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8 Tips on Finding Your Perfect Wedding Perfume

Wedding perfumes have no rules, but these expert tips can help guide you down the (fragrance) aisle.


Vogue Arabia, March 2017. Photo: Hans Feurer

Being engaged is exhausting. I’ve been officially affianced since last fall, and every moment of trying to plan a wedding has further convinced me that I’m a person who enjoys attending them, but would rather pull my French manicured nails out one by one than host a ceremony of my own. However, even if my partner and I do end up going the elopement route, there is one tradition I plan on following: picking a special wedding perfume for the big day.

“Fragrance has the power to evoke emotion in people and scent memory is a very powerful thing,” says perfumer Alexis Grugeon, who works for fragrance manufacturer dsm-Firmenich. This means the fragrance you pick has the power to whisk you back to a day that is full of (ideally!) wonderful memories on every subsequent spritz. I personally hope to have lots of even better days than the one when I sign some paperwork that makes my relationship IRS-official, but I still want to smell nice.

Fragrances from mainstays like Jo Malone London, Byredo, and Dior have become popular picks for a reason, but there are plenty of other brands to choose from if you’re seeking something a little less ubiquitous. Just like there’s no one right way to celebrate getting married, there’s no one formula to finding a wedding perfume that’s perfect for the occasion — but I did gather some tips from perfumers and fragrance boutique owners to help get us started.

Consider the venue

Location, location, location, as they say. Chances are your wedding venue reflects your personal style at least in some capacity, so it’s a great place to start in terms of brainstorming fragrances. “Factor in the season, the venue, and anything unique or meaningful to your big day,” advises Arielle Weinberg, founder of Arielle Shoshana, a fragrance boutique located in Fairfax, Virginia. Antonia Kohl, co-owner of San Francisco’s Ministry of Scent, agrees. “What you’d wear on a winter night in a ballroom is likely to be different from a tropical sunrise beach ceremony or an autumn afternoon on the ranch,” she says.

The size of the ceremony can matter too. “If you’re planning a 300 guest extravaganza, a lighter, softer scent will be drowned out faster than you can say, ‘Should we maybe just elope?’” Weinberg says. For those moments that call for the bold, a powerful gourmand, like DS & Durga’s Deep Dark Vanilla, or distinct floral with woody notes, a la Maison Francis Kurkdijan’s Baccarat Rouge 540, will hold their own. For a spicier option, I love Heaven Can Wait by Frédéric Malle, which blends clove, carrot seed, vanilla, and musk.

You can’t go wrong with floral scents for most nuptial settings. “Floral scents are both luxurious and sensual and have a wide range, making them a great go-to for a wedding,” Grugeon says. Weinberg says Liis Studied, a fruity floral with “warm-yet-fresh pear and carrot seed notes,” is Arielle Shoshana’s “undisputed bridal best-seller.” Some floral scents in the running for my own event include Diptyque Paris Fleur de Peau (musk + iris + ambrette seeds), Byredo Animalique (bergamot + violet + sandalwood), and the newest from Jo Malone London, Frangipani Flower (jasmine + lemon + frangipani).

Lean in to samples and discovery sets

“Just because you’re committing to the love of your life doesn’t mean you have to commit to a full bottle,” says Weinberg, who recommends starting your wedding fragrance hunt with discovery sets. When the special day comes, you can stick to the mini bottle or order a full-size version if you’ve truly fallen head over heels (and perhaps want to include a pretty package in your flat lay wedding photos). Weinberg recommends her own brand’s The Long Weekend Sample Set, which includes a citrus scent for Friday, bright fruit for Saturday, warm gourmand for Sunday, and soothing lavender tea for Monday. “It’s giving range. It’s giving maximum variety,” she says.

I’ve yet to meet an Ellis Brooklyn fragrance I don’t like, and the brand’s Biography Fragrance Discovery Set lets you explore a wide range of options, from the aquatic Salt (beach wedding!) to the slightly sweet Florist (garden party!) and herbaceous Aprés (ski chalet!). If you’ve read any lists of “best wedding perfumes,” you’ve definitely been recommended something from Jo Malone London. The brand’s $20 Cologne Discovery Set — which includes the popular Peony & Blush Suede and English Pear & Freesia — can help you figure out which of its popular scents best suits your vibe before you commit to a full size.

Get a consultation

If you’re looking for even more human guidance than a discovery set can provide, seek out nearby boutiques that offer fragrance consultations. If you’re in the San Francisco area, you can book a concierge wedding consultation at Ministry of Scent, in which a staff member will recommend five scents to try out. “Brides often have hyper-specific visions for their weddings so it’s important to understand the style they’re going for,” Kohl says of the process. “We want each bride to fall head-over-heels in love with a fragrance, because it will forever be connected to such important memories.” For those without access to a niche boutique, there are some fragrance pros offering virtual consultations these days too.

Experiment with florals, musks, and gourmands for long-lasting fragrance

Picking a fresh floral or warm gourmand perfume for your wedding isn’t exactly revolutionary, but there’s a reason notes like rose, amber, vanilla, and musk remain so popular among brides: They’re all particularly long lasting, according to Grugeon, which is important if you’re trying to make a single spritzing session last from the ceremony through the after-after party.

Cartier’s recently launched Pure Rose perfume is perfect for rose purists; it smells like a freshly picked bouquet, with none of the dustiness that sometimes comes with floral fragrances. Tom Ford Café Rose also packs a heavy rose punch, but with an unexpected twist provided by notes of coffee, patchouli, and cardamom. Boy Smells Vanilla Era is an ultra long-lasting vanilla that — thanks to black pepper, frankincense, saffron top notes — leans more woody than gourmand, but still has those crucial sweeter base notes like vanilla and amber. For scents with a musk base, Kohl recommends Dark Vinyl Musk by BOHOBOCO (which also has amber and incense notes) while Weinberg likes Dirty Rice by BORNTOSTANDOUT (“an alluring alternative to being pelted with rice at the end of the ceremony,” she says).

Regardless of the fragrance family you want to stay in, all the experts I spoke to noted that you’ll want to pick a formula with a higher concentration like perfume oils, parfums, or extraits — a body mist or eau de toilette will fade more quickly.

For extra insurance that your fragrance will last, pick from a brand that offers the same scent across body care and fragrance. “Applying the lotion of the fragrance you choose will definitely help [it last],” says Grugeon. Missing Person by Phlur hits all these points: It’s a skin musk (Kohl says skin scents have been “a major category for weddings”) with floral notes that comes in an eau de parfum, body wash, body lotion, body oil, and hand cream.

Layer scents for a unique-to-you fragrance

For the more adventurous, a single wedding perfume might not do. If you’re into scent cocktailing, your wedding is a great time to experiment with layering — but this is definitely something you’ll want to play around with before the big day. “Just because you like two scents doesn’t mean they’ll smell good together,” advises Chiaki Nomura, a perfumer at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). “Plan ahead and experiment with different combinations and proportions. Have fun with the process and pay attention to how long each combination lasts or if it changes throughout the day. If you think you’ve found your perfect combo, test it out multiple times to make sure you’re 100% confident in your choice.” This is another time when a discovery set from your favorite brand can come in handy.

Instead of literally layering by spraying two perfumes in the same spot, Weinberg recommends “scent shadowing,” meaning you apply one perfume on one shoulder and a second on the other. “With shadowing, the scents still interact, but the results are a little more predictable than when you’re physically combining multiple fragrances,” she explains.

In terms of scents that play well together, Kohl says that at least one should be a straightforward formula. “For example, tame a scent’s sharp edges by adding a layer of the soft musk fragrance enhancer I Don’t Know What by DS & Durga or amplify a rose heart with Rose Magnetic by Essential Parfums,” she says. (I Don’t Know What is endorsed by at least one Allure editor, Jesa Marie Calaor, who wore it for her wedding in 2023.) “l sometimes wear a good quality patchouli oil under a dark floral or gourmand fragrance, simply because it’s my favorite note and pairs beautifully with rose and vanilla.”

Make fragrance shopping a pre-wedding date

If your partner also plans to have a signature wedding scent, pick a date to go shopping together. “It’s not only a romantic date, but a fun way to ensure your partner loves what you wear to the wedding,” Kohl says. (A good idea: If things go to plan, you’ll probably be together quite a lot on the big day.) For anyone who can get to Hudson, New York, I highly recommend the fragrance-cocktail pairing at The Maker Hotel: A bartender will bring out a tray of The Maker’s seven eau de parfums so you can sample each scent, then order a cocktail that corresponds with your favorite to enjoy in the hotel’s artfully decorated lounge. When I visited recently, I left with Stag (agarwood, palo santo, leather) and a friend chose Lover (fig, jasmine, vetiver, oud), two scents a rep for the brand says are quite popular wedding fragrances.

There are several ways to go about picking the final wedding perfume you’ll wear. “Your fragrances could be matching, contradicting, or complementary to one another so when you two are together you create your own special scent bubble,” Nomura suggests. If you’re into the matching idea, Kohl says The Architects Club by Arquiste and Vanille Supermassive by Les Eaux Primordiales are great options.

Don’t forget the candles (and your guests)

If you’re a real fragrance freak, you’ll want to scent out the whole venue, either with candles or, for venues that don’t allow open flames, diffusers. For this, you’ll want to lean toward notes that tend to be crowd-pleasers: Grugeon says gourmand and amber notes are generally well-received by most noses, while Nomura says bright florals like rose and jasmine should be pretty safe bets. On the flip side, Grugeon says powdery florals (like tuberose and lilies) or strong woody scents (like patchouli) can be “tricky for some people;” Nomura has similar thoughts about fruits with “sulfuric or butyric notes like cassis or grapefruit.”

Since scent is so tied to memory, candles or bottles of fragrance can also make for great souvenir gifts, either for your wedding party or for all the guests. “We had a young groom choose multiple scents for each of his groomsmen and best man for a four-day celebration in India,” Kohl recalls. “Many brides have gifted their bridal parties with special scents for the ceremony. We even had a generous maid-of-honor who treated each bridesmaid and the bride to individual perfumes of their choice.” If your crew is more into candles, I highly recommend Nest Moroccan Amber: I was in a wedding party where the bride gifted this to all nine of us bridesmaids and everyone was a fan of the woody gourmand scent.

Pick something you’d wear over and over

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve read over 1,500 words about picking a wedding perfume. Now, I’m going to tell you that, actually, several experts I interviewed for this story think you probably shouldn’t opt for a One Day Only perfume. “I think it is always a good idea to wear your signature scent so that you’re comfortable on such a big day,” Grugeon says. Nomura agrees. “Wearing a perfume you’re not as familiar with can be risky,” she says. “Choosing a tried-and-true fragrance you’re confident and comfortable in can provide the reassurance you need on your wedding day.”

Allure digital art director Ingrid Fowler went with the ubiquitous-for-a-reason Le Labo Santal 33 for her wedding because “you can customize the label on their bottles [so] I was able to add ‘Ingrid’s Wedding Day’ and our wedding date.” Now, she wears it often. “I love this scent so much that I wouldn’t be able to retire it,” she says.

Of course, you can find a new fragrance that becomes a sometimes-signature; many people opt to wear their wedding perfume every year on their anniversary. “Because smell and memory are so intertwined, putting on a specific perfume can take you back in time like nothing else,” Kohl explains. “We’ve heard from past brides that wedding memories do indeed arrive with each anniversary wear. Not all of us can show this level of restraint, but we commend the commitment to such a romantic olfactory journey!”

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