Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wedding DIY Tutorial #1 - Salt Water Taffy (or any other candy/dessert) Bar

Who doesn't love candy?! Of course, this is coming from the girl that tries to incorporate something sweet into each of her meals. Indulging in your Mom's famous chocolate cake or a handful of swedish fish not only tastes great, but can often times bring back memories of childhood. For example, whenever I have an ice cream cone, I always think back to my childhood vacations spent on Long Beach Island.

Candy bars are a great way to personalize a special gathering. Candy bars have become quite popular at weddings, showers and other events the past few years. When I was planning our wedding, I remember coming across numerous ideas and beautiful pictures of candy bars. Not only were these displays beautiful, they are a great and relatively inexpensive way to provide a variety of different desserts/favors to your guests. Here are a few pictures of candy bars from a variety of different events:

Amy Atlas

Amy Atlas
Amy Atlas
Amy Atlas
Because our wedding was in a coastal town, I tried to incorporate subtle coastal traditions and decor into our wedding without going over the top. I decided that a salt water taffy bar would be a great way to highlight the location of our wedding, along with our love of the coast. In addition, salt water taffy was invented in Atlantic City, NJ, which was just a matter of minutes away from where we got married. That fact sealed the deal for me.

I knew that I wanted to save money by purchasing the taffy in bulk myself, along with the glass jars to display the taffy. I also wanted to design and print my own labels and favor bags. I knew I would save a lot of $$$ doing this myself, and I wanted to ensure that the labels, etc. would match with our other wedding stationary (which I also designed - more DIY posts on this at a later date).

I googled around to locate different taffy shops and ultimately decided on The Taffy Shop. I based my decision on price and the ability to individually select flavors (versus getting a mixed bag of flavors). The Taffy Shop were extremely wonderful to work with. I placed my order with the general manager, and I had originally requested to order 5 lb bags of 20 different flavors (100 lbs total!) I knew this was probably more than I needed, but it was inexpensive and I really didn't want to run out or have the bar look "skimpy." While talking to the general manager, she asked what I was ordering the taffy for, and when I told her my plan she reassured me that I would at most need only 2.5 lbs per flavor, and I'd still have plenty of leftovers. I really appreciated her honesty with me and can't say enough good things about her and her company. She was right, too - we had more than enough taffy for the bar, AND I gave away bags of taffy to family members, put handfuls in our hotel welcome bags for each guest and I still have some left in a taffy jar I saved from the wedding. Does it still taste good? Probably not as it's been almost 1 year...but I can't bear to throw it out as it reminds me of the wedding. I feel like I have a 1-year, newlywed grace period..then after the anniversary...we'll see what happens. Oh, one other tip from the GM at Taffy Shop - she suggested I order the taffy no sooner than 1 month from the wedding to ensure the taffy would be at its freshest.

Moving on to taffy jars. I love the look of varying sized apothecary jars grouped together:
Budget Dream Weddings

Strictly Simple Style
I knew if I purchased 20 apothecary jars (like the ones pictured above) that could be expensive....they typically cost between $20-40 a pop. I decided to splurge on 2 large, beautiful jars and I borrowed another gorgeous apothecary jar from my Mom. I figured if I had a mix of really pretty, standout jars along with more simple glass vases it would still achieve the look I was going for. I scoured a variety of discount stores looking for glass containers that weren't necessarily being marketed as apothecary jars but with the right styling could totally fit the bill. Diamonds in the rough if you will. The Dollar Store (yep, the Dollar Store - no shame here), The Christmas Tree Shop, TJ Maxx were my top stores for this project. I picked up inexpensive vases that had a large opening so that guests could easily stick their hands into the containers to retrieve taffy. I also found great success by purchasing some $1 glass canisters (originally intended to be used in the kitchen to store sugar, flour, pasta, etc.). Finally, I searched my house for any glass containers (I scrounged up several vases and a punch bowl that worked perfectly) and I also asked the women in Brian's family if I could borrow a few glass containers. By thinking outside of the box, you can definitely find some pretty glass jars to use for a candy bar display for no more than several bucks per jar. Another benefit of buying these glass containers versus all 20 apothecary jars? They can be reused after the wedding!! I reuse the vases for flowers (obviously) and the glass kitchen canisters now store, you guessed it, our sugar, flour and pasta. I am glad we splurged on several nice apothecary jars to not only give the display a high-end look, but we also have reused these jars, too, as decorations on our mantle and in our dining room. These beautiful jars can be filled with pinecones in the fall, round ornaments in the winter, colored eggs in the spring and seashells in the summer and make for some gorgeous seasonal decorations. Would I need 20 apothecary jars to decorate my house? Total overkill. But, by mixing and matching I have been able to reuse basically all of the jars while achieving my ultimate design goal for the taffy display.

The last step was pulling everything together with the finishing details - signs, labels and goodie bags. I knew that I wanted a taffy display sign to invite guests to take home some taffy. I also wanted to have a sign explaining the story of salt water taffy and how it came to be invented (it's actually a very cool story!) I wanted to have individual signs for each jar of taffy so guests would know what the flavors were. Finally, I wanted to have custom goodie bags for guests to fill up with the sticky stuff. Making the signs was easy enough - I had already selected my wedding stationary font (Beautiful ES) and downloaded it to my computer. I then simply typed up the flavors using Microsoft Office's label template. I printed the labels on white iridescent cardstock and used a paper cutter to cut the labels out. I had ordered extra place card labels (miniature white silk stands wrapped in gray satin ribbon) to hold the taffy labels. I purchased these place card holders from Etsy. I used the same font  and paper to type up the taffy bar sign and the story of salt water taffy. I then framed each in an 8x10" silver picture frame. Lastly, I purchased miniature white bags in bulk and printed out our wedding monogram on label stickers and adhered each monogram sticker to the bag. Ta da! Taffy bar complete!

Setting up the Taffy Bar

During the wedding

Besides standard candy and salt water taffy, there are many other ways to have a dessert bar, including: hot chocolate bar (I did this at our holiday open house this past year), old fashioned candy bar, cookies and milk bar, coffee bar, color-themed dessert/candy bar, cake bites bar, cupcake bar, cake display...the possibilities are endless! Consider your wedding theme, colors or your personal interests when deciding what kind of bar to include at your wedding or party. Love the beach? Salt water taffy might be your best bet, too! Is your family famous for homemade cookies? You could even include one of your family's recipes printed out on a pretty little card (or on a mini take out bag to stow away extra cookies) for guests to take home.

I hope this post will help you come up with inexpensive ways to create your own candy/dessert bar at a future party, wedding or event. Please let me know if you have any questions about my salt water taffy bar, or if you have some ideas to share of your own!

I am linking this post to the following parties: The DIY Showoff, Between Naps on the Front Porch, Skip to My Lou, The Girl Creative, House in Roses, Making the World Cuter, Keeping it Simple, Sumo's Sweet Stuff, Super Stinky Boys, Mad in Crafts, Creating Really Awesome Free Things, Coastal Charm, Hope Studios, New Nostalgia, Trendy Treehouse, Tip Junkie, The Gypsy's Corner


  1. What a fun idea! I bet your weddng guests were thrilled. Congrats on your new blog!

  2. Oh fun! I love this!
    Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie! I can't wait to see what you have for next week!

  3. Beautiful candy bar! I love this new trend in the candy and party world. The best of both!

    Thanks for sharing your insights on how to get so many jars. I would love to have so many jars without the expense. It's great to know where to look for some alternatives.

    I'm sure you'll see more jars on my party displays now! Thanks so much.

  4. What a fun idea! Looks fabulous! Thanks for linking up with JFF!

  5. this is a great little idea for a party...love all the 'sweet' photos...thanks for linking it up to fridays unfolded.



  6. What a fun and fabulous idea!! I love your display and your photos are beautiful! Thank you for sharing this at Feathered Nest Friday! :)

  7. A better question is who didn't like chocolate.