Before I got married, I read some advice on a wedding message board: Buy a new fragrance and use it for the first time on your wedding day. Every time you use it in the future, the smell will transport you back to the big day.
The advice made sense to me because smell can be such a strong memory trigger. A certain hand soap scent might remind you of your grandmother’s house or the smell of dry fall leaves can make you feel 7 years old again, running and jumping through piles in the backyard of your childhood home.
Here’s how this works, according to Psychology Today:
Incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb, which starts inside the nose and runs along the bottom of the brain. The olfactory bulb has direct connections to two brain areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory: the amygdala and hippocampus. Interestingly, visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) information do not pass through these brain areas. This may be why olfaction, more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions and memories.
Unfortunately, the inverse can also be true; smells can trigger bad memories, too. A certain flower scent might transport you back to a painful funeral, or an air freshener might trigger the memory of a bad car accident. There isn’t much you can do to avoid that, but we can actively attempt to link new scents with memories that we know will become lifelong favourites, like your daughter’s graduation day or your first trip to Italy.
I took the advice; I bought a new perfume a few days before my wedding. I wore it on my wedding day and the whole next week while we were on our honeymoon. When we returned home, I put it away for several months. The next time I wore it — and still to this day, 10 years later — every time I smell it, I’m standing on the balcony of our resort in Cabo, staring out over the pool and the palm trees and the beach, all the way to the ocean.