Veiling in the Church
“For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a woman ought to wear a veil on her head, for the sake of the angels.” (1 Cor. 11:7–10)
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Though I was raised Catholic, I was not aware that veiling was a semi-common (and was required until the Second Vatican Council) practice among Catholic women until I went to college. I was intrigued by the idea but didn't feel compelled or see a reason to veil.
Though I wish I could say otherwise, my reason for veiling was not particularly profound and came with no epic revelations. I simply found veiling to be beautiful, feminine, and helpful to a more reverent mass experience. A few months after I began veiling, I also decided to start attending the Latin Mass, where veiling is strongly encouraged and sometimes required by the parish. By that point I had already adopted the habit and had made the choice to veil regardless of the type of Mass I attended.
If you’re interested in veiling but not sure where to begin, consider this your guide and a vote of confidence to you and your new pursuit.
Choosing the Right Veil Color
Traditionally, unmarried women wear white or lighter colored veils and married women wear black or darker colored veils. You can also wear veils to celebrate different feast days or liturgical seasons, like blue for Marian feast days or black or violet during Lent. Some women prefer to wear veils that are brown or beige to resemble their hair color, while others opt for more colorful veils.
Note that none of these are hard and fast rules. If you own a veil in a color different from those traditionally prescribed, don’t stress. Veiling is about maintaining reverence in the Presence of Christ, not about social customs or expectations.
Choosing the Right Veil Style
As far as I’ve seen, there are two main veil styles which I think of as infinity or not-infinity (a complicated naming system, I know). Infinity veils are one continuous looped piece of fabric while not-infinity style is a piece of lace in a rectangular shape that does not loop together. There are also veils in a cap style which are much smaller and only cover the top of the head, or some like headbands that are smaller and slip on more easily. There are many styles of lace and embroidery among these styles, from French to Spanish style lace, different types of beading, and even metallic fabric on some. There are plenty of options in both of these styles with, in my experience, no real advantages or disadvantages to any kind. It is primarily a matter of preference.
I've worn both infinity and mantilla style veils and have loved both. Be aware that some veils slip more easily than others so you might want to find a clip or barrette to sew into the veil to hold it into place. You can also use a couple of bobby pins to hold the veil in as well.
I wore this veil for about a year before getting married. This is another beautiful infinity veil with floral embroidery, and this and this are mantilla veils I love. Here is a headband style veil for those interested, though I have never personally worn this style.
Alternatives to Veils
Want to cover your head but don’t want to veil? A silk scarf, a kerchief, or hats are all appropriate alternatives to veils. At my wedding, the dress code was derby attire, which I used in part as a way to encourage our guests to cover their heads for the Mass even if they didn’t veil. As with choosing a veil, be sure that whatever you choose is still appropriate for mass–look for classier styles and avoid the temptation of feathers, sequins, or other garish extremes (though I know it’s tempting!).
If you're looking for a hat, consider this, this, or this.
If you're looking for a scarf or kerchief, try this or this.
Okay, but…why veil?
I chose to veil because I wanted to heighten my reverence and modesty during worship. Veiling also works wonders in what I refer to as the “horse-blinder” effect: if I tug the veil forward, my peripheral vision is blocked, forcing me to stay focused on the event before me. It might sound silly, but it helps me stay focused in Mass and helps cut out the distractions around me.
Consider how and what the Church veils. In one of my favorite books on the Latin Mass, I read this quote (I’ll link the book below if you’re interested!):
“When we think of those things which are most sacred, we find that they are veiled in mystery: the sacred vessels are kept under a veil; the tabernacle is veiled; the Ark of the Covenant was veiled. Out of respect for the dead, we cover their faces; at Life’s beginning we are hidden in our mother’s womb. Our Lady, that blessed vessel by which our Lord was made flesh and dwelt among us, is never seen without a veil.
God created woman to fulfill the sacred mystery of bringing new life into the world. Thus we should consider it a privilege to be veiled in the Sanctuary.”
Lisa Bergman, Treasure and Tradition: The Ultimate Guide to the Latin Mass
As women, we have a special place in the Church and a unique responsibility. Veiling is one small part and privilege of femininity as Catholic women, and I encourage you to begin the practice if you don’t already.
This article goes into the theology of veiling and is a great read: