Choosing a Fragrance

Most brides spend months selecting their wedding-day attire, searching for the perfect dress, shoes, veil, and gloves. But another important part of a bride's ensemble is her fragrance. Scent is an automatic memory trigger - a direct link to the limbic system, the part of the brain where memories are stored. Because of this, a carefully chosen scent will remind you of your wedding day forever, much like a treasured photograph."

Choosing the scent for your wedding is just personal as choosing a bouquet or dress," says Laurent Le Guernec, perfumer for New York City's Mane USA, which researches, tests, and develops fragrances. A bride's perfume should complement her personal style, the style of the ceremony, and the season. There's no reason not to wear your favorite scent if it's well suited to the style and season of the wedding. But if you want to try something new, you should plan to spend several months experimenting with different perfumes. "The ideal thing to do would be to have a scent custom-made for you, like a made-to-measure dress, but that can be costly," say Le Guernec. "Instead, shop around and test fragrances to discover the one that suits you best." Experts stress the importance of sampling and wearing them, rather than simply choosing by testing a blotter. Scents react uniquely with everyone's body chemistry, so a fragrance can smell completely different on a blotter than on your wrist, or on a friend's wrist. Your fiance's reaction to your perfume is also important. "If he loves your signature scent, this is no time to start tampering," says Antonia Bellanca, who created the tree fragrances Antonia's Flowers, Floret, and Tiempe Passate. "But if he says he prefers your natural aroma, take it as a cue that he may not like the perfume you're wearing and go select new samples that you like. Try them out as far in advance of your wedding day as possible, and see what his response is." If the task of sifting through the myriad choices at a perfume counter seems daunting, it may help to begin by familiarizing yourself with the different categories of fragrances. Jan Moran, author of Fabulous Fragrances: How to Select Your Perfume Wardrobe, identifies six dominant scent types based on the main theme of each scent: floral (the most popular); oriental; chypre, or woodsy-mossy; citrus; fougere (fresh lavender notes on a mossy foundation); and green. These categories can be divided into more-descriptive groups such as fruity, fresh, or spicy. A floral-fresh scent, for example, is light and delicate and might have hints of lily of the valley or lemon; in contrast, an oriental-spicy scent is composed of spices like vanilla, clove, or cardamom mixed with spicy florals, like carnation and lavender, or musk. Moran associates each category with an image. "A sheer floral scent may be described as romantic, while a citrus or fruity scent is more casual and suited for daytime or crisp professional wear. An oriental fragrance is more sophisticated, perfect for drop-dead glamorous evenings," she explains.

Each of these categories is suited to a season, too. "Florals and citrucy, fruity florals are more appropriate for spring and summer because they blend in with nature rather than compete with it," notes Bellanca. "Vanilla, on the other hand, is much too heavy for summer. Like oriental, spicy, woodsy, and musky fragrances, it should be reserved for cooler months, just like hot chocolate and mulled cider are best for fall and winter." Consider using your scent as a jumping-off point for your bouquet, rather than vice versa. Bellanca says the flowers in your bouquet don't have to mirror your scent exactly but should complement it. "Most fragrances have many, many notes that make them the symphonies they are," she says. "Make sure your scent and bouquet are in harmony." The delicate scent of a white-lily bouquet coordinates beautifully with a white floral fragrance. Rose is a popular ingredient in many fragrances and a bouquet of roses will pick out the heady notes in a floral or an oriental-floral fragrance. Moran suggests matching a crisp, fresh scent from the fougere or green categories with an herbal bouquet, including lavender or chamomile, for example. Once you've decided on a fragrance, you'll have a wide selection of scented products to choose from. Essential oils are the component that infuses each product with scent; perfume, with the highest concentration of these oils, is the most fragrant. A body spray is the least fragrant and often incorporates moisturizing properties. Benedicte Bron, director of fragrance for International Flavor and Fragrance in New York City, explains layering products that incorporate the same fragrance: "Consider trying a bath product such as a soap, shampoo, or body scrub, followed by an after-bath moisturizing product like a cream, to set the fragrance. Finish with a body spray." Like the category of scent you choose, the amount you layer on - from bath oils to actual perfume - should depend on the season and climate as well as your skin type. "For dry skin, you'll need more fragrance," explains Annette Green, president of The Fragrance Foundation in New York City. Layering increases a scent's staying power, so again, keep the season in mind: In winter, a heavier hand is acceptable, maybe even necessary; in summer, keep it light. Remember, too, that weddings are full of activity and emotions, and the body heat that's generated will amplify any fragrance. Perfumed products can damage fabrics, especially the fine silks and satins that most wedding gowns are made of, so be careful not to get any on your dress. "Fragrances are alcohol based, and alcohol leaves a residue even though it evaporates quickly," says Jonathan Scheer, president of J. Scheer & Co., in Rhinebeck, New York, which cleans and preserves couture wedding gowns. "The residue can turn into a stain when the dress is cleaned." Scheer says to apply perfume about one hour before you dress in order for it to dry. If you need to touch up later, wrap a towel around your neck and shoulders to protect your dress from the perfume spray. Better yet, bring a purse-size flacon of your scent to dab onto your pulse points.

When the celebration is over, you'll clean and pack your gown in tissue and store it safely. Your photos will be carefully chosen and placed in an album. Like these keepsakes, the fragrance you wear will always trigger memories of the day you began life as a married couple. Keep a bottle so you can wear the fragrance on your anniversary - or anytime you want to be reminded of that special day.