Probably one of the worst ideas we had when it came to the wedding was buying 90 terracotta pots with the plan to use them as both wedding favours and the name settings in one. This has definitely been the most time consuming part of our wedding preparation, if you’re a guest who came to our wedding and you’re reading this, please know a hell of a lot of love (and a significant amount of hate) went into these.
Our initial plan was to fill the pots with succulent plants, which would have been lovely and match our rustic theme. After realising a rather high percentage of my family live abroad meaning we’d probably be lumbered with a load to look afterwards, and I would also have to not kill 90 plants in the weeks before the wedding I also feared that plants would get knocked over, soil would end up everywhere meant it soon went out the window. By that point it was also too late as we’d already bought the pots.
The next plan was to fill them with foil chocolates – and after I bought a load of sample packs from various compnies online, I realised that the chocolate was not only horrible (so much so the sample packs are still in our cupboard not completely eaten, something we can never say about chocolate!) and I would need so many of them to fill the pots to the top that it would be really expensive.
For days I was thinking we were just going to have to sell them on to someone, and then the idea popped into my head – candles! I liked this as everyone could take it home – wrapped up safely in an item of clothes if abroad, and they would make the room smell nice on the day.
I started looking for ideas of how I was going to decorate the outer pot and found a Pinterest tutorial that looked easy, whilst I have some artistic talent for hand painting things, when you have 90 to do, and you only decide on this being the final plan 3 months before the wedding when you have plenty of other jobs to be getting on with, rules out a lot of options that were quite time consuming. Not only that there’s not many people in my family who have a lot of ability to paint neatly, so I was unlikely to get any help on that front if I chose anything too complicated. I liked the tutorial as it was idiot proof, and could be done in mass.
Step 1: Spray Paint The Pots
We spray painted all of the pots white (after some initial trials with acrylic paint we realised this would be a lot quicker. It needed 2 coats on the outside to be completely even, but we found we could get away with one coat on the inside to make them look nice and clean.
Step 2: The Ombre Effect
The tutorial used a product called tumble dye mixed with water, the pots are then dipped into the water at varying levels to create an ombre effect. I sourced tumble dye from amazon, but it just didn’t work. Either it didn’t stick well to the spray paint we used, or it was just crap, but we were having to dip each ‘stage’ 2-3 times to get enough pigmentation for it to show up. Each pot was taking 12 dips in (and a good 30 minutes between each dip to dry) to do, and it still wasn’t as bright as it should be, and I didn’t like them.
I decided to try mixing acrylic paint with water and tried this again and it worked much better, only 3 dips per pot was needed and it was much much brighter. We chose purples and blues – I have a large selection of these so just mixed until I got the right colours for our scheme. It was easier to squeeze the paint and mix it with a small amount of water first to remove any thicker blobs before mixing into the larger bowl of water, otherwise I found it to be a bit lumpy.
If you can I would totally recommend getting pots with no holes in the bottom if possible. We used 2p coins to bridge the gap between the metal base of the wick and the hole which was roughly the same size. Using hot glue to stick the 2p to the base and the wick base to the coin. I recommend doing wick > coin, then coin > pot as it becomes less fiddly reaching in and it’s easier to get it central. We also filled the hole from the other side with glue to be extra safe.
Step 3: Which Wax & Scent
We chose to use soy wax, Ben did a lot of research on what type of candle wax would be best before deciding on Soy. Whilst it wasn’t the quickest to melt, it was also not the quickest to burn the other end, and was the whitest in colour. Soy candles also burn quite clean and hold scents quite well. We ordered a few different essential oils for our test batch and decided we needed something a bit more pungent, as they weren’t giving off enough scent. We settled on a mix of 4 scents, Violet & Lime (my fave), Forest Fruits, Sandalwood and Fresh Apple. Out of all of them the Apple was the most disappointing, it wasn’t as strong as the other three.
For equipment we bought some cheap saucepans and glass pyrex-esque jugs from Wilkos (both own brand), that we didn’t mind getting ruined. You don’t want anything too small saucepan wise as the more your pyrex jug becomes hot will mean it melts faster. You can buy much bigger proper candle making stuff, to make bigger batches at once but unless you’re doing this professionally it’s expensive, we spent £12 on the jugs and saucepans and they did the job perfectly.
This allowed us to make 6 at a time (3 in each), we needed 130g wax per candle – 390g (per 3) takes roughly 10-12 minutes to fully melt down (preheating your pyrex jug helps speed the process!). After the wax is fully melted we stirred in the fragrance oil, it’s easy to think you can just bung in a load of essential oils but there are certain ratios to follow otherwise the candle will not burn well. We worked at around 11ml per candle and that was at the upper limit of the percentage for Soy. You need give the wax a few seconds to cool down before adding the fragrance otherwise it evaporates pretty quickly with the heat.
We had some metal wick holders which I totally recommend – we had a few extra ones which we made with paper clips (wouldn’t recommend, but worked – just not as well) – to hold the wicks up and keep it central, and otherwise they wick will just melt, go wobbly and potentially completely sink into your wax.
We left them to fully cool before topping any up which needed it (more on this on our top tips at the end!), and then left to fully cool again before clipping the wicks to just above the top of the pot by a mm – we slightly overfilled the candles and it would have been nice if they sat level, but you have to allow yourself a nice cm or so of wick for it to burn nicely. After clipped we gently folded down the wicks slightly and covering with clingfilm to try and keep the scent contained for the 4-5 weeks before the wedding.
Step 4: Decoration
Of course this is completely optional and there’s lots of different ways to do this. I debated hand painting names on but the very curved and angled surface did not make fun work of that task, given it was one of the last steps to be done because of RSVPs arriving and not wanting to do any unnecessarily, I decided against this after a few trials.
I found a product on Amazon called water transfer paper which is essentially a bit like a temporary tattoo that you can print at home, for homeware. You need an inkjet printer rather than a laser for this to work, and whilst I chose to use just a black design, you can print any colour with these. Had I have known they would be as easy to work with as they were I probably wouldn’t have bothered with dipping, I probably would have made the floral design that I created for our invites and used those, but that doesn’t matter as I loved the way they turned out.
After printing the designs I made (in Photoshop) for badges with our names & wedding dates and the persons name, to be on alternate sides of the pots. You spray the whole card with a clear sealer, I did this 3 times after reading some tips about this online. I did a test with one which had just one layer of sealer, and whilst it worked, the ink underneath cracked a little.
I cut out all the names and dates (that took around 4 hours) leaving around a mm or so around the edge of the design. I got this as close as I could but was using kitchen scissors so couldn’t get them as precise as I wanted but that didn’t particular matter for our next steps. You then soak the design in a bowl of water for around 20 seconds, before slipping the design off. Because my designs were so small I just lifted them with my fingers but if you had a bigger design I’d say undercurl the backing of the paper to make it easy as it’s flimsy whilst wet.
These dry with a glossy finish so the names and outlines were slightly noticeable on our Matte surfaced pots, it you were doing this on a glossier surface it might not be as noticeable, but I chose to finish the pots off with a light coat of sealer so they were protected from scratches and had an even finish all over. It’s worth noting we did that final layer of spray during a very hot week, this meant they didn’t set properly and it caused us having to respray them and keep them in our fridge for a week, we didn’t realise that the sealer didn’t like to be too hot whilst it’s setting (after it’s set it’s fine!)
Other than the cutting involved thanks to my swirly cursive font, this was super quick process as you can batch soak the paper and it only takes seconds to apply.
Avoid moving the candles – this is likely to cause bubbles in the wax and bigger pits on top that need refilling. It’s also recommended that you try and keep them in a spot that won’t even suffer from shudders such as doors closing – our kitchen island was perfect as it was close to the cooker and away from any doors.
Give it a few seconds after wax is fully melted off the heat before pouring the wax in, a slight cooling means that the essential oils don’t burn off with the heat as much and as much scent as possible will stay in your candle.
Get wicks a little longer than what you need, it makes it easier to handle and click into the wick holders, keeping them nice and taut – you can trim them down to size. Our trial batch we used the perfect sized wicks without trimming and they were difficult to manoeuvre.
Get some extra wax for top ups – candles are likely to pit in the centre slightly and will need topping up – no matter how much you fill them up as they cool (going to the top isn’t recommended as that’ll be dangerous when they’re burned). We found we probably needed an extra 15-20g per candle as a top up. I’d say add 10% wax per candle to be safe.
Terracotta Pots: 45p each (bought locally from a horticultural wholesaler)
Soy Candle Wax: (These were at bulk buy cost 10kg+)
Essential Oil: (Per 250ml which did 22 candles – £16.99 per 250ml fragrance Violet & Lime / Sandalwood / Juicy Apple / Forest Fruits)
Wicks: 20cm wicks (£5.99 per pack of 100 Graduate Acrylic Paint)
White Spray Paint: £9.99 per can (we used 3 cans for 90)
Decal Transfer Paper: £12.98 for 20 sheets (I used 6 sheets total for reference, and two of those were test pieces) Decal Paper Amazon
Clear Sealer: 1 x for the 3 layers on the transfer paper & 2 x for glossing over the pots at the end (£7.37 per can – Plasti-kote Spray Gloss)
Acrylic Paint: £1.79 per tube (the Graduate Acrylic Paint was the best I tried)
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