Ever since from the beginning, I’ve wanted to make the wedding souvenirs on our own. With a fairly small the number of guests, I thought it’s still manageable. I wanted something that is personalized and ultimately, usable and functional. Of course, it needed to be able to be DIY-ed.
There were quite a few options. I thought about making scented candles with dried flowers. Or having a small cactus plant for each of the guests. But it ended up being a no-go because some of our guests will be flying from out of town. We didn’t want the souvenir to be a hassle for them to carry around, with the risk of breaking and all that.
So, something that is not fragile, durable enough, and doesn’t take up space. Handmade soap bars.
The decision to make soap bars actually came unexpectedly. My cousins went into a soap bar workshop and shared me the experience. With that freshly-acquired knowledge at hand and their support, we (me, husband, cousins) decided that we could and should do this.
Obviously, it’s not just going to be any soap bar. I had a look that I want to achieve, starting from the color of the soap down to the packaging. The soap itself has to be in the perfect blue-grey shade that was inspired by my husband’s vintage suit. I knew it might not be easy to do because this type of shade is tricky. In the end, customization runs in my blood so I wasn’t going to give up easily.
I went shopping for the ingredients (including the tools) needed after calculating the amount and budget we need to prepare. The hardest part was finding the way to get that blue shade I dreamed of – but more of that later. Once that’s all done, came the experiments.
Of course, we had to do tryout batches first. It would be careless if we didn’t. We made several batches while testing out the color which was proven tricky. Initially, I was going to use blue pea extract to color the soap. But little did I know, the lye in the soap makes the whole batter caustic and very alkali which ultimately ruins the blue pea color. It’s practically impossible to bring the pH down as I’ve tried to add citric and lactic acid a few times to no avail. So I scratched blue pea and had to find a substitute.
I knew for that blue shade, the element that I needed to find is Indigo. Lucky enough, I was able to find a supplier who sells Indigo powder. For those of you who didn’t know, Indigo Naturalis is not only used as a blue dye for clothes but also for treating skin disorders. It’s known for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. It’s also a prized ingredient that’s used in TATCHA’s Indigo collection that I love (read my reviews on the Cream, Body Butter, and Hand Cream). Having it in the soap bar is a plus point.
That being said, using Indigo alone will not let me achieve the blue color that I want. The soap batter was greenish yellow in tone (thanks to the Extra Virgin Olive Oil we used). We had to use a lot of Indigo powder to get a somewhat acceptable blue shade. But that ended up being really dark and could actually stain the shower or towels. We didn’t want that. I had to think for a bit and found the perfect solution by adding Titanium Dioxide. It’s a natural mineral that’s usually used as a coloring agent (whitener) and widely used in sunscreen formulations.
By adding Titanium Dioxide to the mixture, it will whiten the soap batter, making it a more neutral base for the Indigo to show its true tone. Once I added the Indigo, with minor tweaks here and there, we have gotten ourselves that perfect blue shade.
We used palm oil, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil for the soap bars. Maybe, I could’ve cut costs by using regular olive oil but hey, it’s passed now. There’s no time to experiment with a completely new recipe. We used the original recipe that my cousins learned during the soap workshop with a few adjustments.
I added two essential oils for the soap, Lime and Palmarosa (bought them at Skin Dewi). I thought the two created and gave a lovely fragrance to the soap. It’s not overpowering. We had a little hiccup when I exchanged the essential oils to fragrance oil due to stock issues. Well, it was a disaster. Within seconds I added the fragrance oil, the soap batter acted weirdly, decided to clump yet separating. It’s just bonkers. After a quick search, the correct term was it accelerated and seized. Thank goodness I was able to get a new stock on the EOs. Otherwise, I’d feel guilty for the guests who’ll receive the non-scented soaps.
For the “garnish”, I chose dried blue pea flowers, lavender, and oatmeal. The oatmeal is the one responsible giving the illusion that it’s safe to eat due to the scent. The dried lavender also adds another depth in the soap’s scent. The colors aren’t as vibrant because they kind of get cooked while the soap was at its highest temperature. But that’s okay, they’re still identifiable to my eyes, LOL.
It’s not perfect and it’s not meant to be. The harsh lines, the size irregularities. They’re all tell-tales that this is handmade and they’re giving the soap a further rustic look.
We utilized the dining table for us to do this project. We covered the table with newspapers to avoid any spillings. I had a little mishap with the Sodium Hydroxide and it ended up burning a tiny spot on the dining table (sorry, Mom!). We laid all the ingredients and materials, sectioning them accordingly. Each of us had our designated station. But we shifted around to fill in the missing link. We’re essentially making a small assembly line.
In total, we made about close to 400 soap bars, including the tryout batches. Each batch cuts for 8 bars. The first night, we made 3 batches. Next night, 5. Eventually, we were able to reach 8 batches in less than 3 hours. Once we found the rhythm, it was easy. We just had to keep the momentum going. We were working like robots, LOL.
We did this at nighttime, after office hours. Can’t just do it on the weekends because there wouldn’t be enough time to do them all and it was nearing September already (wedding’s in November). The soap bars need to cure for at least 1.5 months before it can be used. Then we still had to wrap them individually.
I went for a quick scouring around and found the matching blue wrapping paper and hemp string. I didn’t want to have any too-fancy packaging or complicated wrapping technique because it’s going to take time. I have a perfectionist trait (so do my cousins) and there’s no time to fiddle with unnecessary details. Being efficient also means less wastage, as people will most likely throw the wrappers away.
The last touch, tie up the tag and voilà.
The soap bars also became a makeshift decoration element on the otherwise plain table setting for the private dinner reception. The blue was an accent, but still a main element in the theme. The soap was placed on the table for each of our guests. This was important because we want everyone to have one. This way too, they can just grab it on their way home.
We received so many wonderful feedbacks on the soap bars. Some funny – someone thought it’s a chocolate but quickly explained that it’s soap. Many didn’t have the heart to use it so they just keep it the way it is. It has a lovely soft scent, so some people place it in a drawer. The ones that do, use it for the hands and body. Words traveled around and many didn’t believe we made these ourselves. Bottom line, it was endearing to hear these kind responses. We were beyond ecstatic!
We have quite a lot left, so we still give extras every now and then. Especially for people who couldn’t make it to the wedding. I LOVE seeing their responses when I gave them the soap. It’s priceless and I think that’s one of the reasons why I insisted on personalizing this element. I’m truly glad that we got to make the wedding souvenirs ourselves. We learned so many new things, not just soapmaking (though it’s still basic), but also finding ourselves closer to each other in the process and after 😊
We thanked everyone who had helped us making these soap bars. Including my house assistants who washed the bowls and tools in between. Truly was a joint effort. Without you, there’s NO WAY we could’ve achieved them on our own.