Light Up your Olfactory Bulb: the Use of Scent for Weddings and Events

September 22, 2015

Wedding Scents

We recently discovered Design In Scent, a fabulous business run by the lovely Gemma Hopkins who introduces the concept of scent for weddings.

Wedding Scents - ternevents

Gemma Hopkins of Design In Scent

Intruigued by the the variety of ways in which Gemma believes scent for weddings or events can be used, we asked Gemma to enlighten us. Over to you Gemma…

Scented Invitations.jpg

Scented Invitations

When designing a wedding or event, we curate the visual surroundings incredibly carefully to either set a particular tone or conjure a creative theme. We deliberate which music will contribute to the effect, in addition to the look, taste and serving style of the food. Even the tactile environment is considered as we select the most suitable card stock for invitations and day stationery and choose tablecloths and napkins.

There’s one sense, however, that has for historical reasons been relegated to the bottom of the sensory pile, and which consequently is often overlooked when it comes to events. Our sense of smell is the oldest of our senses. It’s a chemical sense responsible for detecting danger, mates and food and is therefore in part responsible for our survival. This is because it has a direct link to the brain’s limbic system – otherwise known as our ‘emotional brain’ – and more specifically to the olfactory bulb. This controls our imagination, emotions and the formation of long-term memories.


Images from the Perfumery

When you smell something for the first time, your brain forges an association between the scent and whatever you are experiencing, be it a person, a place or even a moment. When you smell the scent again, that memory and the emotion attached to it are ready and waiting to be instantly recalled. In terms of survival, this has enabled us to learn, for example, to recoil at the smell of decaying food to protect us from illness. Many scents stir nostalgia of childhood because this is when they were smelt for the first time. Think about the smell of your grandmother or a log fire and see how they make you feel.

Why then is it, that aside from the odd scented candle, we rarely stop to consider our sense of smell when designing events? It has to do with a ‘re-evaluation of the senses’, which was led by the intellectual elite of the 19th century. The philosophers and scientists of the time decreed sight to be the most important sense – the rational sense, detached from emotion, that would logically lead to discovery and knowledge.

Scents For Events.jpg

Scents for Events

Smell on the other hand was considered the sense of intuition, sentiment and seduction, all of which were linked to women. It was also the sense associated with savages and animals, which along with women were deprecated by society. Times however are once again changing, as we are increasingly looking for an escape from our ordered, rational world. We want to be touched by memories and emotions and allow our imaginations to fly. We therefore believe it’s time for another re-evaluation of the senses to create something rather more balanced. Scent should be used in events in a way that sits in perfect harmony with the other senses. Depending upon the type and style of event, it can be used to different effect.

The first is with an event that has a creative concept. Using a recognisable scent when linked with visuals, such as the smell of freshly cut grass and honeysuckle for a secret garden theme, immerses guests in a more realistic way and allows them to connect with their own scent-related memories.

Scent is also perfect for events with more formal styling. In the same way that a colour palette is chosen to convey a particular mood, scent can be designed to have a similar emotional impact. Introducing a heavy, sweet scent when you’re using a palette of white and grey to create an airy and sophisticated tone would clash and negatively impact the visual effect. The right scent however would prompt a feeling in guests that visuals simply cannot do alone.

Scent For Weddings.jpg

Scents for Weddings

Lastly, scent can be used in the creation of new memories, which makes it a beautiful and incredibly powerful part of weddings and anniversaries. If a unique scent is created and smelt in the run up to and duration of an event when positive emotions are running high, a permanent association will be created. When in the years to come that scent is smelt, all the memories and emotions will be instantly elicited, both for the couple and their guests. The scent can then go on to become an integral part of their home.

Thank you so much Gemma, so very interesting. If you are interested in finding out more about how scent might be used for your wedding or event please contact Gemma at

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