The scent of a woman
Choosing the perfect wedding day fragrance
Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana courtesy Macy’s; Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel courtesy Macy’s.
Theresa Cassagne Photographs
Studies have shown smell to be one of the most extraordinary senses of our five, linked in deep and powerful ways to cognition and memory. All it may take is a whiff of an aroma to take you to a time, a place, to something as long as an era or as short as a moment.
That’s right – a scent, if chosen well, can bring a lifelong association to that magical moment that you pledge your life to another and began the rest of your lives together. Therefore, the importance of choosing the right perfume isn’t to be underestimated. Most brides want to feel like princesses on their wedding days, and history shows that the final accessory for royalty is a distinctive and beautiful scent. The use of personal fragrance, especially for grand occasions, can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia.
But what exactly is perfume? Generally, a fine fragrance is composed of essential oils and aroma compounds diluted with a solvent – alcohol or other oils. The scents are determined by top notes, your initial impression of the perfume that fades away quickly; the heart or middle note, the core fragrances that emerge 15 to 20 minutes after the initial spritz; and the base note, which is generally muskier and lasts longer. Depth and complexity emerge once the fast-dissipating top notes evaporate, after which the heart and base work together to create the perfume’s main theme. This is why it’s always recommended to test a perfume on your skin and wear it around to get a true idea of how it smells on you.
Aroma is commonly derived from plant sources, which provide for infinite possibilities. Flowers, fruits, leaves, twigs, resins, seeds, bark and woods are usually used, and sultrier scents can be derived from animals and include ambergris (commonly referred to in scent profiles as just plain “amber”) and musks. It is the concentration of these essential oils to dilutants that determine the category of a fine fragrance. The strongest is a straight-up perfume extract, but what’s generally offered to the public ranges in potency.
There are also many other classifications for perfumes. In the most general sense, there are three primary groups, with subcategories within each: floral, fresh and woody. Which of these will best suit you personally depends on many factors, since many modern scents blur the lines, but generally, one of these groups is your usual go-to. Like your bridal makeup, you want your wedding fragrance to be very you but better, more special and more refined.
The most popular and diverse, delicate feminine fragrances with flowery top notes can run the gamut. They are always flirty and romantic and can also be light, soft, exotic or classically sweet. To choose the right one for you, it’s important to take a sniff of different combinations. The blossoms you like may surprise you, so it’s good to keep an open mind when exploring these options. For instance, you may cringe at the sweet smell of jasmine in fresh concentrated doses, but you may adore it with white rose. You may prefer something more modern like a juicy fruity floral (sometimes considered “fresh” if citrus is involved) with notes like tart berries, currants, nectarines and other essences that take you into a summer garden with fresh lemonade and big white hats.
If that’s too informal, classic florals, emphasizing elegant roses can create a feeling of glamorous luxury, appropriate for long gloves and tea at the manor. Stella by Stella McCartney has emerged as a contemporary take on traditional floral for its timeless, grown-up feel. It boasts top notes of peony and Bulgarian rose, freshened up with a hint of mandarin. With a heart note of Rose Absolute, romance is certainly in the air once you breeze by your guests, and amber provides a sexy base for that extra oomph of femininity.
For more of that sultry zest, Viva La Juicy offers up a sophisticated and glamorous alternate with seductive Oriental warmth permeating throughout its exotic flower choices. Top notes of mandarin and wild berry belie the heavy heart of gardenia, jasmine and honeysuckle, and a delicious woody base of rich caramel, praline, vanilla, amber and sandalwood create irresistible complexity.
Fresh fragrances are the carefree scents of blue skies and warm breezes, acting as instant pick-me-ups with their energetic, upbeat characteristics. Happy and easygoing personifies the perfumes that fit in this category, with zesty citrus, mildly green and slightly grassy water scents taking the lead. The overall impact is generally bright, clean and professional, or fun, depending on the proportions of what’s used in the base and heart. An all-purpose day-to-night scent type, this is the kind of perfume that reminds you of the sea in the summer, the first grass-cutting of the season, a glass of limeade in the increasing humidity of Central America.
Vera Wang has released an inspired combination of fresh, floral and delightfully green called Bouquet, a perfume simultaneously elegant, romantic, modern and refreshing. Top notes include an aquatic burst of dewdrops, Radiant Sicilian Bergamot and the leaves of black currants. The heart was created by blending Paperwhite Narcissus with honeysuckle, with a base of Lavender Musk Accord, Moroccan cedar and the root of white iris. For your wedding day, this is an upscale solution for the carefree, non-Cinderella-esque bride looking to present a dressed-up version of her low-maintenance and practical self.
A little sweeter, the sheer cheeriness of Gucci’s Eau de Parfum II is a great choice for the pleasing elements of fruity fragrances but with an element of sophistication. Fresh and floral with an innocently provocative muskiness, it’s hard to put a finger on the individual components of this heavenly contradiction with a complex yet sunny disposition. The top notes consist of mandarin, black currant and bitter orange, with the floral essence emerging in a heart of violet and heady jasmine, tinged with the fruit of blackberry. A base of cedarwood, sandalwood and heliotrope completes the profile of this sporty-girl-gone-glam perfume. Like Vera Wang’s Bouquet, this scent enables the casual, fun-loving sweetheart to achieve the next level of romance without losing that light-hearted spark.
Sugar and Spice; Leather and Lace
This last major category is known as woody, associated with hearty scents and femme fatales. It speaks of confidence, sophistication, elegance and often richness, and reminds one of a woman comfortable in her own skin and all the more beautiful for it.
Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel is a great scent for the dynamic woman in charge, with hot Oriental florals and an earthy wood tone. Exotic top notes include orange and bergamot; the heart is composed of May rose, jasmine and iris. The base notes are refined, dark and rich, with patchouli, Haitian vitiver, Bourbon vanilla and a sultry white musk. This isn’t a fragrance for the timid … combined with the heat of your skin and the power of your personality, you’ll pulsate raw sensuality and untouchable, worldly glamour.
On the other end of that spectrum, Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue perfectly balances the masculinity of wood with water and greener smells for a tantalizing mixture of pleasant and joyful scents. For the woman who is confident of her femininity but doesn’t feel the need to shout it from the mountaintops with musk and sugar, this refreshingly clean and pleasant woody scent gives off a first impression of cedar, apple and bluebell. Heart notes consist of bamboo, jasmine and white rose. The base is as woody as you can get, with amber, musk and citron wood leaving a lasting impression. Clean appeal and subtle, effortless sexiness is the allure of this fragrance.