I was asked this question by the niece of a newly wedded friend after a Sunday Mass up in Kennesaw, Georgia. I was impressed that the girl new I was wearing a chapel as a few women in hear family wear one to Mass. I was equally impressed that she new the traditional veil colors worn by Catholic women tend towards black and white. I told her I liked to mix things up when it comes to mantilla colors and that I don’t follow the traditional black or white chapel veil rule.
I should probably back up a little bit here. I do wear a mantilla or chapel veil to Mass, Divine Liturgy or anytime I’m in a Catholic or Orthodox Christian church. For me it’s a personal devotion and part of my prayer life. While I participate in the old and ancient tradition of veiling, I like to put a modern twist to it: I like colors and I’m not going to follow the old custom of white for unmarried women and black for married women. For get it. In addition to my black and gold and pure white mantillas, I also have a brown infinity veil and tan chapel veil. I’m even thinking about adding a merlot colored veil to the collection.
Back to the custom of the white or black mantillas. As mentioned above single women traditionally wore white mantillas while married women wore black mantillas. I am not sure where and how this custom was started but might having something to do with identifying who was available and who was taken for marriage while at Mass. With that said I’ve only seen a few married women wear black chapel veils to Mass. On the other hand I mostly see women, married or not, wear white veils. This is taken one step further with the Japanese Catholic community. From what I’ve read Japanese Catholic women wear white mantillas to Mass regardless of their marital status while black veils are reserved for mourning. Some churches in Japan also gift white veils to women who are newly baptized (most baptisms in Japan are adult baptisms).
As for myself I don’t want to limit myself to the black or white veil tradition. I find the tradition to be old fashioned and far too marital status centered. While marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church, I am not going to Mass to get hooked up. I’m going to Mass to worship. I really don’t want to encourage the “get hooked up at church” culture that I believe traditional veiling customs encourage. This is why I choose to wear veils of various colors to Mass. I also see many veil wearing women forgoing the old veiling customs.