Like the gowns they are worn with, veils can be elaborate and dramatic or simple and understated. The only rule for selecting a veil is that it should complement both the bride and the gown. For example, an heirloom lace veil shouldn't be forced to compete with an extravagant dress; Jacqueline Bouvier understood this principle when she wore a sweeping heirloom lace veil with a fairly simple scoop-neck taffeta gown in her wedding to John F. Kennedy. By the same token, an exquisitely detailed gown is shown off better by a sheer tulle veil than a fancy lace one.
Proportion must also be considered. A short veil looks too informal with a long gown, and an excessively long veil -- or one with a multitude of tiers -- tends to overwhelm a short bride instead of adding height. When trying on a veil, make sure you don't disappear beneath it; also, wear your hair as you plan to for the wedding, otherwise you won't have a clear idea of how the veil will actually look.
Nylon tulle is today's veil material of choice. The more traditional silk tulle tends to get limp when it's damp, whereas nylon retains its stiffness. Veils shouldn't be strewn with rhinestones because rhinestones photograph like black dots. Even pearls, tiny satin bows, and other embellishments may look spotty in photographs, so be sparing with these ornaments.
The romantic tiered cathedral veil is the choice of royals, as well as any bride who dreams of looking like a fairy-tale princess; it dominates any setting and looks sumptuous in photographs. Extending at least 9 feet, though 25 isn't unheard of, it is usually a cascade of simple tulle, sometimes embellished with lace at the hem. Because of its volume, it demands the wide aisles of a cathedral (hence the name) and deft maneuvering on the part of the bride, as well as the assistance of at least one of her attendants.
One of the most versatile veils, the fingertip veil can be coordinated with a romantic or contemporary gown. Here, a tulle veil edged in silk and worn without a headpiece is the perfect foil for a spare satin gown.
The bouffant veil, which rises above the bride's head in a cloud of tulle, was popular in the 1950s, when full-skirted crinolined gowns were in vogue. It was usually paired with a prominent headpiece, such as a tiara or a high satin headband. Today's bouffants are more understated and worn without a headpiece for a cleaner, more modern look.
The lace mantilla has long been considered one of the most romantic veil styles. Instead of being fashioned the traditional way (draped over a high comb), this circular tulle mantilla with a wide lace border is worn without a headpiece, giving it a contemporary spin.
The bride traditionally covers her face with the blusher, a short veil that extends below the chin but usually drops no farther than the waist (so as not to interfere with the bouquet).
Many veils would shroud the extensive back decolletage of this gown in endless tulle, but a flyaway veil offsets it instead; the stiff froth of open tulle (anchored by little combs) skims the shoulders and whimsically echoes the shape of the satin bustle.
This spotted-tulle veil of ballerina length (hovering anywhere from knee to ankle) has a raw edge -- a bold, modern approach that sets off a simple sheath dress.
With a bare, lacy sliver of a dress, nothing is more appealing than a tiered elbow-length veil to give some fullness to the silhouette. This tulle veil is piped in satin (for additional stiffness) and is attached to a small tiara of porcelain buds -- perfect for a spring wedding.
The three-piece veil -- short blusher, wrist-length drop, and sweeping chapel -- creates a formal, traditional look. But the multiple layers are given a modern twist by attaching the chapel veil with Velcro, so a bride can remove it and kick up her heels on the dance floor.