By all accounts, when I got married back in June 2018, it was a fairly laid-back affair—70 of our nearest and dearest crammed into an old London pub to watch my husband and I exchange wedding vows before a pie-and-mash dinner and a rather rowdy party. However, despite taking a laissez-faire approach to things like colour schemes, centrepieces and seating plans, there was one part of my day that I was determined would be extra special: my wedding perfume. Admittedly, it might seem a rather odd aspect of the day to obsess over, but as someone who loves perfume, I knew that I wanted a fragrance that would truly mark the occasion. I wanted a scent that I could smell in years to come that would still take me back to the most fun and joyous day of my life. And find it I did in the form of Byredo Bibliothèque (£122).
Perhaps not the most obvious choice for a summer wedding perfume, Bibliothèque is an homage to old books with warm, leathery notes that I found suited our Victorian-pub surroundings perfectly. It's musky, yes—and I always gravitate towards musky scents, so it felt very "me"—yet there's also sweetness from vanilla, peach and plum (quite like our fruity-tiered wedding cake) and peony and violet for a more traditional floral finish. Quite simply, I adore it. And smelling it three years later immediately takes me back to my wedding day.
But how do you go about choosing your wedding-day perfume if you have no idea where to start? After all, you probably already have a lot more on your to-do list than finding a fragrance if you're in the midst of planning your big day. To help, I asked the wonderful Emma South, fragrance and lifestyle expert at Jo Malone London—probably the most popular wedding-day fragrance brand in the UK—to shed some light on how to choose your wedding-day scent.
1. Keep It Personal
"When choosing your wedding scent, keep these three main points in mind: your day, your fragrance tastes and how you want to feel," explains South. "Depending on your day, the setting, season, flowers, colours etc., you might find you are drawn to scents that capture these details."
Hitting a beauty hall and spending a while just wandering around and seeing what types of fragrances you gravitate towards is also a great starting point—and is how I discovered the Byredo scent that I chose for my wedding day. But if that feels too overwhelming, then perfume brands like Jo Malone London offer specific wedding consultations to help you figure out what you like. "Think of this as a 'fragrance fitting' just as you would approach your wedding dress or suit," says South. "Knowing that the fragrances you help someone choose will act as such a powerful time capsule of their big day is a really special feeling."
For those short on time, I was keen to know if there are any fail-safe wedding-day perfumes out there that South would recommend. The answer is unequivocal: Jo Malone London Peony & Blush Suede Cologne (£102).
2. The Suits-All-Weddings Scent
"It's such a sweeping, romantic scent with armfuls of ruffled blooms. … [It's] our most popular scent with brides," says South. "It bottles abundant, endlessly unfurling peony petals in every shade of pink accompanied by the flirtatious bite of juicy red apple."
But the fun doesn't stop once your wedding-day perfume has been decided. Scenting a wedding can be so much more than just choosing a personal fragrance—it's about setting the mood for the whole day.
3. Beyond the Perfume
"Once a couple has thought about the scents they want to wear, we usually take that as a theme and suggest weaving it throughout the day," explains South. "This not only helps cement the scent memory for their guests but can create beautiful visual effects. Flickering candlelight dancing on the walls, radiating the happy couple's bespoke scent will give the illusion that they are everywhere, while striking candle centrepieces or table favours on every place setting look stunning and are a thoughtful takeaway for guests."
Ahead, keep scrolling for the very best wedding perfumes according to fragrance expert Emma South, classic bridal perfumes that never go out of style, and the wedding scents that Who What Wear editors wore for their own big days.
Shop the best wedding-day perfumes:
"Historically, orange blossom has been a symbol of eternal love and is often placed in the bridal bouquets across Italy, Spain and France," says South. "The Jo Malone London Orange Blossom Cologne is inspired by a shimmering garden oasis and is mesmerising lit as candles at a wedding."
Who What Wear senior sales and marketing manager Luisa Orlandi recently tied the knot, and this woody-floral perfume was her wedding-day scent of choice. "I do have a wedding perfume—it's very unlike me, but my mum chose it for me and sent it as a gift," explains Orlandi. "It's Dior Oud Rosewood, and it's one of my mum's recent favourites. It's lovely."
Smaller weddings were popular due to necessity during lockdown, but it seems that more petite wedding parties might look set to continue. South loves this light, refined perfume that was inspired by afternoon tea at the Ritz "for chic city weddings."
"I didn't buy into many of the traditions that come with weddings and being a bride (I didn't even go dress shopping!), but for some reason, the idea of a wedding perfume felt really sentimental and special," says Who What Wear Editor in Chief Hannah Almassi. "Having a ceremony in Spain meant that I wanted something that smelt like holidays, balmy summer nights and Mediterranean flowers. But I also wanted something unique that I wouldn't smell on other women in the future, so I opted for this after trying it in Liberty's famous perfume department. Harmattan is the name of a strong Saharan wind, and this amber-rich fragrance did have that kind of hot, dry, atmospheric feel. I spritzed far too liberally all that summer and almost ran out when I realised that the company had to change the formula. I now only have a tiny drop left in the bottle that I occasionally sniff to evoke a memory of the best day of my life. Roads team, I've tried emailing and DM'ing, begging you for old stock—hear my cry or change it back!"
This classic perfume harks back to 1912 and is one of the first multi-floral fragrances to ever be created. If you like your scents to have a story, then this might be for you. It is actually the perfume that Princess Diana wore on her wedding day. It's a tangy bouquet of bergamot, lemon and tarragon mixed with headier cedarwood, sandalwood and musk, while tonka bean adds a little sweetness. It's soft, complex, and a true floral.
"With spiced ruby fruits and lingering woods, Pomegranate Noir is perfect for a winter wedding," recommends South.
This popular perfume is kind of the antithesis to the classic wedding-day perfume in that it's based around a single note that's so subtle the wearer often can't smell it on themselves. Instead, it mixes with your natural pheromones to create a distinctive, personalised scent that others will gravitate towards. Trust me—I've lost count of the number of people who have told me they've been stopped in the street when wearing this. It's something of a modern classic, and I think it would make a unique wedding-day choice.
This sophisticated floral perfume smells at first of orange blossom—that classic wedding-day note mentioned by South earlier—but then gives way to heady jasmine and tuberose before drying down into vetiver and patchouli. Hubert de Givenchy actually created this for Audrey Hepburn's wedding day, and it wasn't released until much later to the public. Iconic.
I always recommend Aerin as a wedding-day perfume brand, as it does unique yet feminine fragrances so well. Plus, the bottles that they come in are so beautiful. This one is a celebration of all things tuberose with neroli, orange flower, cashmeran and cedarwood. It's bright, elegant and like sunshine in a bottle—a truly happy scent.
Meghan Markle is reportedly a fan of this classic Jo Malone scent, and South describes it as "such a graceful way to wear something blue." She goes on to say, "Inspired by the dewy, sapphire blooms that carpet English woodlands in May, the Wild Bluebell Cologne would be a perfect wedding scent for this time of year."