I’m getting married in a few weeks, and I want to ask about the custom of the bride wearing a veil. I want to do things right, but I’m not particularly turned on by the veil thing. It seems a bit outdated!
There’s a common misconception that the groom covers the bride’s face before the wedding because he has to check that he is marrying the right bride, ostensibly to avoid what happened to our patriarch Jacob, who was tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. But this doesn’t make much sense: the groom covers his bride’s face, and if he were meant to identify her, he should be uncovering her!
Rather, by covering the bride’s face, the groom is making a statement: “As beautiful as you look today, my love for you is not skin-deep. It is not just your eyes that dazzle me; it is your persona, your character, your views on life—the real you. I can cover your sweet face with a veil and still marry you, because your face is just one level of your true beauty.”
Another reason for the veil: The Torah says that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was so bright with holiness that no one dared look at him. He had to wear a veil whenever he spoke to the people, in order to filter the divine glare. (This is the source for Michelangelo’s depiction of Moses with horns: the words for “beaming” and “horns” have the same letters in Hebrew; an old Greek translation mistakenly rendered this verse, “And Moses had horns.”)
When the bride and groom stand under the chupah, they are in an elevated state, as they are about to unite as one. In the bride, this elevated state is more revealed. She radiates a special holiness; the Divine Presence (Shechinah), the feminine aspect of G‑d, shines through the face of the bride.
This light is so intense that it must be veiled, just as the light emanating from Moses’ face had to be covered. Holiness needs privacy.
Those moments under the chupah are potent. As your day approaches, make sure to soak in and utilize every holy second.