Fragrance plays an evocative role in our memories—and using it to mark special moments in our lives with purpose and intention can make it all the more effectual. Just ask anyone who has worn a special, handpicked bridal perfume on their wedding day. Our sense of smell loves nostalgia.
“Scent has the power to transport us and it is closely tied to our emotions,” says Joan Tanis, national training director at Maison Francis Kurkdjian. “For such a happy and meaningful day, it’s important to have a scent that connects to these emotions, a scent that afterward will take you back to that happy day.”
“It’s a deeply personal experience,” agrees Chris Wyatt, vice president of global education and service experience at Jo Malone London, of choosing a fragrance for your wedding day. “This scent is going to be something you remember for a lifetime.” The way Wyatt sees it, you should contemplate it the same way you would the rest of your wedding planning details. “Think about the amount of attention you place on selecting the individual blooms for your wedding bouquet!” he says. “Tying your scent into the flowers you carry or dress the venue with will give the impression that the bride is seated at every table with every guest.”
From zeroing in on the right scent profile to test-driving ahead of the big day, experts share their guiding philosophies for choosing a bridal perfume.
Reflect on what you love
“I truly believe that this is your day, so you should choose to wear something that makes you feel spectacular—don’t be driven by trend or seasonality in scent,” says Wyatt. “This is going to be something you will remember forever, so you should choose something that highlights who you are.” That could be something that’s already signature to you, a new scent, or a combination. “Why not do both?” poses Wyatt, who says the beauty of layering scents and/or seeking out a professional service is that you can tailor your signature scent by “adding a twist of something new.” Typically that process begins with tapping into your wedding planning, such as what your flower arrangements will be. A fragrance can be tied to their bouquet or color palette. Wyatt uses the example of harmonising soft pastels with light floral scents, or a deeper palette with richer, bolder scents. All in all, something that’s in line with what you normally wear, but feels special enough and complementary for the occasion is always a safe bet. “Keep in mind that you’ll be celebrating–you must dance, you must be close to people–so wear a fragrance you can spray on again during the party without having to bathe in it,” perfumer Ben Krigler says. “It’s a nice touch! You should be in your comfort zone and wear something that’s like second skin.” He also recommends trying it on fabrics. “Wearing a scent on clothes will give you that beautiful sillage”—or trail of scent.
Consider the deeper meaning and associations
“Many brides choose a scent that is symbolic,” says Wyatt. He cites the example of one of Jo Malone’s most popular wedding fragrances, Peony & Blush Suede. “The peony is a historic sign of good fortune,” he says. Then there’s orange blossom, which symbolises “happiness in marriage” or honeysuckle, which is tied to “loyalty and everlasting love.” Stoking a certain mood is also something that should be taken into account. “Generally, brides-to-be are in a state of excitement, but more often than not, they’re also a bit stressed, so they might desire something fresh and airy,” says Tanis, referencing citrus, aquatic, or light floral scents. “Stronger scents have a maturity and sensuality to them that lends itself to a romantic celebration,” she continues, speaking of richer, more sensual spicy and woody scents, like ouds (rare, fragrant, Middle Eastern resins.)
Suit your body chemistry and surroundings
“You want to wear something that suits your body chemistry,” Krigler says, noting the pH on our skin affects how a perfume smells on you—and that’s why it will never smell the same on two different people. This is why pulse points, such as the neck, wrist, or inside of the elbows, which naturally emit more heat, are the best places to spritz on fragrance. Weather is also something to consider. “Daytime weddings have the advantage of sunlight,” Tanis says. “The heat and sometimes humidity of an outdoor wedding ramps up our body’s chemistry so that the scent leaves a trail. Evening weddings can call for deeper notes that connect with the atmospheric lighting and ambiance.” Whether woodsy or floral, decor can also reflect the bride’s chosen fragrance, she adds. But, once again, Tanis stresses: “It’s really about what makes you feel great.”
Test-drive your scent ahead of time
“If you are trying something new, I’d recommend testing it out for a few days to make sure you continue to respond and connect with it before you wear it for your special day,” Tanis says. “This gives you the opportunity to truly see what you think about the scent and understand how it lasts over time. It’s essential to feel comfortable and empowered by the scent you’re wearing.” While some experts believe it’s only your opinion that matters, she often recommends seeing how others—including your partner—feel about it, too. “ I like to gauge a new fragrance through reactions from those around me,” she says. “Did it receive any compliments from friends? Did anyone stop you to ask about the scent you’re wearing?” Wyatt’s personal recommendation, however, is to stay true to yourself. “Don’t be driven by other people’s responses,” he says. “This is your day!”
This story originally appeared in Vogue.com.