By Ellen Russell
As everyone knows, weddings and even bridal showers can involve some pretty hefty expenses: venues and caterers, restaurants or take-out, decorations and flowers. Favors can be a last-minute thought — and yet the costs can turn out substantial here too. So one of my favorite approaches to personal, affordable favors is making glycerin soaps by hand.
After all, what suits a “shower” better than soap? Don’t be intimidated — molding glycerin soaps is a project anyone can do. Yes, even if you flunked home economics in junior high. And what’s more, you can mold and package them to match any bridal theme or color combo.
Here’s how to start: find a supplier of melt-and-pour glycerin soap making supplies. Melt-and-pour soaps are pretty inexpensive, require little to no craft expertise and don’t need many supplies. In fact, all you’ll need to buy is the melt-and-pour soap base, dye in the color of your choice, any scents that catch your fancy (totally optional) and molds. Craft stores will offer you a decent selection of molds and supplies, but your selection online is almost infinite.
Secrets of the Kitchen-Counter Soap Masters
You actually may want to look for chocolate molds, not soap molds. While it’s true that you can find a vast variety of soap molds, your choices in chocolate molds is even more impressive. Take almost any hobby or interest the couple shares, or think of any symbol that suggests love, and you’re sure to find it in a chocolate mold. But you don’t have to make things complicated — a small heart shape is perfectly pretty and elegant.
Also, remember that for a larger event you could be making from 100-300 favors, so it’s smart to keep your molds on the small size. After all, favors are meant to be a little token — a miniature thank you for your guests, rather than a full-sized gift. This is where chocolate molds turn out to be especially handy, since they’re usually smaller than soap molds.
The only potential drawback here is that chocolate molds aren’t as tough and heat-resistant as the soap molds, but they’ll still last long enough for you to finish your project if you pour out the soap at manufacturer’s recommended temperatures. And at $1-$3 per mold, they’re cheaper than soap molds, too.
Getting Down & Dirty With It
Typically, your melt-and-pour soap base will come with directions for melting and molding. But if you want a little more hand-holding, most suppliers offer starter kits. These kits often contain helpful beginner directions and sample supplies, but you can definitely live without one. Even online bulk suppliers usually provide directions on their web site, and there are tons of melt-and-pour soap crafting books on the market … and at your library.
Simply put, the technique involves melting the soap base in a double boiler, adding your color and scent, and pouring the melted base into your molds. At that point, you simply need to let the soaps sit until they harden, then remove them. Rinse and repeat … until you have enough soaps to make favors for everyone. (Tip: if the soaps prove hard to remove, plunk them in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)
Also, you don’t need to buy a fancy double boiler to melt your soap. Combining an old sauce pan with a clean coffee can works just as well, and you won’t have to worry about the soap or additives ruining your pans. Cans make clean-up tremendously easier, since you can just rinse and recycle them when you’re done with your project.
Prettying Up the Package
Now you’ve molded all your soaps, it’s time to put on the finishing touch. Glycerin draws moisture from the air, so you’ll see small water beads forming on your soaps if you don’t wrap them in plastic. In fact, you’ll want to wrap them soon after they cool, to prevent any mottling.
Now that they’re wrapped, you can make them gorgeous at your leisure. A simple but pretty approach is to wrap each soap in tulle circles (white, or your wedding colors), gathering at the top and tying closed with a silky ribbon. Finish off your shower favors with a tag announcing the couple’s names and date. It’s also good idea to inconspicuously hint somewhere that your favor is soap — so no one mistakes them for something edible. (It happens!)
And that’s all there is to creating inexpensive, elegant and very affordable favors for your wedding or bridal shower. Anyone can do it — but if you’re really short on time, you can always contact a local crafter. Even when you hire the job out, glycerin soaps make one of the cheaper favors, and you still benefit from a unique favor that plays up your wedding theme and personality.