Having spent hours deliberating which veil suits your dress, it's rather disappointing to realise the veil will only be used for a few minutes. Once the groom has lifted the veil, all eyes are on the bride's shining face.
Lifting the veil is like lifting the sheet from a new sculpture in an art gallery. The importance of properly and elegantly executing this unveiling cannot be over-emphasised.
How to lift a veil
First, let's lower the veil. In today's weddings, the veil is carefully lowered just before she enters the chapel. Lowering the veil is a tiny ceremony in itself and must be done delicately. From this moment, the bride's vision is slightly obscured. For many brides this causes no problem at all, but for some, it can cause slight emotional stress or excitement. Practise in the days running up to the wedding if possible.
The attendant lowering the veil must make sure that it doesn't catch on the tiara or spoil the hair-style. If it's a medium length or long veil, the attendant makes sure it covers the bouquet without damaging any petals. Sometimes the attendant is a wedding hall staff member, a bridesmaid, or perhaps the bride's mother is performing her last duty for her daughter.
The veil then stays lowered until near or at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, when it is lifted by the groom as his first action as a new husband. The bride usually doesn't assist in lifting the veil, since the act is to symbolize the man assisting the woman. The veil lifting should not be seen as male dominance and female subservience, but rather one assisting and the other accepting that assistance.
The veil should be lifted slowly to give adequate time for people to take a few photographs. The following procedure works for (the most popular) medium length veils:
- First, the pastor will invite the groom to lift the veil.
- On this cue, the couple face each other and the groom takes a small step forward if necessary, so that the distance between the groom's shoulders and the bride's shoulders are a little less than the length of the groom's outstretched arms. If her skirt is full, he may need to slide one foot under her dress to get sufficiently close.
- The groom then positions his hands close together, at the front bottom hem of the veil, palms forward and fingers pointing upwards. He places his thumbs under the bottom edge of the veil. He then slides his hands outwards along the hem, keeping the veil taut, until his hands are shoulder-width apart.
If this isn't done, there's a risk of his hands being too far apart, then on lifting, the veil will drag over the bride's face. Clumsy and inelegant.
- Slowly lifting the veil straight upwards should take about three seconds. As he lifts the veil, she may need lower her height by slowly bending her knees. Note that the bride is not making any symbolic bowing to her groom; the purpose of lowering is to lessen the risk of the groom catching the tiara in the veil as he lifts it. With his arms straight up in the Banzai! position, the veil should now be vertical with no sagging.
- It helps photographers to take a good photo for you, if the groom holds the veil in that position for a couple of seconds.
- Then he slowly lowers the veil behind the bride's head, gently pulling straight any folds, starting at the back and working around the sides.
The groom then places his hands to the sides of her shoulders, ready to hold her for the Wedding Kiss.
It looks less domineering if his hands are placed at the top of her arms, rather than pushing down from the top of her shoulders.
If she has bent her knees to lower her height, it looks sweet if he appears to raise her to her normal height by holding her arms as she straightens up.
(Return to the Wedding Veil page.)