I'm feeling a bit LED astray by my wedding lighting options.
December 17, 2011 9:43 PM   Subscribe

What is the best direction to go in for LED accent lighting/throwies on a budget that demands maximum bang for the buck?

So, we're getting married in a few months and doing alot of the planning, cooking, incidentals, ourselves for ideological and monetary reasons.

One of the 'honey-do' items I've been tasked with is the purchasing and construction of LED accent lighting. That's my kinda project and I think it'll really make for an impression on our guests, plus we can take all those suckers apart after the festivities and I'll have a ton of LEDs to give away or play with for future projects (LED solar garden lights anyone?). We might even work them into the favors for our guests somehow. Who knows...

Don't worry about the mason jar aspect of the supplies, between family and our stash we'll have plenty. I've also got a TON of hard drive magnets that I can use for the 'throwie' aspect of things. I just need sources for the LED and batteries. Based upon the tutorials I've seen it looks like a 10mm (preferably diffused) LED and CR2032 coin cells are the norm for these projects, but I'm open to discussion as to their suitability.

Things/Sources I've already discovered:

-- I know supplies like this are more affordable in bulk, if the deal is right I'd be ok with buying supplies to make between 100 and 300 (or even 500 in a pinch).
-- The fiance prefers the colors white, blue, and green, with the majority being white. There is some room to wiggle here, but not much and only if there's a good reason.
-- I've found some sources already but I'm unsure about the following things...

Major talking points/questions:

1) Am I on the right track with my chosen design? I don't really have a reason to go with 10mm LEDs and that model of coin batteries. Any insight into the how's or why these are the best choice would be appreciated. For example, it looks like these 'x-type' LEDs are quite a bit cheaper so why not use those instead?

2) The sites in the links above seem to be the best I've found so far. To their credit I've heard good things about them and their website has that smell of 'industrial supplier, take us or leave us' that makes me get all warm and fuzzy when I go to see pricing. Do you know of any better site/deals for me to purchase from?

3) I'd take any help at all regarding designing the actual lighting devices themselves but I'm thinking of keeping it pretty simple with the mason/random jar idea and supplemented by throwies in strategic places.

Thanks ladies and gents for all the helpful advice that I know is inbound soon!
posted by RolandOfEld to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to mention venue details:

Rented house on the beach that we'll have free reign of for a week before and a week after.

Lighting only a primary concern for one night.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:51 PM on December 17, 2011

Best answer: Check out Floralytes or other LED products for the floral industry. As cool as the DIY stuff is, I'm not sure you want to be assembling a gazillion LED units (and you'll likely need a fair number to have a substantial impact) right before your wedding, especially if you're already doing the cooking and decorating by yourself. I've used the standard Floralytes for a theate project before and they worked quite well. Many of the models are waterproof, which could permit some interesting uses.

That link is simply the first that came up from Google. You can probably get better pricing in bulk from other suppliers.

You could consider combining the LEDs with floral gel (also available in pretty much every color) for further creative effects.

posted by zachlipton at 11:15 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can't decide between types of advice so I'll give you two conflicting sets:

1) Don't over think it. LEDs are LEDs and batteries are batteries, more or less. I have bought tons of both from Evil Mad Science and CheapBatteries.com and have been very happy. I probably would't bother with the magnet part of the throwies and just tape, hang, and pin them around.

2) On the other hand it takes a lot of work to make as many throwies as you need. And you need more than you think you do. I wouldn't do anything less than 250, probably 500+. You can't make them too far ahead because they'll dim noticeably. (a CR2032 battery can make an LED light up for a couple weeks, but most of that time it wil be very very dim.) Is that what you (and your friends) really want to be doing leading up to the party?

Christmas will be passed in a few days. Buy all the short strings of LED lights that you can the day after Christmas when they're on clearance. Put them in mason jars, hang them everywhere.

It will cost about the same, you'll be able to reuse them, and it will take a small fraction of the time and effort to set up.
posted by Ookseer at 11:34 PM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

in the wholesale district downtown (L.A.) you can buy led-based (batteries included) toys for as low as a few bucks per dozen, often with each toy containing multiple LEDs/color changing/chasing effects...it's almost always cheaper to buy LEDs already integrated into a product and then gut them...the bulk discounts for LEDs really don't become worthwhile until you're buying 10,000+ units. two good recent finds: a case of 50 lighters for $40. the lighters contain an led with batteries inside a tiny plastic capsule with push-button switch inside the lighter switch...pops out with a screwdriver. oh, and the LEDs project a trefoil pattern of red, green and blue up to 20-30 ft away with multiple chasing patterns controlled by a chip within the LED itself (should u care to remove it and string a bunch together, like i did)...find 2: mini lightsabers, $8/dozen, each with 10 mini-sized (3mm) blue LEDs and 3 button cells (approx 6cents per led and 2 cents per battery!)
check yr local wholesale district for the kinds of toys they sell at street fairs and carnivals.
(also check out home depot...they have a new line of compact flourescent 'party bulbs' in a full rainbow of colors that are super-bright and colorful...if you want to think bigger...)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:33 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you have access to a lot of broken glass then filling the jars with broken glass creates a nice effect.
You can probably ask a local pub for the contents of a glass bin and carefully smash it up with a hammer yourself.

If your budget can stretch to it then you can buy colour-changing LEDs that will cycle through RGB, CMY and white.

With regards to making them, have you considered local schools? I can say from personal experience that kids love making throwies and if you let them take a dozen or so I'm sure they'd be glad to help you out.
posted by alby at 3:41 AM on December 18, 2011

Just a small warning: I don't like the combination of "hard disk magnets" and "throwie". Neodymium magnets are extremely brittle (think glass) and may shatter into countless very sharp fragments when thrown at a metallic surface. Neodymium toys are small and nickel-plated for this reason, I suspect hard disk magnets are not as well protected (and comparatively large/heavy). Take care.
posted by Nightwind at 3:57 AM on December 18, 2011

Nightwind is right about neodymium magnets shattering but if they're part of a throwie, taped up, it's not usually too much of a problem - magnets do, after all, tend to stick together and to magnetic surfaces. Also, I think RolandOfEld is looking to use throwies as fixed accent lighting, not actually for throwing.
posted by alby at 4:05 AM on December 18, 2011

Christmas lights will start being really discounted soon. Target has quite a few battery-powered 'votives.' If you buy in bulk, they get quite affordable, probably as cheap as making your own.
ledpartylightstore.com - I bookmarked this for future shopping fun.
AliBaba has scores of wholesalers for floralytes with good prices.

I think it will be awesome.
posted by theora55 at 8:12 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's nothing wrong with the X-type LEDs for your purpose except you should expect more duds in those bags and you might have some that die young.

Superbright LEDs are dirt cheap on E-bay in bags of 100 to 500 and often come with resistors for 5 or 12V but I wouldn't screw with anyone without a 99%ish approval rating (and order early, just in case - I've only had one order never show up when ordering this kind of stuff - it was refunded by PayPal so no biggy, but I had NO deadline. You do.)

AA batteries may be cheaper than coin cells - And they're free if you can find somebody who works a job where they throw away tons of AAs that are only slightly used. (My old job used to use little thermal monitor dohickies for critical shipments where they pulled the paper ribbon and threw the rest away - the batteries were typically good as new.) Alos, you can drive a mess of LEDs with a wall wart power supply. If you go this route you have to be careful about everything being insulated and not shorting out and killing the fuse in your power supply (as those are typically not easy or even possible to replace).

If you go with super-bright LEDs you're going to want some sort of diffuser on them or to get the inverted cone style LEDs which produce a sort of spherical light ratehr than a focused beam. I've bought these in yellow before (so non-white colors are available) or you could just brush a little clear tinted enamel on some of them in the colors you want.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:41 AM on December 18, 2011

Theora55 - I see your Target and I raise you a Walmart sale.

Where I live all Christmas lights are 60% off at Walmart. They have led string lights, tea lights and these really tiny string lights that are battery operated and would look awesome in a mason jar etc.
posted by cda at 11:02 AM on December 18, 2011

Response by poster: Great replies here. Let me respond in turn.

1) Yea, we are planning on scavenging the bins after christmas is over but we want to try to avoid the "Oh, look at the wedding that scavenged all the christmas bins" look. I think the isolated layout/appearance of the LED devices scattered around (maybe even with some real tea light style candles) will help differentiate things a bit.

2) Regarding the magnets shattering on impact: we're not planning on throwing any of these. I'm just saying I have magnets therefor I can attach them to anything ferrous with ease and without harming the rental property with excess tape/hangers.

3) The shattered glass in the mason jars idea is awesome, just what I was looking for. Ditto for the jelly stuff.

4) I can't see myself buying cheap, imported plastic toys and destroying them for the LED/parts. Not that it might not be a great idea for some people, just doesn't fit our ethos or workload even.

Regarding the X-type LEDs, hrm... that's tempting since they seem to be quite a bit cheaper than the 10mm ones I was looking at. I'll check out ebay as well and see if a grab bag can beat the price of the bulk industrial purchase I was looking at making.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:18 PM on December 18, 2011

cda, thanks. I don't usually shop there, but I really want some deep blue led string lights.
posted by theora55 at 6:50 PM on December 20, 2011

5 cr2032 batteries for 2.25
posted by theora55 at 9:39 AM on December 27, 2011

Response by poster: By the way, the plan worked out great, we ended up deploying them in the paper lanterns and as throwies a day or two before the wedding ceremony and they got ALOT of compliments.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:20 PM on July 3, 2012

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