualified one should study the nuances between “veil” and “vail”. However, in my brief non-credentialed study “vail” is an archaic rendering of “veil”. In both cases a veil/vail is a covering. The vail between the Holy place and the Holy of Holies was also used as a covering over the arc of the covenant when in transit.

Veiling and unveiling are significant considerations as in 2 Corinthians 3:13-18: “And not as Moses, [which] put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which [vail] is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

The Law veiled the heart but Christ unveiled believers (the Church) so “with open face we can behold the glory of the Lord”.

According to John the Baptist Jesus is the Bridegroom

According to the Gospels when Christ “gave up the ghost” the temple (Church) veil was torn in half.

According to Paul there is a real parallel between Christ and the Church and husbands and wives.

According to John in Revelation the Bride is the lambs (Christ’s) wife (Ephesians 5:27) “That he (Christ) might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

I have nothing outside of Scripture to make the claims that I have made, so I do not know if and when the Church adopted bridal veiling but I believe I can speak with confidence that the above verses would be the best reason for it to do so!

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I think there is probably something to this, but can I ask for you to tie in some history and doctrine as well as your Biblical hooks? Even though I think there is a connection and it may be strong, at least based on what you have here so far I don't think calling it a "compelling" is fair. –  Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 13:37
    
1 Corinthians 11:5 says "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with [her] head uncovered dishonoureth her head". Here Paul addresses the early church, head covering and veiling go hand in hand and both point to Christ and the Church and husband and wives. –  Rick Jul 2 '13 at 20:40
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I'm all but dead certain that head coverings != bridal veils, in the Biblical accounts or otherwise. Whatever connection you are drawing there needs to be backed up with some exegesis to interpret the passage in relation to this issue or historical references or something, right now all we have is your assertion that they are related. –  Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 20:42
    
I realize this is your question but do you have any suggestions, I am at a loss! –  Rick Jul 2 '13 at 20:50
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