Aside from the paper flower arch, the main diy decoration for our wedding was mason jar candleholders. The backyard of our church is surrounded by low walls. Follow a break in the foliage behind where our guests sat, and there is a stone labyrinth. Inspired by mason jar posts on pretty much every wedding blog I read, I decided to put candles in jars on all those walls and around the labyrinth.
I've read about people spending $3.50 or more for just one jar, and since I wanted around 200 jars, that would have cost more than the dessert catering or the scavenger hunt. I wasn't willing to give up food or fun for mason-jar prettiness, but I wasn't willing to give up on the idea, either.
I sent an email to everyone I work with, asking them to save pasta sauce jars for me (we've got free curbside recycling here, and people are used to rinsing their glass jars and throwing them in the recycling bin, so I wasn't asking them to do anything extra except bring them to school.) I also asked our friends and in-town family to save jars for us, and they started slowly piling up.
Over the course of about a month and a half, we had collected around 100 jars. My friend Danita loaned me another 25 or 30 (it is not easy to get the wax out afterward, so I don't recommend borrowing jars for this purpose.) Then my amazing cousin Melina saw me post about jars on facebook, and she offered to ship a bunch of them from Albuquerque. I didn't think it would be worth it, until she reminded me that she works for a large national shipping company. Apparently, she collected jars from all of her friends as well, and about 40 more jars arrived the day before the wedding! Wow!
When we moved into this house, we found a bag of sand, and I decided to put a little of the sand into the bottom of each jar before putting the candles in. I had the candles made locally with soy wax. Cache la Poudre Candleworks gave me a much better deal than I found anywhere except the dollar store. Hmmm...dollar store candles made out of who-knows-what by little children or underpaid adults in China and shipped halfway around the world, or local soy candles made to my specifications by someone I know...no contest!
It was still light out during the ceremony, but as it got darker and darker the candles got more and more dramatic. I came outside to cool off for a few minutes during the reception, and the yard seemed so magical it literally took my breath away. I almost wish that we'd planned to have the whole reception outside, not just the ceremony (though some people did hang out outside, the food and music were inside.) But I guess it's just as well we didn't, since the sprinklers turned on before the party was totally over!
If we had more time, I would have wired up jars to hang from trees or from the gazebo, and if we had more money I would have bought some shepherd's hooks to hang the jars from, creating sort of a path out to the labyrinth. As it was, we planned our wedding in only three months on a pretty tight budget, so I'm glad we were able to pull off the mason jar thing at all.