Although more commonly associated with weddings, the lolly buffet deserves its sugary place in fundraisers as well. Whether as a ‘thankyou’ at an end of year event or graduation, a ‘weigh and pay’ stall at a fete, to complement a cake stall or a ‘make your own lolly bag’ at a school movie night, here are some simple tips to making your own lolly buffet.
1. Choose a theme
Nothing screams ‘Instagram me’ like a beautiful theme, and while your target audience might just be a group of Year 6 kids without Smart Phones, they will still be impressed with a beautiful lolly buffet. The simplest theme for a lolly buffet is to choose one, two or three colours which match your event:
For a Halloween disco you might want to consider choosing an orange and black theme (Sherbies, jaffas, black cats, maltesers, chico babies, single colour Smarties and Jellybeans etc).
For a graduation event, you may choose lollies that match the school colours.
For a movie night, lollies should be favourite ‘old fashioned’ movie choices such as party mix, Clinkers, Maltesers, not forgetting caramel popcorn.
You may be surprised just how many different types of lollies you will be able to find under a colour theme – blue/purple lollies for example include jellybeans, Smarties, Blue clouds, (wrapped) Freddo Frogs, wrapped chocolate hearts, sour straps, Fantales and lollypops.
2. Source glass jars and other serving items
What makes a lolly buffet special, is being able to see all the lollies at once, which means you need to display them in glass. Unlike school, uniform is out – you need to find jars, bottles, bowls and vases of varying shape, size, height and appearance. Start by asking members of the committee or families at school if they have something to lend. Make sure each is carefully names, or take a photo of the person holding their jar so you know who to return it to. If you prefer plastic over glass or need to purchase vases and bowls, head to your local discount shop.
You can use almost anything from vases to crystal salad bowls, trifle bowls, extra big wine glasses, cookie jars, wide necked bottles, water jugs or beer glasses.
Although you want lots of different sizes, keep in mind that your display pieces must match the quantity of lollies you intend to buy. If you just want a small display for a Graduation Dinner, then don’t get enormous bottles and jars that require thousands of lollies to fill. Similarly, if you are making a ‘pay what you weigh’ lolly stall at a fete, you will want large containers that you don’t need to continually fill and replace.
For a point of interest, you can choose one or two non-matching pieces such as funky tin bucket, fishbowl, a large wooden bowl, old suitcase, ceramic dishes or flowerpots or something that matches the theme of your event. If you can’t clean it in a dishwasher, simply line with foil or paper and fill with wrapped lollies.
3. Get scoops and bags
Even in the case of wrapped lollies like lollypops and chocolates, you don’t want really want people using their fingers, so make sure that each jar has one or two scoops. You can buy or hire fancy metal ones, or head to the party section of your local department store and pick them up for a couple of dollars each in a huge range of colours to match your theme.
How are people going to take their lollies with them? The cheapest and simplest options are plain paper bags or clear plastic cups. For fancier events you may choose to have a stamp or stickers made up with your school crest or the logo of your event which you can stick on them. Pricier options include little noodle boxes.
4. Buy your lollies
Where you choose to purchase lollies will depend on how many you need, your budget and if you are looking for standard or slightly more unusual sweets. Your local IGA or Coles is a great place to start especially when lollies are on sale, and you can buy a limited range of lollies in bulk (1kg bags) at Officeworks as well as bulk lollies online which is perfect when you are working to a colour theme.
How many lollies you need per person depends on whether it is an alternative to a dessert (approx. 200-300g per person) or if you will be selling the lollies (determine the average weight of lollies in the cup/bag of your choice, then multiply by how many visitors/customers you expect).
5. Label your lollies
Whether you’re just informing people of ingredients, potential allergies or you want to make gimmiky names up “Graduation Gum Balls”, signs are a way of creating a unifying theme on your buffet. You can use tiny chalkboards, pre-printed stickers, handwritten signs or anything you choose. Many party stores now sell packs of stickers for you to use on lolly buffets or you can check out this article which provides links to a huge range of printables.
6. Plan your design
Once you have filled your jars and bowls, it is time to design your lolly buffet. There are two ways to approach it – you can aim for a symmetrical look, or go for an eclectic, uneven style. This is where you can add different elements such as decorating pieces, lights and candles, flowers, pot plants, signs and posters, confetti and toys that complement your style and theme.
If it is intended as a dessert table for an event, you may choose to add platters of cupcakes, macarons and donuts. If it is for a movie night, then bags or cartons of popcorn are essential.
For design ideas you can check out this article or simply put ‘candy buffet’ into Pinterest or Google.
Don’t forget that the most visually appealing buffet has the jars and bowls at different heights. You can wrap phone books in plain or patterned wrapping paper to match your theme, or simply slide under the table cloth to create a layered effect. For some themes you can create height by using old wooden crates, stacks of books or anything strong and with a firm, flat surface.
7. Plan your system
For an event where you don’t plan to monitor what people are taking, you can leave the bags on the lolly buffet itself, or add it to the table setting.
If you are selling them lollies in a ‘weigh and pay’ stall, then you will need to decide if you are selling at a flat rate (clear plastic cups with lids are the ideal solution here) or if you are charging per gram. Regardless, it is important you calculate your selling price carefully and probably consider selecting only the cheaper, bulk lollies for your buffet (note: wrapped sweets tend to take up extra space due to the frilled ends of the wrapper… useful to know if you are selling at a flat rate).