How to choose the perfect wedding fragrance

You’re spending hours planning how your wedding looks:  the table-settings, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the orders of service.

You’ve probably agonised about the hymns for the wedding – and the choice of band/DJ for the party, too.

All of these, of course, will remain in your guests’ minds.  The photos will be there, forever, in your albums.  But have you thought about the role that fragrance will play?  Helen Keller – who was blind and deaf – called smell ‘the fallen angel of our senses’, and it’s an element of your wedding that can be more memorable than sight or sound, or any of the other senses.

At The Perfume Society, we only have to breathe a whisper of Czech & Speake Frankincense & Myrrh candles, to remember our friend Liz Earle, floating down the aisle to marry handsome film-maker Patrick Drummond.  What all her friends talked about, for months afterwards, wasn’t the beauty of the dress (it was gorgeous), or even Liz’s radiance (as glowing as a beauty guru ought to be), but the fabulous, incense-y smell from the candles that flickered in every arched window of the church.  (The tip:  they were lit a couple of hours beforehand, to fill the church to its rafters with their exotic fragrance…)

In fact, there are countless ways to introduce a more scented element to your wedding.  You can start, of course, with the flowers:  it’s always seemed madness, to me, to choose flowers on their basis of good looks alone, when they can be swoonily scented.  When doing the flowers for a brother’s late-in-life wedding, The Perfume Society‘s Jo Fairley chose the roses not just for their deep burgundy velvetiness, but their amazing tea-rose scent. (FYI:  the variety was Exstase, grown in Holland, and your florist can almost certainly source it.)

‘When the curtains to the reception room were drawn back,’ recalls Jo, ‘ the whole sun-warmed room was filled with the most breathtaking ultra-rose smell.  And when I smell a rose now, I think of how lovely Anya looked, and what a party it was.’  The same could be true for your guests, if you put fragrance at the top of your flower priorities:  lilies, hyacinths (for a winter wedding), lavender, rose, viburnum (in flower), with rosemary and myrtle, as greenery. A good florist knows their stuff.  Tap into that.

The choice of scent you wear, meanwhile, will forever beam your beau back to the moment he leaned forward for that post-‘I-now-pronounce-you-man-and-wife’ kiss faster than you can say ‘Tardis’.  But there’s a huge dilemma:  should you wear a longstanding favourite – or go for something new, which symbolises your new start?  ‘It depends whether you’ve already found your “signature” fragrance, ‘observes Roja Dove.  (In which case, his advice is:  stick to it.)

‘If not, the start of a marriage is the perfect time to start a life-long relationship with a scent that’s really “you”…’  But to be safe, he advises, wear it a few times before the wedding itself so that your groom doesn’t recoil in horror, if he doesn’t like what you’re wearing.  ‘Just as you would have a run-through for your hair and make-up, you must do the same with a new fragrance.  Don’t wear it every day in the run-up to your wedding, but on a few selective evenings out with your partner,’ is his advice.  ‘And don’t solicit an opinion:  wait for his response – or even a lack of response, because that means that the beauty of the perfume isn’t overpowering yours…’

Whatever fragrance you choose, one thing is for sure:  if you want it to last from the minute you leave the house until the moment you slide beneath the sheets that unforgettable night, you’ll want to ‘layer’ your fragrance on:  the bath oil, the body lotion, perhaps a dusting of the matching body powder, the whole works – and of course, your chosen fragrance itself, a technique which will ‘time-release’ the notes, as you warm up and cool down over the day.

The ultimate, though, is to have a signature fragrance specially created by a bespoke perfumer, just for your wedding.  (Prince Rainier did just that for his movie star fiancée, Grace Kelly, from CREED, which happens still to be available in their range under the name Fleurissimo – as floral as the name suggests…) You could even commission a his ‘n’ hers option:  perfumer Lyn Harris, founder of Miller Harris, has created fragrances for several soon-to-be-married couples.  ‘I think it’s one of the most romantic things a couple can do,’ smiles Lyn, who invites clients to her Notting Hill ‘studio’, for an initial consultation.  (Be warned, though:  the waiting list for Lyn’s fragrances is almost a year long.)

If you’re hiring Versailles, or Cliveden, and money is no object, you could consider Roja himself for that same, ultra-romantic gesture;  his creations will set you back £20,000 apiece (plus travelling expenses, naturellement).  One of his favourite commissions, actually, was for a bride-to-be:  ‘very opulent, stylish, based around white flowers – which are very traditional – but with moss and woods to take away the sweetness.  At the heart of the fragrance was lashings of orange blossom – which of course is traditionally used for bridal headdresses…’  Plenty of brides do splash out on a special wedding fragrance, but if that’s beyond your budget, he advises perhaps selecting a fragrance to wear – or for your bridesmaids to wear – which echoes the bouquet flowers.  (A specialist fragrance store will be able to tell you which floral notes feature in individual scents…)

As Helen Keller wrote:  ‘smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived.’  Make fragrance an important part of your wedding – and what you’re wearing – and you’re just a breath away from remembering the magic of the day, for years and years to come.  Then each time you light that scented candle, are given a bunch of scented roses, perhaps – or simply dab your wedding day fragrance onto your pulse points, in a nanosecond, it’s as if you’re saying ‘I do’, all over again…

Most department store beauty halls have a wide selection of the most popular fragrances on the market, but if you’re looking for something more individual and unusual, you want to head for a specialist boutique…

  • Miller Harris, 14 Needham Road, London W11/ +(44)20-7221 1545;  call Needham Road (or visit for information about the bespoke service.
  • Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie – a treasure trove of hard-to-find and ultra-exclusive scents, including some that have been created just for this kasbah of a boutique, on the Fifth Floor at Harrods.  Other fragrance stars include Caron, and some Dior fragrances which have for the past 30 years only been available at their HQ on the Avenue Montaigne, including Diorling and Diorama.  There is a full range of Diptyque candles, too, for fragrancing your reception.  Roja‘s team offer one-on-one fragrance consultation to help you find your perfect fragrance ‘match’, and the fee is redeemable against your purchase. Call +(44)20-7893 8333, for appointments.
  • Les Senteurs stocks fabulous ranges which are often hard to track down on this side of the Channel, including CREEDBy Kilian and Frederic Malle’s Editions de Parfums. At 71 Elizabeth Street, London SW1/+(44)20 7730 2322, and their Seymour Place boutique.  (They also offer a mail order catalogue – but you’ll be missing out on a magical experience, if you shop Les Senteurs by mail…)
  • Ormonde Jayne, The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London W1/+(44)20 7499 1100.  Gorgeous candles and romantic fragrances created for the boutique by talented ‘nose’ Linda Pilkington – who will also take private commissions…
  • Alternatively, you could also book in for a Guerlain Fragrance Consultation, to identify your ‘signature scent’ from within Guerlain’s range of legendary fragrances;  the consultation lasts up to an hour and a half during which your ‘olfactory personality is pieced together’, as Guerlain put it.
  • Illuminum, 41 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NS, offer a bridal experience (Kate Middleton paid them a visit pre-wedding). You and your bridal party can enjoy a fragrance consultation to match you to your perfect scent for the special day. All while enjoying a glass of bubbles and some fresh strawberries, naturally. To book, simply call +(44)20 7018 2000.
  • Fans of Jo Malone will be happy to know they’re also at hand to help style your wedding. Part of their complementary services include a personal consultation to help you dress yourself and the venue with a scent to suit your personal style. Speak to a Stylist in your local Jo Malone store to book.
  • Chanel recently launched a new beauty service for brides at their Covent Garden and Bond Street Boutiques, specially designed to prepare you for the big day. The hour long fragrance consultation will help you pick the perfect scent and you can even record your thoughts and fragrance notes in your very own keepsake Chanel Bridal Journal. Visit either one of the boutiques to book.

Written by Jo Fairley

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