Where do you want to fly?

All illustrations by Riley Sheehey.

When it comes to wedding veil lengths, it can be tough sorting out the different styles and deciding what works best with your dress (or jumpsuit!) To help, we’ve put together a complete guide to wedding veil lengths including the birdcage, flyaway, fingertip, chapel, and cathedral-length styles, and included a bit of history on each. While wearing a veil isn’t a necessity by any means, some brides find a veil can be the extra something that takes their look from beautiful to bridal.

Covers or partially covers the face

“A little bit sassy, a little bit flirty, a little bit fun,” the birdcage wedding veil style is in a category of its own, says Sara Gabriel, a popular designer of veils and hair pieces. Commonly made of French net, it’s hair-pinned and draped across the eyes, usually extending just below the nose. It’s often paired with jeweled combs, feathers, flowers, or even a hat, and is the choice for a retro look.

veil length guide wedding veil styles what length wedding veil do i wear should I wear a wedding veil birdcage veil cathedral veil

Approximately 20 inches, shoulder- or bust-length

During WWII lace production stalled in France and fabric rationing was implemented in the United States, drastically altering wedding fashions. Tulle, which had been gaining popularity as the more modern choice of material in the 1930s, became the de facto pick for wedding veils. While longer styles remained a popular option for the wealthy, the ‘town hall’ wedding of wartime often included a shortened ballet, fingertip, or increasingly common flyaway length veil.

The style gained traction throughout the 1950s, allowing brides to show off new dress cuts and tailoring that placed emphasis on the shoulders and necklines. By the 1960s, the popularity of veils in general was waning, but the bouffant hairstyles of the decade meant that short, voluminous veils stayed in demand. Today, the flyaway veil still holds a modern appeal, and is typically associated with nontraditional wedding gowns like jumpsuits.

veil length guide wedding veil styles what length wedding veil do i wear should I wear a wedding veil birdcage veil cathedral veil

Approximately 40 inches, elbow-length to fingertip

One of the most popular and universal veil lengths, the fingertip veil can take on many different styles, whether trimmed in lace or kept simple and clean with a ribboned trim. Many brides opt for a fingertip length for its versatility and easy maintenance. Says Gabriel of the fingertip length, “Tulle fabric is surprisingly warm and when you’re dancing and having champagne the longer veils just tend to come off, whereas the that fingertip length a bride really can commit to that and wear it all night if she chooses.”

According to Jacklyn Ahbe, Senior Sales Consultant of Hitched Couture in Georgetown (now Modern Trousseau), this season the fingertip length has been especially popular with a horsehair trim. A tip to remember when picking out a fingertip-length veil with a ribbon trim is that the wider the trim, the more curl and body that the veil will have, sitting away from the body rather than draping against it.

veil length guide wedding veil styles what length wedding veil do i wear should I wear a wedding veil birdcage veil cathedral veil

50 to 60 inches, knee to mid-calf

You may be able to guess where the Ballet or Waltz-length veil gets its name: the first of the longer veil-length options, the ballet veil is nonetheless still short enough for the bride to wear while executing her first dance at her wedding reception. The long, lean silhouette of the ballet length came into fashion in the 1940s. The veil often trailed down from a crown or headpiece adorned with real or fabric or wax flowers.

While less popular of late, the ballet length wedding veil style is known to work well with a variety of dress styles, and is a great choice for brides seeking the drama of a longer veil without the volume and care of a chapel or cathedral length piece.

veil length guide wedding veil styles what length wedding veil do i wear should I wear a wedding veil birdcage veil cathedral veil

Approximately 90 inches or floor-length

In the 1920s the longer veil lengths continued to stay in vogue even as hemlines were shortening. For the first time, designers like Coco Chanel were creating wedding dresses that bared ankles. In response, veils grew longer, following the adage, “the shorter the dress, the longer the veil.” Chapel and cathedral length veils, often with cloche caps, began to appear on the most fashionable of brides.

The chapel veil is often chosen today for the subtle, ethereal effect it has when added to a gown. “It’s going to fall three or four inches straight on the floor behind the bride,” says Ahbe. “The chapel veil is not quite as long as the train, but just eases and melts into the dress, kind of getting lost.”

veil length guide wedding veil styles what length wedding veil do i wear should I wear a wedding veil birdcage veil cathedral veil

Approximately 108 to 120 inches and longer

Brides looking for drama have one clear option: the cathedral length veil, a stalwart of royalty and the ultra-glamorous. Perhaps the most celebrated example in recent history is Princess Diana’s stunning 25” David and Elizabeth Emanuel veil, worn when she wed Prince Charles in July of 1981. Today, the cathedral veil style is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, with French laces like Alençon and Chantilly in high demand.

With wedding veil styles that have more length comes more maintenance on your wedding day, but brides needn’t let that discourage them. “If you love a long veil don’t forget that you can bustle it just as you would bustle your gown.” says Ahbe. “Most vendors sell or will give you the tool, a tiny, clear little plastic clip, which you can you to pin it up, giving you the option to dance the night away. Even if you have a gorgeous, very wide cathedral length lace veil, which can be very heavy, you can do three bustles, you just bring them up at three different positions to disperse the weight into the comb.”

veil length guide wedding veil styles what length wedding veil do i wear should I wear a wedding veil birdcage veil cathedral veil

Assistant Editor

Hayley is an Associate Editor at Washingtonian Weddings. Previously she was the the Style Editor at The Local Palate, a Southern food culture magazine based out of Charleston, South Carolina. You can follow her on instagram @wandertaste.