Wedding veil at a second wedding

A few decades ago, before about 1970, second weddings were never properly even remotely formal, unless the bride was a very young widow. Since a veil is only worn with a formal dress, the veil issue just didn't arise. In the late 1960s or early 1970s, the notion that second-time brides could wear formal dresses in ivory, but without a veil, briefly arose (and stuck in a remarkable number of people's minds).

The more common 1970s second wedding, though, had the bride in a long dress that suggested Gunne Sax and Renaissance festival more than Demetrios Bride, with flowers in her hair. Of course, the fashionable first-time bride was wearing roughly the same outfit for her wedding!

When the formal wedding returned to vogue in the 1980s, two schools of thought arose about second weddings, which were becoming increasingly common. One school said that second weddings could not properly be more formal than a really posh garden party, in which case a hat was the appropriate headgear for all the major female players. The other school, consisting mostly of people who got married barefoot at dawn in 1973, insisted that it was okay to have a "blowout" formal wedding, with all the usual gear, if you hadn't done so the first time.

These days, the common wisdom is that a second wedding can be as formal as you like, provided you don't make people's lives miserable while planning it. There is a lot more sympathy today for the groom's wedding-day fantasies, up to and including lifting his bride's "blusher" veil.

If I had to make a definite recommendation for a second-time bride, I would say to skip the "blusher" unless the groom strongly wants to see it. There's a sort of consensus that women who are mature enough to have survived a divorce and put their lives together again don't "need" to hide behind a layer of veiling… but you may be amused to know that the consensus of etiquette gurus around 1910 was that any woman mature enough to get married at all was being silly to pretend that she couldn't face the world without her husband's protection! Fashions change.

As for a veil down your back, wear a length and style that looks good with your dress. There are still people who stick to the old standard of no veil for second-time brides, but they don't seem, from your family's and friend's comments, to be on your guest list. In general, the longer the veil and the more elaborate the headpiece, the more formal the veil. For most "formal" weddings, an elbow- length veil is about right; it's also an easy length to make or buy. A longer veil is a more emphatic fashion statement, as well as a great deal heavier and more difficult to manage. It's most appropriate for an ultra-formal wedding at which the bride wears a gown with no train.

A fact often forgotten by the "veils equal virginity" faction is that, until the middle of the 20th century, wedding fashions very closely paralleled ordinary fashions, with veils coming and going according to the latest style for fashionable women's wear. It was not unusual for a respectable married woman to wear a veil to protect her from rude stares or dirty city air.