Choosing a Fragrance

Martha Stewart Weddings, Fall 2004

A lovely perfume can evoke the feelings of your wedding day. "Scents are processed in the emotional part of the brain," says Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. "When you first wear a fragrance, your memory of the occasion is linked with the scent." Certain fragrances can complement different styles of weddings. Read on and learn how to find a scent that will be truly memorable.

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Classic and Romantic
"Floral fragrances are an expression of femininity, and they are the most popular kind of perfume," says Matthew Frost of Quest International Fragrances, a development company in New York City. Most florals are composed of scents from more than one flower. If you love a certain bloom, you might try a single-note fragrance, in which one flower is dominant but other subtle notes may be included. A light floral with freesia, peony, or lily-of-the-valley is nice for a garden or daytime wedding. For an evening wedding, richer white florals like gardenia, tuberose, jasmine, and magnolia are fitting. The ingredients aren't listed on the bottles, but a knowledgeable salesperson at a department store or perfume shop should be able to tell you what's inside.

1. Vera Wang eau de parfum spray, $85, contains rose and gardenia.

2. Orchid, papaya blossom, and pink freesia are at the heart of Elizabeth Arden Provocative Woman eau de parfum, $39.50.

3. Blush by Marc Jacobs, $85, has jasmine and pink freesia.

4. Christian Dior Diorissimo eau de toilette, $52, is a lily-of-the valley-based scent.

5. Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley, $65.

6. Orange flower, tuberose, and gardenia make up Lauren Style eau de parfum spray by Ralph Lauren, $47.50.

7. Fleur de Sephora eau de toilette in Jasmine, $28.

8. Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise, $39.50, mixes orchid, hyacinth, and honeysuckle.

9. Pure Tiffany parfum by Tiffany & Co., $200, includes magnolia, tuberose, and jasmine.

Tips for Testing
Perfume smells different on each person because of the way the skin's chemistry reacts with the scent. "It's important to see how you like a fragrance over time," says Susanne Langmuir, owner of Susanne Lang Parfumerie, a fragrance-development house in Toronto, Canada. Be sure to test before you buy: Apply a different scent to the pulse points on each arm (at the wrist or inside the elbow). Only try two at a time. And wear them for a whole day to see how you like them on you.

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Fresh and Sweet
So-called green scents tend to be light and are ideal for a woman who's sporty or doesn't normally like to wear perfume. Green scents can include grass, bamboo, tea, woody pine, and cypress, as well as herbs like rosemary and mint. The earthy scent of galbanum is also commonly used in these types of perfumes. "Fruit brings a playful character to a fragrance," says Annie Zast, scent evaluator for Symrise, a fragrance-development company in New York City. The aromas of lemon, orange, and grapefruit are energizing.

You'll also find sweet scents -- apples, berries, and tropical fruits such as mango and coconut -- in these perfumes. Green and fruity fragrances are delicate and may dissipate quickly. So, it's a good idea to tuck an atomizer into your purse for touchups throughout the night.

1. Bulgari Eau Parfumee au The Blanc, $70, mixes white tea, Artemisia leaves, and musk.

2. Galbanum, neroli (a citrus scent), and vetiver (an earthy one) form Chanel No. 19, $80.

3. Fresh Index China Green Tea, $60, combines bergamot, coriander, and sage.

4. Lychee, guava, peony, and musk make up Eternity Moment by Calvin Klein, $60.

5. Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again, $50, has blackberry and grapefruit.

6. Guerlain Nahema parfum, $250, is a fruity fragrance with roses and vanilla.

7. Jo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis $80, includes hyacinth and cedarwood.

8. Annick Goutal Folavril, $95, contains mango and jasmine.

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Rich and Warm
"When it is cold outside in fall or winter, people tend to gravitate to fragrances that elicit warmth, comfort, and sensuality." says Zast. Orientals are the richest fragrances and would be perfect for a formal evening wedding. Common notes include amber, vanilla, and spices such as clove and cinnamon. Some also combine heady florals like orange blossom, tuberose, and ylang ylang. "These scents have incredible depth, so they linger on the skin," says Langmuir.

Making it Last
To keep fragrance from fading halfway through your wedding, layer it. Start with similarly scented bath salts or shower gel; for example, if you plan to wear a rose-based fragrance, you should use rose-scented salts or gel. The same goes for lotion -- don't skip this step, as fragrance will last longer on moisturized skin. Next, put perfume on your pulse points (wrists, neck, elbows, and behind the knees); these areas emit heat, enabling the scent to intensify. It's also nice to lightly spritz your hair with perfume.

1. Givenchy Amarige D'amour eau de toilette, $75, can be considered a floral with jasmine and rose notes but is warmed by amber and sandalwood.

2. Chanel's Coco eau de parfum, $105, contains sandalwood, vanilla, mandarin, and jasmine.

3. Carolina by Carolina Herrera, $49, mixes vanilla and amber with bitter orange and pepper.

4. Soy milk, smoked wood, and white flowers are the ingredients in Clinique Simply, $53.50.

5. Calypso Chevrefeuille eau de toilette, $50, combines amber and musky vanilla with green notes.

A Guide to the Terms
The various concentrations of fragrance have more to do with how long they will last than how intensely they smell.

Parfum: With the highest quantity of fragrance oil (usually 22 percent or more; alcohol makes up the rest), this lasts the longest but is also the most expensive.

Eau de Parfum: Fragrance oils make up 18 to 22 percent. In newer fragrances, our industry experts say there isn't often a big difference between parfum and eau de parfum.

Eau de Toilette: This is the concentration most commonly used in women's fragrance; it's 12 to 18 percent fragrance oil and is less expensive than the stronger versions.

Cologne: This has the lowest concentration of oil, usually between 3 and 10 percent. Men's fragrances and splashes tend to come in cologne because it's so light and gentle.

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Mild and Woodsy
Most men's fragrances are known as fougeres, which is French for "fern." They are herbaceous, mossy, and warm, with added notes like tobacco, leather, sandalwood, and citrus. Over the past few years, fresh-smelling marine scents have become popular, and fruity and floral notes like melon, apple, and lavender are being combined with fougeres. Most men's fragrances come in two main forms: aftershave and cologne. An aftershave, which is typically applied by pouring it into the hands and splashing it onto the face, has less fragrance oil and alcohol and more water, so it doesn't sting. Cologne has a higher percentage of oils; it should be dabbed on the pulse points or the torso, so the scent will rise with body heat.

1. Fruity and spicy notes like watermelon, cinnamon, amber, and musk are in Carolina Herrera Chic for Men, $57.

2. Mandarin, cedar, vetiver, amber, and musk form Armani Mania eau de toilette, $65.

3. Vera Wang for Men eau de toilette, $65, marries nutmeg, leather, and tobacco.

4. Miller Harris Feuilles de Tabac eau de parfum, $98, combines pine, sage, tobacco, and patchouli.

5. Penhaligon's Endymion cologne, $55, has black pepper, bergamot, amber, and myrrh.

Creating Custom Perfumes
Wearing a one-of-a-kind fragrance for your wedding can be even more personal and memorable. Custom fragrance is also a great gift for attendants. Some companies, such as Fresh, Jo Malone, and Sephora, make single-note fragrances that are meant to be layered to form a new scent. Or you can go to a specialty shop, such as Susanne Lang Parfumerie at Barneys in New York and Los Angeles, where salespeople can mix a perfume for you the same day.

Storing Scents
It depends on the concentration of the fragrance, but most perfumes will last one year after opening, though some will stay fresh for up to two years. To help extend the shelf life, store in a cool, dark place, like a refrigerator or bureau drawer.

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