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The newest wedding trend
Never before has fragrance made its way into weddings and honeymoons as it does now. Abbie Kozolchyk follows the trail of this aromatic phenomenon.
Bridal insiders, who’ve seen every party trend—the rise of the eco-
chuppah to the fall of the cupcake tower—are noting a cool new one: wedding scenting. “This can mean anything from creating an atmosphere with flowers, herbs and candles to working on your own wedding-day fragrance with a perfumer,” says Adam Glassman, director of operations at Tribeca Rooftop, home to many of NYC’s chicest nuptials. ¶ Alexandra Foote and Daniel Patterson of Marin County, CA, did both. Alexandra says she’s always been into fragrance, so the idea of incorporating
Photographs by Alex Cao
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Couples are drawing inspiration from any number of fragrant sources. Clockwise from top: nutmeg, pink grapefruit, basil, cinnamon, lychee, coffee beans, scented candle, orchid, ginger, cocoa, lavender, green tea.
it into their winter wedding “was a logical extension.” From the rosemary scattered during the procession to the black tea–scented candles placed on the altar, no detail went undeliberated. Especially the perfume of choice. The aesthetic of the day was rich and wintry (birch branches and deer antlers as design accents, a dark brown Carolina Herrera skirt and charcoal corset as bridal attire, and the moody Marin Headlands above the Golden Gate Bridge as backdrop), and the couple wanted to capture that feeling in a fragrance. Mandy Aftel, a Berkeley, CA–based natural perfumer and founder of Aftelier Perfumes, was charged with the task. After smelling approximately 50 essences, Alexandra narrowed her choices to cedar, nutmeg, cocoa, coffee, Peru balsam, ginger and pink grapefruit. “The scent was perfectly evocative,” she recalls. “I had Mandy make a solid version in sterling lockets for my bridesmaids, and we gave a liquid in tiny bottles to each guest at the reception.” The scent was a success—not least for the bride and groom, both of whom wore the fragrance that day and continue to do so. “The smell takes me back to our most profound moment and treasured day,” Daniel says. And Aftel isn’t surprised: “Scent links you directly to your memories,” she says. “Smell is the most primitive of the five senses,” adds Chandler Burr, scent critic for T, The New York Times Style Magazine and author of The Perfect Scent: A Year Behind the Scenes of the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. “When a scent is overlaid onto an experience, your memory of it will be not only heightened but longer lasting and more accurate.” But this phenomenon alone doesn’t account for the trend at issue. As for what does, the theories vary. One cannot discount the celebrity factor; with each passing week, it seems that another A-lister—whether it’s Sean Combs or Shania Twain, David Beckham or Maria Sharapova— launches a fragrance. Among musicians, most recently Prince and Hilary Duff, it’s becoming common to link a song title to their fragrance’s name. Also contributing to the interest in scent are two lesser-known names: Richard Axel and Linda Buck. These researchers are the corecipients of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries of odorant recep-
Couples are scent branding their weddings, using the
power of scent to make
the experience stand out in guests’ minds.
tors and the organization of the olfactory system.” “Few things have done more to boost scent’s profile of late than the awarding of the Nobel Prize,” says Rachel Herz, Ph.D., a visiting professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University Medical School in Providence, RI, and author of The Scent of Desire. “Not only has scent research become more legitimized within the scientific community—and better funded—but there’s a greater public awareness of scent’s power as well.” What has emerged, she contends, is a whole new zeitgeist—one that finally acknowledges scent’s rightful place among music, food and lighting (the classic mood-boosting pantheon) at any special event. “Scent had remained a largely unexplored component of sensory enrichment; only in the past few years is that changing.” Oddly, ever more restrictive smoking laws seem to play a significant role in the wedding-scent trend, says Alan Hirsch, M.D., founder and neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. “Until not too long ago, cigarette smoke would obscure most scents at any event, including a wedding,” he explains. “With the sharp decline in public smoking, however, people are more aware and appreciative of ambient aroma—our sense of smell is actually improving as smoke-damaged olfactory receptors regenerate—so you have a sensory void that needs to be filled.” But he believes there’s more to the equation. “When you add aroma into the sensory theater that is a wedding, you achieve all kinds of effects.” One of the best is communal anxiety reduction: “You’ll likely have lots of strangers meeting for the first time, and a pleasant aroma can induce a calming, unifying effect,” says Dr. Hirsch. “It becomes part of a shared, happy experience on the most intrinsic level.” And in providing that experience, you’re trafficking in another layer of the trend: scent branding. “There’s a movement toward branding an experience with fragrance,” says NYCbased fragrance consultant Ann Gottlieb, “and weddings are no exception.” The idea is to use scent’s primal power to make an experience stand out in guests’ minds.
The Sisterhood of Scent
Brides are taking ever greater advantage of the scent-memory link—sometimes at the prompting of the women in their lives. “I’m actually not
much of a perfume wearer,” says Jessica Weinberg of NYC. “But my stepmother wanted to take me shopping for a wedding scent—something I’d be able to wear later that would remind me of that day.” Though Jessica went home emptyhanded (sensory overload isn’t uncommon under the circumstances), her stepmother noted that Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir had emerged the clear favorite. “She gave me the fragrance on the morning of my wedding,” recounts Jessica. “It was such a sweet surprise that it really became a part of the day; in fact, it was out on the bed when I was getting ready, and the photographer took the most beautiful pictures of it.” Lindsay Leaf chose Creed’s Fleurissimo, the perfume commissioned for Grace Kelly’s wedding. “My mother gave me the idea to find a new scent for my wedding, so that I would always have a trigger to bring me right back to that day,” says Lindsay, of NYC. “The only downside is that I really love the perfume but I have to try not to wear it much, so that when I do wear it, it will maintain that unique quality.”
forward. You could, for example, place several bouquets of fragrant lilies in a hallway through which guests will pass— and a gesture as simple as that will still mark the event.”
Scents of Place
The event is no less deserving of being marked if it happens to be taking place on a palm-fringed island or pine-topped mountain. In fact, destination weddings make a particularly compelling case for scented elements: “When guests travel from far away, fragrance is one of the best ways you can make them feel welcome,” says Tara Soloway, cofounder of Luxe Destination Weddings, which just launched Luxe Island Scents, destination-specific aromatherapy for brides, grooms and guests. Prearrival, visitors can develop a “signature scent”—a blend of two fragrances chosen from a menu at such resorts as El Dorado Royale in Mexico’s Riviera Maya—to fill their room. “In candles or burning oils, the fragrance creates a warm, inviting atmosphere, and it becomes the scent that represents your time together.” The bonus: You have a souvenir that also serves as a wedding favor for guests (send them home with bottles of the oil) and a cloud-nine prolonger for you. And the idea is catching: Scotland’s Pool House hotel had to relocate its resident perfumer to a nearby site because his fragrance-customization program proved so popular that he outgrew his in-house space. In other cases, honeymooners find themselves falling in love with a property’s own signature scent (more and more hotels have them) and refusing to leave without a bottle (e.g. Ocean from the Cove in the Bahamas), candle (White Tea from any Westin) or oil (the one used for your couples massage). Beyond evoking the best conceivable memories, these scents serve as figurative transporters when you need an instant getaway. “Hotels are investing in fragrance so that scent will forever remain embedded in your mind,” adds Gottlieb, who deems her own infatuation with the sublimely scented rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris the perfect example of the idea’s efficacy. However sweet-smelling your hotel room, it’s eclipsed by yet another—more fundamental—aspect of the trend: how scent can mark your commitment to another human being. “Fragrance is a way to forge a new identity,” says Aftel. “With any significant life change, and especially a wedding, a lot of people want a new scent; it’s like a piece of you changes, and you imprint that piece with a scent—and then you go forward with it.” Happily ever after. Abbie Kozolchyk writes regularly for Allure, Forbes Traveler and other publications. She lives in New York.
The New Space Scenters
However lengthy your deliberations over the right wedding fragrance, they can become all the more protracted in the face of the ambient aroma possibilities. Gone are the days of the simple sachet, notes Dr. Hirsch. “We now have the technology to introduce scents over greater areas and in endless varieties.” From scent machines—which can pipe anything from citrus to cinnamon into your site—to custom candles, fragranced extras present innumerable ways to enhance a mood. “Weddings tend to use multiple spaces,” says Sasha Souza, an event planner in Napa, CA. “So if you want, you can give each space its own signature scent—say, a light floral for the ceremony, an energizing citrus mix for the dance space, and chocolate in the dessert hall.” And scent machines tend to be the most efficient means: Small (roughly one cubic foot) and not crazy-expensive (rentals start at $300), one can fragrance a 2,000-square-foot space with a single cartridge. “The best scents for weddings are subtle, since you have to think about potential fragrance allergies,” says Souza. “You want guests to walk in and think, ‘Mmmm, it smells good in here,’ not ‘Wow, that’s a lot of fragrance.’” Souza’s top cartridge picks: summer leaves, Japanese green tea, orange blossom and chocolate. Or consider customized candles, such as those by Reve de Vivre. Whether the bride and groom want to capture aspects of their respective pasts or commemorate mutual moments (say, the smell of the garden where he popped the question), Reve de Vivre will compile the necessary ingredients to concoct the appropriate candle. But scent design doesn’t have to consist of anything elaborate, notes Burr: “It can also be simple and straight-
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