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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

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Synaesthetes will get this immediately – smells are like different instruments. Vetiver is a guitar, or cello if it has that hard to get coarseness. Vanilla is a soft drum. When it comes to perfumes, M for Puredistance, to me is one single clear sound. A bit surprising, even to me, as it is obviously a complex composition. This is haute parfumerie. You embrace the effect of the fragrance it is hard to grasp what kind of chemistry, poetry and magic led to this particular full-bodied gathered sensation. You can read about the notes, yes, but this is a bit like when professional communication people talk about how planning is just not the same thing as research or insight or business intelligence. Planning is connecting the dots and not only drawing a new map, but in fact creating a new destination. M is like this to me. It is Perfume with capital P and I almost feel like it does not want to be dissected. It is what it is.

During this last week at Grasse Institute Perfumery we could bring perfumes from the market to class and I chose to bring this one. It is a perfume I like, admire and wear and I enjoy the enigmatic feeling it gives me. I have read about the thoughts behind the creation but I am not quite able to connect with the leather and Aston Martin that is described. So I thought it would be fun and interesting to hear the thoughts of my classmates and our teacher.


M makes me think about this: what is luxury? What is “luxury” in a global and globalized market, in 2013, in an age of brands and concepts, in a business where profound artistry and hungry prestige keeping mixing their choreographies… In an age where the chase for what can be bought sometimes goes all bulimic only to give birth to businesses that offer what cannot be bought, such as the feeling of holding time for a moment – what is luxury? Is there any objective luxury? What exactly is it that discretely communicates it when you can’t see material or feel texture? How do you get to the feeling that what you are smelling is something that did not give up, yield or lean back but kept refining itself until it was really special.


I avoided reading about M or Puredistance before trying it. Did not check reviews, not prices, not noses or notes. I was not at all prepared for the sensation that awaited me.

I am quite fascinated and intrigued by what it is that makes this perfume feel so very refined. When I wear it I feel like it is jewellery. It is the kind of accessory that frames everything in a kind of unquestionable elegance. There are things, they can be bracelets or shoes. Maybe a bag, but I prefer an example that has skin contact. Items that accentuate something sublime in the character of a person, and make them belong anywhere you want to. Not like a mask but like an aesthetic firmness that I believe has to be carried by something inside you but accentuated by something on the outside. It is not about price (have we not seen to many of those misconceptions walking around the various catwalks of life), to me it has much to do with clarity. Like a good handshake that does not try or want to disguise anything. Sashimi. A perfect white t-shirt. But in this case – olfactory art.

Puredistance is about to launch a new perfume soon, Puredistance BLACK, I am very curious about it. From what I know it will be very close to the skin and I think there will be some interesting raw material choices though it seems these in line with the concept for the perfume will be kept secret. The nose is French perfumer Antoine Lie.

If you want to read more about the nose behind M, it is master perfumer Roja Dove. Recently he wrote a diary for FT How To Spend It that it is very nice and entertaining reading.

For more on perfume and luxury I also recommend this excellent interview on perfume blog Eyeliner on a Cat with natural raw materials master Mandy Aftel. Mandy’s eloquence is as striking as her creations. In the interview Carrie captures the Aftelier way perfectly: “Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes is known for having the soul of an alchemist that deftly guides her hand in the creation of her perfumes. Her aesthetic is mesmerizing and her taste uncompromising; Aftelier final products typify of artisan luxury, from concept to execution.” For some of my reflections around Mandy’s work I invite you to read this post.

All images and quote in title from Puredistance

I often help someone find a signature scent or create a perfume wardrobe for example by finding additions to their work fragrance that smells to safe for romance, or their romantic fragrance that doesn’t feel right for work. Or an upgrade, for example when someone has been wearing the same favorite perfume for 5-10 yrs (not at all unsusal) and feel that they still like it… but have outgrown it. Then we look for something similar, for example the same heart notes, but something more complex or mature or dark added. As we walk through life our inner child often stays the same, but we go through experiences, challenges, times – that add shades to our personalities. Shades, depth, complexity. When you wear a perfume that is right for you, it will reflect many parts of who you are. Then you get that feeling of you just smelling like you because someone created a beautiful formula that defines some of your characteristics with fragrance notes. This is a very different feeling from “wearing a nice perfume” that lies on top of your skin like a pretty fabric. There is nothing arbitrary about what feels right. Not in life, not in perfumery.

Finding those perfumes that really match is not easy. The market offers an abundance that is over-whelming even to the most passionate and curious perfumista. But it is worth it, and once you learn how to navigate and recognize the patterns in your preferences it is not as complicated as it looks. For myself, I choose to ask for guidance so that I can find perfumes that I have not discovered where notes that I like have been used. I ask for stories about them and I ask for help to discover new brands. I don’t look for someone to help me choose my perfume as I have trained myself now to translate thoughts and aspects of my character to notes and types of perfumes. If you feel unsure about such things, talk to someone who is skilled and really takes the time to help you find a perfume for the creative you or the you that wants something comforting or uplifting or mischievous or escapist. For a true perfume expert these are not strange questions. Choose the right advisor.

I am sure you have been in the situation where you just love a perfume that someone is wearing, you go buy it… and… anticlimax. It doesn’t feel like you thought it would, it is not as amazing on you. You wonder if your mind and memory played tricks on you. This is not unusual. But it is a great reminder of two things – perfume is like a relationship – it is not about you and not about the other – it is about happens in between, in the space that is the together.

Perfume sensations are created in the meeting between a formula and a person’s skin. And every person’s skin is different. There is nothing objective about perfume. The other thing is – do not make hasty decisions. It does not matter how skilled you are, you just do not know what a perfume that is composed with top, heart and base will smell like in an hour of five on you. No one knows. The super-charming person who sells it to you doesn’t know even if she or he is an expert and amazing. Take your time. Get a sample if you can. Get ten samples of ten perfumes with sandalwood if that is what you are looking for. Take your time. Apply the perfume, take a coffee and come back in an hour. And don’t be disappointed if your friend’s magic potion smells boring on you. Or different. Be curious. You’ll find your magic potion, maybe there is just some little detail that needs to be different for you. Try to detect what the difference is – does it smell sweeter in him/her? Does it smell more flowery on you? Try to remember the difference and ask an expert.

Skin, painted by Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema

I will give you an example. I have been wearing Ambre Narguilé for some years. Or to be honest, I bought it a few years back and wore it a lot during two years with mixed feelings. I adore this perfume. It is a masterpiece to me. But, I found myself often thinking that it was too overwhelming and not appropriate in many situations. And later on I felt that it lacked something for me to feel really comfortable with it, it was too sweet. It lacked integrity or a mature nuance. So in the last two or so years I have not been wearing it at all but I smell the bottle sometimes to use as reference when searching for similar compositions. Among perfumistas this fragrance is well-known. Still I have not met anyone that wears it a lot. Then comes a man. He says he really likes the perfume, I think “Really?” and feel how in my eyes he becomes slightly more like a baklava than Omar Sharif.

He introduces me to Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan, and I am amazed because this – is the darker version of Ambre Narguilé that I have been wishing for. In my mind this man is starting to be associated with an olfactory world that I find rather attractive. His voice, his choice of words, his aesthetic preferences, his unbelievably immature sense of humor are joined by his scents. The latter exposing a darker side of him than the blond bangs.

Tillya Kori Madrash, Samarkand

Then he brings out another of his favorites, a completely harmless airy Gatsby cocktail party apple lemonade lunchtime careful kiss on the cheek sorbet and dancing on a meadow in a perfectly cut flowery organza skirt kind of story. Bois 1920, Sushi Imperiale. It feels like someone just gave me my first kiss on a summer day in 1939. And then gave me raspberries on a straw before we go look at the horses and the sunset. Someone wears an immaculate linen vest and smiles like a young Sinatra though. It’s Rat Pack meets Anna Karenina of Green Gables. I fall like a rock sliding down a rainbow of course and get instantly addicted. (To the extent where he has to order me to let go of the bottle because the heat from my palms will ruin the perfume). A couple of weeks later I order it from MiN. It is on its way as we speak. I can’t wait. I will wear it like nothing else matters more than raspberries on a straw and immaculate linen vests and Green Gables are the perfect place to be flown to the moon and then share an apple stolen from the strange neighbour’s tree.

   

And then he appears again. Wearing the darkest most intriguing strange thing thats smells like a love affair on the way to Samarcand and words that cannot be spoken. “What are you wearing??”, I say. He answers, “you have it, Ambre Narguilé”. It is a mystery to me where the carnal alluring notes disappear when I wear it. Same perfume. Completely different experiences. On me it is Christmas dessert and the Nutcracker, on him a secret night in Venice, a 19th century emerald shining from a décolletage at the opera. Forbidden. “Warn me?

I have more examples, oh so many more. Of perfumes that surprise and confuse and alter as they evolve on one person’s skin or another’s. Of the infinite mysteries that create a love affair between the nose and the mind. This is one of the many reasons why perfumes fascinate me.

Come, let’s dance!