Ask the Expert: Wedding Veil 101 with Alison Miller

by D Weddings

Photo courtesy of Monvieve.

During New York Bridal Fashion Week, we visited the showroom of New York- and Italy-based line Monvieve, which specializes in the ultimate bridal accessory: the veil. Veils are back and bigger than ever (cathedral style, a la Pippa Middleton, is all the rage). Creative Director Alison Miller founded Monvieve to bring couture techniques and fabric to the modern bride. Whatever your feelings are on the veil, it is indisputably one of the most romantic and traditional accessories of…well, all time. As Miller puts it, “if you don’t wear one now, when will you?” Learn about the history of the veil and how to choose the right veil for you.

1. What is the history of the veil and its place at weddings?

An accessory born a millennium ago in ancient Rome, a bridal veil is the most widely recognized symbol of marriage we have today.  It commands great respect as it carries with it an enduring history, and people instantly sense the heartfelt gravity of what this means.

Historically speaking, a veil symbolized everything from wealth, status, and chastity to the warding off of evil spirits.  They were primarily influenced by nobility with queens and princesses setting the tone for the era.  A few notable veils out of Italy:  Paola Ruffo of Calabria, the current Queen of Belgium, the veil worn by Elena of Montenegro when she married King Vittorio Emanuele II in 1896, and the one designed by Umberto II — a prince/designer who unexpectedly designed the gown with a Bruges lace veil for his beloved bride-to-be Maria José in 1930.  Copied endlessly, these veils are still a point of reference for wedding attire today.

I’ve always loved watching a bride try on a veil for the first time.  She is so in the moment as she sees the most beautiful vision staring back at her.  It is a reflection that tells her she is soon to be married by allowing her to feel it.  That is the power of a veil: the ability to make you feel differently in every sense.  It can directly and deeply touch, move and inspire you.  It’s a real continuum of the human experience–universally iconic… yet so profoundly personal.  And for me this transfers directly over to the wedding day—the bride, groom and guests all live in this communal place of history and tradition in tangent with the singular and personal.

2. How do I select the right length for my dress?

This is your fashion moment… don’t worry about the veil wearing you.  A very fine veil shouldn’t overpower.  Height affects the length of the blusher, but not the length of the veil.  A petite woman can easily wear a cathedral and a very tall woman can wear a fingertip.  Regarding the style and silhouette of your gown, everything is possible today–just think of the Duchess of Cambridge in a fingertip over a ball gown with a grand train following in her wake.

Start with what you always had wanted.  This is a rarified opportunity to express yourself in the most meaningful of ways.  If you always had envisioned a cathedral than start there.  There are ways to cut it so that it works with your gown.  The same with a fingertip.  Also, a cathedral doesn’t necessarily equal traditional.  I’ve had some very high fashion brides who paired the most unexpected pieces with a cathedral veil to stunning ends.  Modern style is equal parts you and equal parts discovery.  Real fashion moments aren’t contrived–they’re deeply felt and when something is right you just know.  Be bold and open to the possibilities.  In the end, true style is found in the unexpected and the right veil will absolutely transform your gown.

3. When in the wedding planning process should I buy the veil?

The biggest pitfalls occur when the veil is relegated to an afterthought either in concept or literally in terms of the timeline.  Do keep it front and center as you develop your bridal look.  Real fashion statements are derived from unique, singular pieces that completely elevate their wearer.

There are many brides that come to us first with the understanding that they hope to find the foundation of an extraordinary look.  They are looking for personalization… a statement that embodies all they are and all they imagine to be on their wedding day.  Also, these women appreciate that they are creating a meaningful tradition as it is the veil that is most likely to become the family heirloom—passed down through the generations.  Women intuitively understand this so the process of selection is such an emotive one.  As I like to say, the dress makes the wedding, but it is the veil that makes the bride!

If you are coming here before you have your gown then the possibilities are endless.  Your only defining factor is your locale, but even those sensibilities are considerably more relaxed than years ago as brides today are more independent and personal in their approach.

If you have your gown, then finding a veil that fits your vision while elevating and respecting the direction of your gown is the general approach.  As we don’t stock anything and our veils are custom made, color and length will be adjusted for you.  It’s all about real style.  Again, be open minded and try on many different pieces.  Sometimes real style is found in the unexpected.  In the end, the right veil will transform your gown.

Regarding manufacturing, we like to have at least 3 months.  Keep in mind that in Italy and France the working days over the summer contract for the annual holiday period, so do plan to receive your veil well in advance of July and August!

4. What kind of fabrics should I consider and why?

Simply stated:  a bridal veil is the one accessory where it is easy to distinguish between qualities.

Consider completing your look with silks and custom blends… they are what create an heirloom veil.  It’s all about how the veil falls.  The diaphaneity of the fabrications express quality.  When a bride walks, the cascade of delicate softness behind her creates exquisite beauty.  And how it lays over her face (and photographs) speaks volumes.   We use the finest mills from the best manufacturing districts in the world.  Silks out of Como, Italy and laces from Calais-Caudry, France that are woven on Leavers looms.  Taken together… the extraordinary Chantilly, fine silk organza and custom blended tulle become the very statement of timeless, refined elegance grounded in quality and heritage.

5. How do you balance the veil with your other bridal accessories?

A couture, heirloom veil will accommodate all forms of embellishment on your head as it will softly drape over anything.  I’ve seen jeweled pieces, flowers, headbands and more…  it always looks stunning. The best approach is always focusing on the total look.  Look at your silhouette and the level of workmanship on your gown.  Are you wearing gloves?  Is your jewelry more understated or grand statement pieces?  Curate the composite and you will create the quintessential defining fashion moment.  I’ve seen some of the most decidedly high fashion bridal looks with both a simpler approach to accessories and then those who pair very elaborate pieces with a veil.  Each are equally stunning and celebrate women of individual style.  The right approach is securing real style in your bridal look while being true to oneself.

In the end, a couture veil should work with almost anything.

6. Do I have to wear a veil?

No, not at all.  Although, if you don’t wear one now, when will you?

There are plenty of opportunities to switch up your bridal look throughout your wedding day, so one should keep that in mind.  A majority of our brides will wear a veil and then one of our headpieces during the reception…  for another couture, yet completely different look.  Also, for those who think they don’t want a veil, I would just suggest trying on a few before forgoing this symbolic and deeply moving accessory.

With a veil there is much more at play than just the accessory as dressing.  A bridal veil is interactive and belongs to more than just the person who wears it.  It celebrates human interconnection in the most profound of ways.  The father of bride, the groom, the mother, sister or bridesmaid who has placed it on her head earlier… the entire bridal arc from start to finish has these special moments that are driven by a veil.  And as for aesthetics…  ask any photographer.  The veil shots are often the most stunning and tend to instigate the most meaningful of moments.  It’s in this manner of creating deeply powerful moments of meaning and beauty that a veil has no equal.

Ultimately, a veil will make you feel differently.  It’s enchanting.  You will be amazed at how captivating it is as you move, beguiling with every step.  The softness, the romance, the beauty… it is for the discerning bride that wants to be part of this tradition on her own terms.  From beautiful to beyond unforgettable, I would argue that a couture bridal veil is one of the most compelling and transformative accessories that we have in fashion.

Monvieve is available to purchase at Warren Barrón