Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. And something that smells awesome, pretty please. A perfume for the bride!
You chose the dude/dudette, the dress, jewelry, accessories, shoes, undies, makeup, hairstyle, location, another location, dates, backup dates, decor, meals, allergy-friendly meals, size, guests, more guests, close relatives, distant relatives, banned relatives, entertainment, music, photographer, wine, colors, wedding announcement designs, envelopes, … yada yada yada. I have no idea how folks do those big events without being completely overwhelmed and heading to Vegas instead. While our wedding was entirely simple, I still remember the constant choice paralysis.
So let’s complicate the matter just a little more.
Did you think about your wedding perfume?
It is not just the royals who should rock a special wedding fragrance.
I am guilty of spending more time choosing the fragrance for my big day than choosing the dress (which wasn’t a straightforward task, either). The reason is that I was well aware of how scent, memories, and emotions work together. All sensory information – taste, hearing, touch and sight – is routed through the thalamus, a structure in our brain that regulates our alertness and consciousness. It prioritizes information. It’s like the brain’s processor – all information is fed through it.
But olfactory inputs – smells – bypass this structure and shoot directly for its dedicated area in cortex, where it connects to our limbic system. This is the “primitive” brain. Older, primal, unconscious. Emotional. Directly responsible for memory formation. In other words – smell connects to feelings and memories first – before the input even physically reaches more conscious areas. So my goal was to get something new that would make a memory that I could always look back to just like looking at an old photo. And since smell speaks to me unlike anything else, I wanted an olfactory photo.
What should a good bridal fragrance be like?
I am surely not going to tell you which – out of the hundreds of thousands of scents out there – you should wear on your big day. But I can share some intel that can help you decide what qualities to look for – besides, obviously, you should adore the scent.
1. Is it actually memorable?
As in – unique. Punchy. To your own nose.
If you want to make that time-machine scent-memory hook, look for something easy for you to tell apart from anything else.
Tons of perfumes can be called pretty, even beautiful. But many of them smell like each other, making them just another iteration of a popular theme. Sure, the twentieth flanker of the “apple” might smell nicer than the original. But if you are going to question if “this is it” every time you catch a whiff of someone in the grocery store, it might be better suited for another occasion (or any other occasion, for that matter).
A heady jasmine soliflore might be a better idea than another safe, more generic blend of floral notes. A bit of a niche appeal, rather than approachable by the masses. (Although there surely will be some mass-loved perfumes that smell unique to you.) To me, many florals are hard to remember and too similar, and anything heavy on ambroxan often goes to the “yet another fuzzy blanket”.
2. Is it new to you?
I am a big fan of rediscovering old loves. But if you are looking to create that sort of strong memory loop when a single whiff transports you back in time and place, go for something you didn’t wear before or that isn’t too similar to other scents you already wear often. Something that you didn’t associate with people, places, and other memories just yet. AKA, this is the perfect excuse for shopping for a new bottle and discovering new notes, rather than choosing something you are familiar with. On the other hand, if you have a scent that already ties to memories with your significant other, it might be The One.
3. Will you wear it 20 years down the road?
Sure, most marriages don’t make it past a couple of years, but most of us get married with the intention not to become a statistic. If you intend to revisit the fragrance for other special occasions, consider whether you’d be comfortable wearing it on your 50th wedding anniversary. Hypothetically.
4. What if you run out?
This was actually an important one for me. I wanted something classy-ish that is not likely to be discontinued. Or even if it were discontinued, it would be possible to find a backup bottle on the grey market before it was gone. Sure, eventually, everything gets discontinued. But if it was on the market for a couple of decades already, you will probably be able to score a backup bottle.
Think about how long has the brand been around – a decade? Or ten? How many products do they pump on the market? (Brands that release a ton of stuff yearly tend to discontinue others more often.) What year was the particular scent you are interested in released? How much of their stuff is discontinued?
It doesn’t have to be a mass-followed mass-production bottle, but if it has stood the test of time, it might be easier to keep it around forever, or maybe gift it to your daughter one day. Sure, a single bottle might last you a lifetime, especially if you don’t wear it often. But life happens, and stuff gets lost or damaged. It’s like not having a backup of your wedding photos.
To complicate matters even further, I wanted something a little special presentation-wise. Most of the time, my fragrances sit in a dark, cool closet, barely ever seen. If the bottle is nice, or even artistic, great. If I don’t like the presentation that much, it’s a pity, but no hard feelings.
Well, this one was different. I wanted to admire the work of art that a fragrance bottle or the whole presentation can be. And just like some brides have pictures of their bouquet, dress, or shoes, this bottle was going to get its own picture.
Here goes my tip on how to make that fragrant wedding memory postcard
Don’t wear your wedding fragrance just on your wedding day. Put it on as the day approaches and wear it for special times spent with your partner, watching a movie the night before, activities that will remind you of the day – searching for a dress, your pre-wedding massage, chilled-out dinner with your partner or friends, your wedding trip, whatever appointments you have to go through with your significant other to prepare and set the day. It is more the vibe of those days than a particular moment.
The more emotionally significant moments you connect with the fragrance, the more likely it will forever have the power to transport you in time and place.
Bridal perfume inspiration
It is no easy feat, is it? Unique and classy at the same time, not worn everywhere by everyone but still something that stood the test of time. Pretty on the inside and out. And – obviously, you’ve got to love it! (Or throw all of the above out the window and go with something dear to your heart.)
To give you a head start, I’ll share the fragrances that made it high on my own list of possible “yes juices”.
My top wedding perfumes
Guerlain’s take on brides
Essentially, there are two fragrances that the house of Guerlain has created for brides. Two of the same fragrance in different concentrations are sold under different names. It is not as confusing as it sound.
Le Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie (meaning “the best day of my life”) is Eau de Parfum and comes in a 60 ml bottle.
The other iteration of it is Le Bouquet de la Mariee and it is Extrait de Parfum, 125 ml, presented in a bottle adorned with white lace and flowers. And – hold your breath – priced at just over $1000. If you are a fan (and willing to spend the cash), test both, as there are differences in how the notes evolve and layer. To me, Eau de Parfum has more prominent, almost bitter angelica, while Extrait de Parfum is rounder around the edges and even translates sweeter; the herbal bitterness is barely here.
These two babies have it all – the brand being the history of perfume itself, Pinterest-worthy presentation, and uniqueness inside the bottle. It dances between floral, musky and gourmand. Green angelica and orange blossom are warmed up by just a touch of rose and powder, sugary almonds give it almost a gourmand vibe, all sitting on an inviting, clean vanilla-musky base.
Le Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie is very tender, lovable, a little cuddly, yummy, and still a bit reserved. As if the fragrance itself was wearing a veil. It’s like eating an almond wedding cake while wearing an haute-couture silk dress and getting a hug from someone you love.
If you are familiar with Guerlain’s classics, you will instantly recognize the signature here. And it has that uniqueness of a scent that’s easily memorable.
Lui by Guerlain
This might be the rather weird pick on this list. If you like the idea of Le Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie but want just a tad more badass attitude, explore Lui. It is pure tenderness covered and in a bit of leather and smoke. Sleek black flacon presented in a stylish oversized black box. Both the box and the bottle actually resemble their much older classic Liu (which is no coincidence).
Lui is marketed as a unisex fragrance breaking gender rules (who knew that was still possible almost 80 years after Robert Piguet’s Bandit). Although Guerlain’s interpretation of breaking gender rules is that it’s neither feminine nor masculine (while Bandit simply grew a pair of somewhat aggressive balls with its opulent leather, civet, and oakmoss tones).
So, why Lui? Just like in Le Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie, there is a ton of tenderness. It is sweet – don’t get me wrong. But not school-girl-sweet, not a sickly sugary plasticky syrupy coating, but just a well-calibrated dusting of sweetness. And I find a bit of poetry in the name of it – “Lui” means “Him”. Who else should the bride wear, right?
Anyway. Whatever the marketing (and never mind the fact that I don’t really think that fragrance has a gender) – if you ask me, Lui is perfectly wearable for anyone. And by today’s fragrance marketer’s tastes, just a tad more “Her” than “Him”, but still “Him” enough.
Despite the resemblances with Liu, don’t expect Lui to smell like a vintage style of Guerlain. It’s a modern fragrance, it has an undeniable quality to it. Yet, it is fairly straightforward – it has complexity without being complicated. No crazy twists and turns, no hard-to-digest notes. Its base actually reminds me very much of Guerlain’s bridal duo. And I’d bet my bottle that the musk and vanilla accords share a fair deal of aroma molecules; the base is recognizably similar. Lui took away the angelica-almond-rose facet and replaced it with a touch of spicy, leathery, smoky notes. It kept the same style of sweetness (not the same level, though), and it kept the same comfy musky drydown. I think that’s why it went on my radar – it reminded me so much of Le Bouquet but also had that cheeky attitude.
Mon Precieux Nectar, Guerlain
Aaah. The classic bee bottle. The juice. The softness. This is what Le Bouquet would be if it was meant to be worn for elopement. Or the wedding night. By an angel.
It’s quieter. Softer. Even more tender. If you call Le Bouquet delicate, then this is delicate on steroids. Angelic. It stays much closer to the skin – which completely fits it. Sometimes, a fragrance needs to be intimate. Especially if it’s meant for close encounters – hugs, kisses, wiping your loved one’s tears. The first dance.
As a side note – staying close to the skin should not be a crime. Too often, it is talked about as if it was a flaw. I disagree.
Let me draw a parallel to the current world of wine – it is more difficult for a bottle to succeed commercially if it’s quieter – even if it is a superior quality juice. It’s just bound to be barely noticeable during busy industry shows, tastings, and events. As it is for perfume harder to draw attention in scented shopping malls or department stores where hundreds of people spray a fragrance on any given day.
Quieter shouldn’t mean worse. Just like a date who doesn’t unstoppably talk about themselves instead of listening to how your day was.
Anyway, all the three Guerlains I’ve listed share lots of similarities. They all have this tenderness that – in my mind – fits a woman dressed in white. They all fit the occasion. But they all have different personalities.
Confetto by Profumum Roma
Yes, the article where I omit Profumum Roma is yet to come. Do you see a trend here, young padawan?
Did I mention there is a thing about almonds and weddings? Confetto was actually inspired by Italian confetti (sweets) served during weddings. In the English-speaking world known as Jordan almonds, and in Italian called coriandoli. Alas, candied, sugar-coated almonds. These are traditionally served as wedding favors in packs of five to symbolize five wishes to the couple – children, wealth, health, happiness, and longevity. Greeks have a similar tradition and call the candies koufeta (adopted from “confetti”). Why Italy and Greece? Oh well, the tradition goes 3000 years back to ancient Rome.
Thinking back to my search for bridal fragrance, I really went after the almond note. If there is any area of life where symbolism still holds a place – at least by my book – it’s the ceremonies of life and birth.
Confetto performs like crazy – Profumum Roma uses crazy high concentrations in their creations, and they could (should) call this one Extrait de Parfum. It comes in a box with its own travel rollerball and decanting funnel. And I actually prefer to use the rollerball because this stuff is strong – you get much better control over application that way. It lasts close to forever and projects insanely. Be careful with wearing this in crowded areas or wherever scent is not overly welcome (hospitals, theaters, wine tasting, fine dining places).
Confetto is sugary almond in its purest, sweet like a childhood memory of a candy. It will get you noticed left and right. Unapologetically gourmand.
I will let you in on this one. This was my pick. When I finally decided this was it, I booked a bottle at a niche fragrance store, and as soon as I got an email it was ready, I headed to pick it up. I brought the baby home and opened the box, planning not to sample it until our trip (destination wedding couple here). And there it was, transparent like a glass of water. The fragrance had none of its pretty pink hues.
Turns out, since it’s rather a small brand, they control their supply chain, and the bottles go directly from the manufacturer to the store. And often, it comes right out of production without enough time to mature. When the juice is freshly made, it is entirely transparent, and it turns pink in a few weeks to months, depending on storage conditions.
So off we went. I packed Confetto in my suitcase. I set it by the mirror the night before to have pictures taken. I was ready.
And guess what – I was busy with everything else (Like eating a cake for breakfast, chilling out on the porch, wearing a bathrobe the whole day till putting on the dress. Seriously busy.)
I forgot about it. I didn’t wear it for the ceremony. I didn’t get the photographer to snap a picture.
After we exchanged our wows, we had photos taken and then had some time to change and chill before dinner. That is when I noticed the bottle still sitting by the mirror. Oh hell. The cool thing about it? The juice turned pink as I was busy getting married. It’s the coolest bottle I own. And I still wore it for the dinner.
Unknown Pleasures by Kerosene
Let’s continue with the gourmands. It smells like high tea hour at Buckingham palace. And royalty reminds me of beautiful weddings (I know, I wish I had more broad imagination, too).
Actually, it’s made up of pretty common perfumery notes. One of the most common ones – citrus, vanilla, bergamot, vanilla, caramel, tonka, and tea (ok, tea is not that common in fragrances). But conjured in such a suggestive manner, it is hard not to imagine the picture. It goes down to two ingredients – Earl grey tea (lemon, honey, black tea, bergamot) and sweet waffle or biscuit (vanilla, caramel, tonka, and a tone not mentioned but totally present – butter).
And it develops in a very imaginative fashion, too.
As if you just sat at the table and dropped tea leaves into a fancy ceramic pot with hot water – you can smell the tea, but it’s not the full blast just yet. And right away, you go on to squeeze the apple slices, with the peel on and all. It’s zingy bright citrus. You pour the lemon juice into the pot, and it mellows, letting the bergamot-flavored black tea, aka Earl grey, shine. Just as the vanilla cones are served. You are not eating them – it’s not that sweet – it’s just the moment when they are set on the table in front of you, still a bit warm, mixing the sweet doughy scent with the tea, bergamot, citrus, and a slice of butter melts over them.
By the way, it performs exceptionally well when sprayed on fabrics.
Myrrhe Impériale by Giorgio Armani Prive
Now, this is a perfume fit for a classic church wedding, especially in cold weather. It is sensual, resinous, with a touch of smokiness and amber, warm and toasty, dark, intoxicating, opulent. The resins and incense are the stars here. Fairly linear, masterfully pieced together. Sadly, Myrrhe Imperiale is discontinued, but since my intention was to share inspiration on what I had on my list, I still felt like it deserved a spot. If you hunt it down, great. If you don’t, it might be a good starting point to investigate the notes.
Over to you.
What are your wedding-worthy fragrances? What did/would/will you wear? Leave me a comment.
OTA Mom08/21/2022 9:49 pm
I don’t even remember what I wore for my wedding 30 years ago. Maybe Sand & Sable, as it was popular back in that day. Today I would wear Kilian Love Extreme or Confetto.