It’s well known that scents are closely connected to memories. A specific perfume reminds you of your grandmother. Peppermint takes you back to Christmas morning. A hint of cigarette smoke and you’re in grandpa’s truck. Scents can be powerful, and often act as triggers for your brain. In fact, scent is the only sense that has a direct relationship with our limbic systems: a network in the brain that is widely considered to be the system that deals with emotions, mood, instincts, and basic drives. More specifically, the cingulate gyrus is the part of the brain that is physically closest to the limbic system, and is responsible for, among other things, focusing attention on emotionally significant events and for associating memories to smells.
Because of this, scents have been proven to have an influence on a person’s mood. Essential oils have been taking over the markets for everything from toxin-free cleaners to sleep aids to alternative medicine. Thanks to the neurological significance and increased consumer interest, creators are getting crafty with combinations of different smells, leading to more unique options.
“Scentscaping,” creating a personalized aura or mood at an event using fragrance, is gaining popularity at weddings. If you want your wedding to be joyful, exciting, and stick in your guests’ minds for years to come, consider scentscaping!
Choosing A Scent
There are many different lists of “fragrance families,” or groupings of scents with similar traits. Here are some of the most common families:
- Citrus: sparkling, clean, fresh, energizing – lemon, bergamot, orange, grapefruit
- Floral: romantic, feminine – lavender, geranium, jasmine, peony, gardenia, rose
- Green/natural: innocent, natural – pine, mosses
- Oriental: sweet, heavy, spices – sandalwood, vanilla, cinnamon, clove
- Spice: natural, therapeutic, exotic – peppers, nutmeg
- Water: clean, fresh — ocean, marine
- Woods: warmth, depth, opulent – cedar, agarwood, patchouli, vetiver
- Gourmand: edible, dessert-like – vanilla, coffee, tobacco
For weddings, something in the citrus, floral, green, or wood families are usually your best bet. The first three families tend to be light, while woody fragrances are warmer and evoke a more emotional response, compared to the formers’ energetic response. The lighter fragrances help balance out the richness of the woody scents.
Decide if you want one scent for the bride and a different but complementary scent for the groom. You could hire a “scent expert” to help choose a scent and plan how to include it in your wedding. Some may even help you create your own personalized perfume, but at the very least they’ll help you and your partner pick compatible scents.
If you elect to find a scent without the help of an expert, use a fragrance wheel to help you narrow down your choices. Just like the fragrance families, there are many different fragrance wheel designs. These wheels vary in detail, so you’ll be able to find the one that works best for you and the scents you’re using.
Choosing a scent may be the hardest part, so start by focusing on your favorites and then build from those. Or choose fragrances that are significant to you. Do you have favorite scents related to certain memories you want to use as a base or would you rather pick a scent that’s connected to your relationship? Maybe you met while working in a coffee shop and want to incorporate vanilla, or your honeymoon is on a beach so you want to focus on the ocean scents.
Using The Scent
Decide how and where you will incorporate the scent throughout your wedding.
- Candles: set candles out on every surface you’d like. Dining tables, gift table, in the bathrooms, and so on. Keep in mind: check with your venue and make sure they allow candles, you’ll need someone to light them before the reception, and not all of them will stay lit throughout the night.
- Oil diffusers: these will require less prep than candles, and they’ll have a stronger smell, so you won’t need as many diffusers. However, the standard perfume won’t work in diffusers, so you’ll need to make sure you have the right kind of oil.
- Flowers: if you’re using floral components, you could use actual flowers. Or, if you use fake flowers for decorations, you can lightly spray the fragrance onto them to increase the presence of the scent.
- Homemade potpourri: dried petals from flowers that are part of or compatible with your fragrance can be used to make homemade potpourri. Scatter the petals throughout your ceremony and reception venues. The flower girl can drop them on her way to the altar, or you can use them instead of rice for the ceremony exit or spread them on tables or fill centerpiece bowls at the reception.
- Invitations: spritz your invitations before mailing them to give your guests a hint of what’s to come – and to start associating the smell with your wedding as early as possible.
- Perfume bar: set up a table near the entrance or the bathrooms and set out bottles of perfume and cologne. Include bottles of each major ingredient in your fragrance and bottles of your actual fragrance blend. Leave a few empty bottles so guests can mix their own. Your guests will get to experiment and get a burst of fragrance to refresh and reenergize. This bar could also double as a favor station. Just put out a sign saying guests are welcome to take their mixed bottle home with them!
- Favors: you can give spray bottles of your perfume or cologne, your homemade potpourri, candles, or bottles of an essential oil blend as favors. For a more unique favor, give candle-making kits and include your fragrance as the scent component. Every time your guests use the favor, they’ll be reminded of your wedding.
- Bridal party gifts: along the same lines as the favors, bottles of perfume or cologne make great bridal party gifts.
Words of Caution
- First and foremost, make sure none of your guests have a sensitivity to any scents. Many people can’t be around strong oils or perfumes.
- Be careful about what your flowers smell like – you’ll need to make sure they don’t clash with the fragrance.
- Learn how the scent evolves over time. Try wearing your fragrances for a day, or diffusing the oil in your office. Do you still love it after 4, 8, 12 hours? Did the scent fade or linger?
- If at all possible, test how the fragrance will impact your venue. Set up the scented pieces early, leave the space for a bit, and then come back to test the concentration. The smell should be noticeable, but still subtle. During the reception dinner, you want the smell of the food to be the center of attention, and having a different scent mixed in could take away from the food. A bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette party, or even rehearsal dinner could be a good test run for your fragrance. Use the scent the same way you want to for the wedding and get feedback from the guests.