Adding Fragrance to Your Wedding Plan

October 19, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015
The Casa Blanca Oriental lily is a fragrant choice to add the element of scent to your wedding. (Sharon McGukin/'Flowers of the Heart: A Bride's Guide to Choosing Flowers for Her Wedding')
The Casa Blanca Oriental lily is a fragrant choice to add the element of scent to your wedding. (Sharon McGukin/'Flowers of the Heart: A Bride's Guide to Choosing Flowers for Her Wedding')

For the one day in your life that you want everything to be perfect, think about adding the element of scent to the setting. As you plan, go beyond the perfume and aftershave you and your groom normally wear to the scents that will be wafting throughout the air during the ceremony and the reception.

Many brides will want to wear their regular perfume since that is the one their fiancé and friends connect with them. Others might want to select a special one befitting the special occasion. Maybe this is the time to splurge on that perfume that’s too formal for most days of your life.

But think about it. Our sense of smell brings in emotional responses that are almost unconscious, fixing in our minds forever the times we've spent in a fresh garden, a warm kitchen, walking in the woods, or any of our favorite places.

So as you go beyond your personal perfume, consider what fragrance you want to present to create the memory of the emotions on this day. Your choice of flowers will determine much of the fragrance that will drift around the room. Or if you hold your reception in a room with a fire burning in the fireplace, that will set the stage in the fragrance department.

But if you don’t have a strong source of fragrance from flowers or a fireplace, you can add it in other ways. And if your floral choices provide subtle scents, you can complement them with these ideas. Use scented candles as the light- and scent-source on the tables. Even incense sticks can be incorporated as part of the decorations and can be lit after the dinner is finished.

Floral designer Sharon McGukin, author of "Flowers of the Heart: A Bride's Guide to Choosing Flowers for Her Wedding," says the flowers she likes to use to add scent to the event are freesias in the bridal bouquet, gardenias tucked around in places so their perfume is carried through the air, and sprigs of lavender on the pew markers and the place cards. Some lilies have a scent and some don’t; one of the scented ones is the Casa Blanca Oriental lily.

She comments that for a long time fragrance was not an element in wedding planning; now it is. “By using very fragrant flowers you enhance the environment—a very strong scent makes it seem you have more flowers. Scent creates a memory of the event,” she explains.

McGukin suggests that you tell your florist if you are looking for a certain scent, or if you would like a certain flower to be fragrant, since some varieties and some sources produce more highly scented flowers. Also there is a trade-off between being long-lasting and having a strong scent. She also advises that you should find out if anyone in the wedding party has allergies that would be stirred up by your choices.

Creative Combinations

Scent specialist Imani Phoenix of Esscentially YOU tells us about the smell and traditional meaning of some of the flowers we might use. The red rose traditionally means love. Brides may choose the rich fall shades right now. Using red and white roses together means unity, and a bud means pure and lovely. Rose has a strong scent and often holds memories for many people, and is considered an aphrodisiac by some. It has a long and romantic history with humans, going back many centuries, and invokes the works of many poets, writers, and artists. It is considered by some to have the highest spiritual alignment of all flowers.

Citrus may be a good complement, or irises with their purple and lavender colors. Honeysuckle traditionally means generous and devoted affection. It has the sweet scent that may evoke memories of fun and the carefree summer afternoons of childhood. A bride may want to blend it with sprigs of rosemary (remembrance) and bright, joyous sunflowers.

Lavender is considered a universal scent with a long history; it has been thought to promote well-being, peace, love, and health, all with a spiritual component. In terms of love, lavender has two beliefs attached to it: It enhances piety and also the opposite—it encourages passion. Its color is a soft, light purple with gray-green foliage. Blend it with citrus, or clary sage and chamomile. Calla lilies may be a lovely complement, too.

Eucalyptus was traditionally thought to promote well-being, to be a purifier, and to help healing. The scent is bright and clean and can produce a wonderful ambiance on cool autumn days. Because eucalyptus is from a tree, juniper, pine and sandalwood are good matches with their scents. Flowers that may go well would be violets (blue), which stand for faithfulness, or perhaps white and fall-colored chrysanthemums. (Red mums signify “I love”). Lavender and lemon are good choices as well. Dried grasses may enhance eucalyptus, bringing a light texture to the mix.

Depending on the setting, a deep and rich scent may be a good choice for the darker days approaching winter. Sandalwood is another tree scent, often associated with places far away. Lemon, frankincense, patchouli, and ylang ylang are all scents that blend well with sandalwood and all are quite distinctive. These combinations may be most appropriate for evening weddings that embrace exotic and richer settings.

If the scents of the flowers will be combining with the aromas of food, the bride may choose to incorporate culinary scents as part of the floral arrangements. For example, use cardamom or star anise, sprigs of herbs such as garden sage (esteem), spearmint (warmth of sentiment), mint, marjoram, thyme, oregano, black pepper, vanilla, lemongrass, and the fruit or peel of lemons or oranges.

Selective Weddings

Lily-of-the-Valley traditionally means return of happiness, and it may be wonderful for a second marriage when the parties knew each other when they were younger.

Zinnias traditionally signify thoughts of an absent friend. While it is not often that someone loses a loved one just prior to their wedding, it does happen, and zinnia may be an appropriate choice to grace the wedding ceremony.

Gifts for Bridesmaids, Matrons, and Bridal Party

Pomanders made from oranges or other citrus and cloves make great gifts that carry their own strong scents, as do sachets made from dried flowers. Wreaths made of flowers or evergreen boughs, pine cones, and dried grasses provide beauty for the eye and fragrance that will carry forward the feelings and memories of this special day.

Remember that long after the dress is packed away and the flowers have faded, the memory of your wonderful event will come alive when you smell the special scents that you chose for it.

Sharon McGukin can be reached at

Imani Phoenix can be reached at