Heaven Scent

31st August 2018

Lisa Botwright explores how the perfect perfume can add an extra-sensory dimension to your big day…

When I got married (nearly twenty years ago – how did that happen?) I gave barely a though to perfume… which is surprising since I consider myself one of life’s planners. I loved picking out everything from the stationery to the music for the first dance. And yet, two of my favourite memories of the day actually come from scent – the heady aroma of the lilies in the hotel lobby as I arrived, full of excitement, to check in, and the sweet act of friendship of my bridesmaid spritzing me with her perfume when I realised I hadn’t brought my own. (That’s how shockingly remiss I was.) Happy by Clinique takes me back instantly to that moment.

And that’s why scent is an important consideration for a wedding – because it has such evocative connotations. Just as we take photos and video footage of the big day to recapture memories, perfume helps us to recapture feelings.

A lot of this is down to the rather unromantic fact of physiology. When we smell something, good or bad, it’s processed by the olfactory bulb, which starts inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain in the areas that are linked with emotion and memory (the amygdala and hippocampus), while visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) information pass through different brain areas. This indicates why smell, more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions and memories.

But too many strong smells, as we all know, can be overwhelming and headache-inducing. The art is to subtly punctuate the day with just a few favourite fragrant touches.

Choose flowers for their aroma, as well as the way they look – a good florist can advise. Gardenias, peonies, garden roses and sweet peas are among traditional bridal choices that have the most gorgeous smell.

Add scented candles or essential oil burners to the reception rooms. (It’s the essential oils in the petals of flowers that causes the sweet smell – a chemical reaction that attracts birds and bees to pollinate them.) The Cotswold Garden (£55 ronnycolbie.com) has top notes of magnolia and freesias, blended with a hint of musk, to evoke a traditional English Spring garden, while the Cire Trudon Ernesto scented candle, with warming clove, bergamot and amber would beautifully enhance a winter wedding (£70 johnlewis.com).

The idea of a bespoke fragrance is an increasingly attractive one for brides. (Those far more organised than I was.) A full haute couture perfume service would come with a hefty price tag, but the high street has plenty to offer…

At Jo Malone stores, a wedding stylist will help find the perfect fragrance combination for the bride and groom as well as advise on how to scent the venue. A spokesman tells me, “We can help with the little touches that help to make a wedding unique, like bespoke scents for the bride and groom, fragrant candles and gifts for the wedding party.”

Up to five members of the wedding party can go along to a pre-booked complimentary appointment to learn about the art of fragrance layering, while sipping Nyetimber bubbles and enjoying a relaxing hand and arm massage at the same time (see jomalone.co.uk for details).

Or for a heavenly-scented hen party, The Perfume Studio offer to take guests on ‘a sensory journey’, teaching small groups about the basics of perfumery. Each person gets to blend their own personalised perfume, which is ready to take away on the day. (Parties nationwide from £39 each, perfumestudio.com).

So on your wedding day, remember to take a moment to inhale a few deep breaths. Not just to steady your nerves… but to help to add to the memories that will last a lifetime.

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