It might be a side-effect of all those late night say-yes-to-the-dress episodes. Or maybe it could just be the tireless research and planning; but sometimes, it feels as if I need nearly a million dollars to have a wedding in this day and age! As a bride on a budget, I made it my mission to save money by tracking sales, buying wholesale, and DIYing almost everything – now I am here to share my secrets with you!
Disclaimer: This is not a project I would recommend undertaking unless you have a lot of time and effort available to put into it. It took me a bit of trial and error to decide what worked best for me and different waxes, dyes, molds and scents can give you varying results. It also took quite a bit of time to compare prices and products. That being said, I am happy with the fruits of my labor (and I actually really enjoyed the entire process)! My time, money and effort were all well spent. Plus, everyone loves a handmade gift; it is personal, and your guests will surely appreciate the thoughtfulness.
Also, please keep in mind before starting a project such as this one that while buying product/ingredients in bulk will save you money, it will cost you a great deal at once. In my case specifically, (using the ingredients I listed) I was left with quite a bit of extra wax, fragrance, etc. So, although the price I paid for all of the products adds up to more than $2.00 per unit (candle), I was able to calculate unit cost by only including the exact measure of the ingredients I needed for each candle. (In short, I am excluding the cost of the extra product – which was a result of buying in bulk – to calculate my cost.) PPU may also vary depending on the decorations chosen for each favor.
Lastly, I would just like to throw this information out there: the only candles which are truly ‘good’ or healthy are aromatherapy candles made of beeswax and essential oils. Under normal circumstances, I would never use anything but beeswax or EOs however with the great quantity needed for wedding favors, I just cannot afford to pay almost $9.00 for a pound for wax.
HOMEMADE WEDDING FAVORS FOR LESS THAN $2.00 A PIECE!
The majority of our wedding guests will be flying down south to where we are having our wedding. Because of this, travel convenience was something that I had to keep in mind when choosing the perfect wedding favor. I also had to take into account the fact that I wanted my gifts to be useful; nothing that would sit on a shelf or in a drawer and collect dust. I finally decided that small homemade candles would be perfect! They are light, TSA friendly, useful, pretty and personal! Not to mention that they’re versatile and workable on any budget with any number of guests.
The first thing I needed to do was pick out heat-safe containers. (You could also buy votive molds if you would rather, but then you must look into packaging as well and this may drive your costs up unnecessarily.) I eventually found mine at Old Pottery Barn for $0.89 a piece. Keeping my container expenses under $1.00 per unit was an important mini-budget (a budget within a budget) I kept to. I also saved quite a bit of money by purchasing jars/containers without lids. (But don’t worry, I didn’t let my candles go naked! We will come back to the issue of covering them/adding makeshift lids.)
The “mini mason jar mugs” which I fell in love with (pictured above) were 5-ounce containers. This may sound small (I thought it did until I poured the candles), but in all honesty they turned out to be the absolute perfect size. Working with low-volume containers also offers the potential to save you a fortune on wax. (Larger candles may be appropriate for smaller weddings, but it is really all about your budgetary allowance and personal preference. Experiment a bit and see what you like; make sure not to lose sight of the fun in this project!)
The second thing that I did was research wax prices, because I knew that this was going to be my second largest expense (throughout the process). To my surprise, I found the best prices for nearly every item on the Bulk Apothecary website. (They have coupons and deals quite often, and an awesome range of products too!) Due to the extremely high prices of beeswax, I had no choice but to use soy wax. It is much cheaper, and it burns slower; however it lacks the natural and medicinal properties of beeswax. I ended up purchasing three 8lb bags of CB-135 blend soy wax for $17.40 a bag. (This was not an extremely high-quality wax, and some ‘frosting’ did occur on the inside of the containers once the wax dried. It didn’t bother me much, though.)
Next, I picked out fragrances. (For certain people with allergies and/or sensitivities, I have opted to make aromatherapy candles using essential oils and beeswax rather than fragrance and soy wax.) In the past, this has proven to be a tricky task to complete online, simply because of the fact that you cannot smell the product before you buy it. However, if you stick by positive reviews and go for smells you know you like, you should be fine. (Keep the season of the wedding in mind when picking out fragrances! I chose to get two different scents to make ensure that all of my guests would be happy with their parting gifts.) I purchased 16-ounce bottles of both Sweet Pea & Ivy fragrance ($20.60), and Maple
Cream fragrance ($18.80). (You must calculate the amount of fragrance oil, wax, dye, etc. you will need to use depending on the brand of products you buy, the
number of favors you’re making, the size of your containers, and what you think smells/looks the best.)
Aside from wax and fragrance, I also found the best prices on wicks and candle-dye at Bulk Apothecary. When purchasing wicks I went for something that was about 3 inches longer than I needed; the extra length is crucial when you are gluing them into the containers because (in my case at least) the opening of the jar was too narrow for my fingers to fit inside. I was able to get a 100-count pack of “6 wicks (cotton, lead-free) for $6.95. (Most wicks are actually still made with lead, which is not something that you want to inhale – be sure to ask for lead-free wicks when searching stores. All of Bulk Apothecary’s wicks are made free of lead.) My scarlet colored candle-dye (good for up to 20lbs of wax) was only $0.99. ( I bought two just in case.)
Aside from the bare materials, you will need a pouring pot (the bigger the better) for melting our wax, and you will also need a thermometer. (The thermometer is needed because different fragrances need to be added to wax at different temperatures.) I got these in a kit at Hobby Lobby (along with votive molds and extra wax/fragrance) for $19.99 (with a coupon). I also picked up a kitchen scale that can measure grams/ounces/pounds for weighing out the wax/measuring my oils and such. A hot glue gun is a handy tool to have on hand as well.
For more in depth instructions, you will need to contact the seller of your brand of products for specific details. (Bulk Apothecary online help-chat is an amazing feature. Those people can seriously answer any question in the world. I highly recommend buying from BA.) But, specific details aside…
Wash your containers before you do anything with them! I cannot stress this point enough. As clean as that glass looks, you’re going to notice the department store dust when it is glued to the glass by your newly ruined wax. (It will ruin your candles.)
Once they are dry and clean, use your hot glue gun and the end of a pencil or pen to secure the bottom of the wick into the center of the glass. Don’t cut off the excess wick yet.
Now, you can finally make some candles! Phew! Measure your wax and melt it over a medium heat on the stove, checking the temperature periodically. (I used a double boiler but it isn’t absolutely necessary.) Once you have reached the desired temperature, add coloring (slowly) and fragrance.
As far as the BA ingredients go, I used about 0.5-1.5 ounces of fragrance per pound of wax. One block of dye can be used for 10-20 lbs of wax (all a matter of personal preference). And, fragrance should be added when your wax has reached a temperature of about 135° F or higher.
Now, pour the wax into your containers! You are going to have to secure the wicks upright in the center while they dry. For this, you can use a pencil, tape, a Popsicle stick, or really anything that you’d like. Set them aside to cool/harden and check on them in 24 hours! When they are completely solid, cut the wicks! Now you’re ready to decorate!
For my decorations, I chose to go with a rustic-chic look; A simple black tag over shimmery white tulle. I also picked up a few stamps and a stamp pad in the clearance section of Michael’s craft store to decorate the front of the tags (right). I used a metallic silver sharpie to write the wedding date and the scent of the candle on the back of each tag as well. Lastly, I cut 4×4 squares of fabric, and layered them in twos on top of each jar before securing them with black thread.
And finally, many tears, burns, and hours later, you have made beautiful wedding favors from scratch for less than two dollars a pop (and they smell delicious if I do say so myself)! If you aren’t too sick of the smell yet, I would even recommend lighting one of those suckers up and taking a bath with your DIY bath bombs (but that project will be for another day)! Pat yourself on the back, maybe shed one last tear (this time, of joy) and call it a day, Woman. You have out-done yourself!