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Dresses, fabrics, cutlery, eye shadow(s), hair, playlists, scallops, weather, tents, napkins, wines, cakes, cookies, beloved relatives, impossible relatives, speeches, ribbons… The list of things that can be part of planning a wedding is endless.

If you ask me an important sense is often neglected. There are perfumes advertised in wedding magazines, and every now and then a story about a particular perfume and a related love story of someone famous, or a perfume created as a love declaration. But I can’t remember a more dedicated piece on the scent aspects of a wedding. (If you have, please share). Some perfume writers and bloggers have addressed this topic in an ambitious way though. I have also not seen proper consultations offered in retail (I don’t count “there is a new romantic lily of the valley out on the market, the perfect scent for a bride” as a wedding scent consultation).

Now you may think, well maybe it’s just not as important and prominent as the dress, music, place, flowers etc… My answer is: are you sure?

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Smells have a very powerful impact on our memories, moods and feelings. So when selecting the details that will create the atmosphere of a wedding, it should be natural to consider also how scents will contribute. It is easier than you think.

The scent of an occasion like this (the thoughts in this post can be applied to any event of significance) is just as significant and influential as the music or scenography. It’s just that there is no tradition of working with it. That however does not mean that we are not affected, and making more personal, emotionally valuable, romantic and wise choices would indeed make a difference.

So, what should you think about? Two things mainly: yourself and your partner (that is one thing) and the other smells at your wedding. The other ones are for example the food, the flowers in your bouquet, surrounding flowers and plants (both decorations and already existing ones), the setting.

Choosing a scent is not very different from the other choices you will be making in that the same criteria should apply. At some point you probably sat down and made a list of what you want your wedding to be like, for example romantic, elegant, unusual, playful, sweet, decadent, personal, sophisticated, relaxed. And you had some ideas on what that would lead to, for example if you and your partner love nature and you want your wedding to be personal you’ll want to incorporate some nature elements into your wedding in setting and menu and clothes. If you are a couple from different cultures you probably put some effort into coming up with ideas on how to add different elements and symbols based on that. If you want a Rat Pack wedding that has influenced your choice of DJ and dress and venue. Etc etc. All these kinds of thoughts and ideas can be translated into scents.

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Your fragrance
Let’s start with you. If you like to wear perfume (or other fragranced products), you will want to wear some for your big love celebration and you’ll want it to be special and right. A wedding is usually an event that lasts for a few hours and as a bride or groom you want to feel fresh and uplifted not tired, uplifted. Maybe you prepared the day before by doing sports and eating and drinking healthy, you have gone to a spa or beautician to add some glow. Scents too, affect our energy, they can help us feel fresh. A scent can also soothe or even make us tired. I would be very surprised if there have not been some people getting married wearing a perfume that either made them tired or maybe even allergic. A wise fragrance choice is one that keeps you in the right mood and supports energy – for example a nice clean cologne or other citrus fragrance for the day and the emotional moments that easily make your body send off extra heat, and then for the evening something more sensual, gourmand or spicy. These two fragrances should be selected so they go well with each other though.

If you feel tense and a little more nervous that you want to feel – it might be unwise to have a fragrance that is too complicated, a more clean fragrance with balanced calm notes will help you relax and feel centered. On the other hand if you are exhausted from preparations, support yourself with something that keeps your mind awake. And of course… coordinate your scent with your partner. You will be close all day, don’t expose yourselves to a scent collision that will not smell nice and give you both a headache. These are just some aspects to consider from a more practical point of view.

Choose a fragrance synchronized with your wedding bouquet. A perfect perfume and a perfect bouquet might clash when in combination if they include smells that don’t go well together. Choose flowers in your bouquet also from a scent perspective; avoid sedating or too strong smell. Co-ordinate your perfume provider and your florist.

Generally, I would say that for your wedding day – don’t go complex. Choose something light, soft, intimate and personal but easy. There will be so much going on, so many people, so many emotions and hormones. Trust your preferences. While its never right to make a perfume purchase too fast (too fast in this case means for example without taking the time to experience more than top notes) this is really really not the time for a hasty risky purchase. Other things to consider can be looking for a perfume house or creator that you identify with, associations to geographical places (for example places that are part of your romantic history together), perfumes created in a romantic contexts (By nose couples, or perfumes created by a nose for a lover or commissioned for a beloved.) And if you can, maybe consider creating your own fragrance for this day with the help of a perfumer.

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Smell an(d) emotion
Now from an emotional and romantic point of view (and what occasion is there more relevant for that than a wedding) there is so much you can do with scents. It is a fact that regardless of whether we are interested or pay attention to it, scents are very powerful because of the brain’s design. Scents are connected to memories and feelings. If you think about it, you probably have some scent memories that you connect to a person, a place or a situation.

This is the same mechanism that teleports us to places and times when we smell something and suddenly get an image in our head. So imagine how beautiful to use this brain force at your weeding and connect this day to those particular moments. During a wedding scent consultation process I talk to a couple about their romantic history to identify one, or several, particular scents that we can work with. Maybe the scent of the first flowers your partner gave you, maybe there is a spice in your favorite meal to cook together, maybe a smell in the apartment or something from a trip together.
A scent that creates an instant connection to the feeling of “us”.

Not only will highlighting such a scent detail during the wedding add emotion from the past, which will intensify your experience, it will also be coded in the brain for the future. So in one or ten years when you want to relive some of that feeling from your wedding day using that scent will help you.

Scent scenography
Naturally, we are not talking just about perfume but also about the food, the setting, floral arrangements etc. What we are looking for is a consciously created scent scenography for your wedding which supports atmosphere, emotion and well-being. It should be functional and personal.

Here are some concrete things to consider:

– The place your wedding ceremony and party are in already has/have some scents – take them into consideration. If it’s a church maybe don’t wear incense-like perfume, it will be too much. If you are in a garden with trees and flowers – be careful when adding more flowers so not to create an overdose.
– Synchronize the smells in food, fragrance and flower decorations.
– Avoid smells that guests might react to. For example big lilies give many people a headache and they take over so if you have a lovely plate in your menu with delicate tastes it might not get the attention it deserves.
– If you are giving guests gifts, a scented candle can be really special. Create a red thread, for example if you had roses in your bouquet and fragrance a nice scented rose candle will make the day live on. (Scented candles deserve a post on their own…, they are often used to create an atmosphere, sometimes a shortcut. A good candle is great but no candles by the food! And choose carefully.)
– Create a sensory frame that is comfortable for the senses for guests – everything from food to scented candles in wash rooms should be treated like members of one ensemble. Think of scent as a scenography tool.

If reading this made you interested in making scent scenography part of your wedding and you would like some help with that or if you are a wedding coordinator and would like to incorporate this into your process please feel free to contact me for a consultation using the comments section below or by e-mail sylvia(at)interabang.nu

I get this question these days:

I would like to buy my man/woman/wife/husband/someone perfume for Christmas, do you have any recommendation? Which perfume should I get?

I love the idea. In theory. But my answer is: no, I don’t have a recommendation for a specific perfume for your partner simply because I have no idea how your man’s/woman’s/wife’s/husband’s/someone’s skin smells like, feels like, what temperature it is, if they sweat salty or sweet, where they put on perfume, when… what makes them laugh or blush or swear… and a million other things. So my general recommendation is: buy something else.

There are however 5 exceptions:

  1. You are a perfumer and have created the perfume yourself.
  2. You are not a perfumer but have created the perfume yourself.
  3. The gift is a bespoke perfume. You give the chosen beloved person a session with a perfumer who will create a bespoke fragrance with them for them. Miller Harris and Mandy Aftel for example offer this service.
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    A much simpler more popularized lot less expensive version is offered by the Perfume Studio. Mandy Aftel also offers bespoke perfumes, you can read more about how it works at Aftelier here. If you go to Paris you will find this helpful. 
  4. The person who the perfume is intended for has already tried fragrance x and wants it/has had fragrance x before and misses it/for some other reason really wants fragrance x. For example, if you went to Paris and she spent an hour at Guerlain falling in love with Spiritueuse Double Vanille but didn’t get it because you were in a hurry or maybe it was too expensive. Well, then of course it is very romantic if you call them and have it shipped right to her skin for Christmas. 
  5. The fragrance your buying is an icon or comes with a story that makes it an evidently interesting part of a perfume collection regardless of whether the recipient will wear it or not. It is just interesting to have. Examples of perfumes like this for women are Joy, Chanel No 5 and Shalimar. 

But generally, apart from in situations like the ones mentioned above, I do not really believe in giving perfume as a gift. The reason, is that wearing and selecting the ingredients that blend with your skin, its chemical composition and your soul – is a precious and intimate thing. Perfumes, like personalities, are not random, not generic and they are not about what is new or trendy or whose last name is on the bottle. If you think it is, that’s not very strange as this in fact is how the media talks about perfume. There are top ten lists, there are what’s new lists, there are perfume bottles that match the latest Marc Jacobs bag or Dior shoes. But perfume is not just something you put on yourself the way a garment is. A garment comes in a ready size that fits your body and the material is the same regardless who wears it. It wrinkles on you, it wrinkles on her.

Perfume is different – not just seems different – IS different on every person. It exists with you, blends with your temperature and skin.
You can guess, but you cannot predict with precision what happens to a fragrance on someone’s skin. That’s the scientific side of it. The other aspect is more emotional and profound. To discover your fragrance and your body’s own scents is intimate and sublime. Therefore if you want to give someone the fragrance that matches their skin as well as their soul you need to know that person extremely well. Who they are, who they want to be. Is it possible? Yes, I believe that one person can discover another so attentively and humbly and curiously that you can sense how that person’s soul would smell like if it was tangible. But still do not know how a certain perfume would react with their skin.

The point is, when you buy a perfume for someone you define this person. This is something that should be done with great care and tenderness. If you feel that you can do that…beautiful. It is possible that you can. Perhaps you are one of the halves of a couple like the ones that I wrote about a couple of days ago. But if you are someone who goes into a department store and asks for “something that smells nice” for you girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/mistress, and then specify it with a “yes, sexy, romantic, flowery, fresh” at most…then please just buy something else. Or accept that random generic perfumes were created for random generic tastes like yours. And you… have just not gotten at all what perfume is about. Hopefully, some day you will, and that will make your life more exciting.

There are however a number of ways to give someone fragrance without going to a department store to get some random recommendation. For example, if you know that your favorite person has a favorite perfume house but has not found a favorite fragrance – make a gift out of samples. Many perfume houses have a special gift set of samples though it might not be for sale in stores. This is a sweet thoughtful effort with a personal touch.

(And don’t even think about the easy sleazy option: some men seem to adopt the habit of letting their partner go out and getting anything they want and then they take care of the bill. So the gift is – the payment. I find this about as romantic as banana peel. If you are one of these persons please stop reading my blog. A moderated version of the above is “we will go try perfumes and then I will buy you the one you like”. Sorry. No. The only exception to this is if you are going for a weekend trip to a city where you have booked a surprise in the form of a private session with a perfumer at a prestigious perfume house and this person will guide you through their range in the search of an olfactory match.)

If you cannot or do not want to make that type of effort but want to get something that smells nice fragranced spa products like creams and lotions and scrubs work just fine – and then fragranced candles are actually a very nice option. But get one of the good ones with ingredients of high quality. Many renowned perfume houses have a range of fragranced candles. Byredo has a wide range of very VERY nice ones which you can also buy through their webstore. Another safe buy is Laura Mercier. If you’re looking for something more unusual or modern maybe try Le Labo Vinage Candles?