A SouthBound Guide to Veil-speak

Hello friends – almost home time! How many of you will be heading for dress shopping expeditions or fittings this weekend, I wonder? So exciting! To help you when it comes to accessories, I’ve put together a little guide for you to the different terms used to describe wedding veils. Yep, I bet you thought there were maybe one or two, but think again. There are actually lots of options for brides, depending on your dress style and length (and colour!) and the general look and feel you are going for on your big day. Of course, you may not feel that you want to wear a veil at all, but if you do, read on!


Birdcage veils are the shortest length, and have enjoyed huge popularity in the last few years. There’s quite a bit of variety within birdcage veils (for advice on these different options and how to rock them, check out this article from the SBB archive) but they’re usually worn just covering the eyes or extending down to the chin. Super stylish and low-hassle.

Images: Nastassja Harvey via SBB (L) & Christine Meintjes via SBB (R)

Shoulder-length veils (ending anywhere from your shoulders to the middle of your back) are less commonly found these days, but are perfect for a fashion-forward bride, especially if you have detailing on your dress that you’d like to show off, but still want that dash of tradition. A fun version of the shoulder-length is the flyaway veil, which has more than one layer and just brushes the shoulders (see above left) – great for a modern or city chic wedding.

Images: via First Coast Weddings & Events (L) & Etsy (R)

I love elbow-length veils (although I won’t lie to you, that might be because they remind me of my first communion dress). They’re elegant and easy to handle, and when combined with a blusher (see below), are very romantic without the hassle of carrying a full-length train around with you. These are perfect if you’re wearing a full dress (aka meringue)  as they end just about at the point where the skirt of your gown begins, which is super-flattering. They’re also quite an informal veil, so ideal for a daytime setting.

Images: Smitten Photography via Style Me Pretty (L) & via Pinterest (R)

If you loved Kate Middleton’s look, then fingertip-length is the one for you. This is the veil that flatters most brides and their dresses, and as a result is the most popular. A safe bet, but an extremely pretty one.

Images: BHLDN (L) & Royal Wedding (R)

I think ballet-length is one of my favourites, although you don’t see it as often as some of the other styles. You get much of the prettiness of the longer veil varieties, without worrying about tripping over yourself. Also called waltz-length (because you can still dance in it, see?), it falls anywhere between the knee and ankle.

Images: Molly Sims via People Magazine (L) & via Mandy Borvan (R)

We’re starting to get into statement veil territory here. Chapel-length veils go all the way to the ground (it’s sometimes called a sweep veil), and may drape a little but does not have a train. This is one for formal weddings, and is incredibly romantic and elegant. You’ll definitely feel like a princess! It’s often combined with a blusher and/or an elbow-length veil for two-or three-tiered loveliness (see below).

Images: KT Merry Photography via Style Me Pretty (L) & via Pinterest (R)

Cathedral-length veils are the grand dame of them all, the Buck Palace, the Rolls Royce. I won’t lie, they’re a pain to manage, but they’re beautiful to photograph and they make an incredible impression. Probably one to save for the most formal of weddings, although I’ve seen these in outdoor settings as well.

Images: Christine Meintjes via SBB (L) & via Weddingbee (R)


Blusher is a term sometimes used for shoulder-length veils, but technically a blusher is the bit that stands in front of your face as you walk down the aisle, and that can be any length from birdcage to much longer. This is the one that your father lifts when he presents you to your husband – and probably the one that you’re going to want to avoid if the whole ‘unveiling of the bride’ tradition creeps you out. No doubt that they’re lovely, but make sure you practise wearing yours a bit since it’s a bit of a surreal experience at first.

Images: Ruche (L) & BHLDN (R)

A two-tier veil (or double-tier veil) is simply one that has two lengths of veil combined (usually a blusher and a longer veil) as onse Charlene did at her Monaco wedding. As noted above, veils can also go to three tiers, which is a lot more dramatic and beautiful than it sounds like it would be. Usually at least one of the tiers can be detached for the reception.

Images: Ann Taylor (L) & Royal Monaco Wedding (R)

My favourite. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing quite like a mantilla when it comes to pure gorgeousness, although it won’t work with all dresses and settings. A mantilla (man-tea-ya) is usually a circular piece of lace (or tulle with heavy lace edging) that is held in place with a comb to frame the face. However, this look can also be combined with a more traditional veil to retain the traditional lengths and shapes but retaining the pretty lace-edged look.

Images: via Wedding Obsession (L) & Riekert Cloete via SBB (R) 

Pouf veils (tulle that gathers to a hairpiece, creating height) aren’t every bride’s cup of tea, but just look how gorgeous they can look with the right gown? They’re also often used to add a bit of ’60s flair to an ensemble. Bold and beautiful.

Images: Agnes Lopez Photography via One Wed (L) & Gia Canali (R)

The juliet cap is a look I’m only just seeing start to take off again, with both Kate Moss and Lily Allen sporting the look at their weddings last year. It’s very chic – after all, wedding style goddess Grace Kelly did it, so it must be a winner.

Images: Grace Kelly wedding (L) & Not On the High Street

Some tips on wearing veils:

  • Unless you’re wearing a family veil or similar, make sure you buy your dress before you start thinking about veils as not all of them will suit the look you go for.
  • Even if you don’t think you’re a ‘veil person’, try one on at your fitting. It is 100% the best way to make your mom and bridesmaids start crying. In a good way.
  • When you go to your hair trial (and in some cases your actual hair appointment on the day) make sure you bring your veil with you. If your hairdresser puts it into place for you, make sure one of your bridesmaids is on hand watching so she can take it out later without pulling the rest of your do to pieces.
  • Make sure your veil doesn’t overshadow your dress (or compete with it in the ornate department). There’s not much point in loads of back detail if nobody’s going to see it under your triple-tier cathedral-length veil. That said, if you have your heart set on a fancy-pants veil, you don’t have to wear it beyond the ceremony or in all of the photographs. I’ve even seen brides wear a birdcage for some of their pics but not for the ceremony (and sometimes not even for the rest of the night). If you’re torn for which look to go for (and you don’t mind splashing out for two looks) this is something you could consider.

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