Ah, wedding season. Which, really, is not right now. But having been commissioned to produce favors for an upcoming wedding, I thought I’d share some advice on going about it, as well as how I reached the final product. Experientia docet. (Experience teaches.) Here are a few guidelines.
This may be the most important rule. Large scale production, on the order of hundreds of bars, is going to be an effort for a single person, or even a small-scale production. I love beautiful, complex patterns and colors, like any devoted soaper. But the reality is, they take a lot of time. You will have to account for the cost of your labor when providing an estimate for the couple, but most of them will have a budget for favors, and it will have to include packaging as well, and maybe specific gifts for attendants. A simple soap is easier to produce in large quantities, and can make for a very elegant presentation of the end product.
White is almost always welcome at weddings, and titanium dioxide is definitely the way to go to get a good, bright, white. Nurture Soap’s formula is easy to work with and blends easily with water for even color. It’s best to begin with a formula that tends to stay light in color, so you’re not working against, say, a very green olive oil, but good TD will bring most formulas to a true white.
Please forgive my porch pictures, but the little studio area I use just does not do justice to this glitter, which the bride loved. I’ve talked about Mystic Gold Eco-friendly Enviroglitter before and tried to capture it on film, but the natural light really worked out better. (These that have been on my porch are part of a small sample batch, and will not be attending the wedding.) You can see how the white glitter shifts to a very bright wink of gold, perfect for an Autumn or holiday ceremony. After these were poured and unmolded, but still a bit sticky and soft, I brushed the glitter on the tips of the petals with a gloved hand. The effect is almost gilded. It’s striking and looks high effort, but is relatively simple.
The couple wanted the rose mold, to compliment their floral arrangements, and they found one they liked and ordered it. I find this to be a pretty agreeable arrangement, with a few caveats. Online ordering allows them to have almost any shape they want; however, you’ll want to have a look before they order molds. Shapes like skeleton keys and musical notes look pretty but will be difficult to unmold and fragile in transport. Seeing the mold before it’s purchased also gives you the figures you need to give an accurate estimate of the amount of soap that will be required. If you order from an actual soap making company, you’re guaranteed to get accurate measurements of capacity, as in this, or this, or Nurture Soap’s other molds. I highly recommend calculating the price per bar/ball/flower/etc and presenting them with that. Guest lists grow and shrink, according to all manner of factors, and that will give them the ability to adjust their costs in their heads as they adjust their list.
In the excitement, it is easy for them to forget soap needs time, over and above the requirements for its production. You might be able to push yourself to meet a tight deadline, but you can’t skimp on curing time and still turn out a safe product. You’ll have to have a set date past which you can no longer take the work. You must give yourself plenty of time, including production and planning and packaging time on top of the curing time, and things can get set by the wayside, unless you are very clear about just how important that curing time is. To my knowledge, there is no way to abbreviate it, and they need to be aware of that.
Some soapers will include a business card or website link in the box or bag in which the soap will be presented. It isn’t right or wrong to do it, but it is critical that you discuss it with the couple. Some couples will think it ‘tacky’ to include it. Others will wonder why you don’t want any further business since you didn’t make yourself accessible. It’s up to you and the client, but you’ll want to be on the same page.
Weddings are stressful. People who are ordinarily delightful can get a little off center under pressure, and it helps not to take it personally. It’s alright to say, “Perhaps we could revisit this tomorrow. Now seems like a bad time.” There’s a limit to how many times you can put off a conversation, (see Hard Deadline, above) but there’s also a limit to how productive a conversation can be if tension is high.
It’s a joy to participate in other people’s happiness in this way, and to make their big day a little brighter. Everybody has to bathe, and a lovely, little, handcrafted soap is a wonderful way to thank one’s guests for being a part of the celebration.