Well, I used the baking powder wash and the pretzels turned out with great pretzel taste.
I no longer believe lye is required. Honestly, baking powder did the exact taste!
So I have learned I am TERRIBLE at pretzel shaping - I can make the shape but it looks weird and unpretzel like. I think I will be doing small "snake" shapes for this party.
All in all, it wasn't too terribly difficult and only took about two hours start to finish.
People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.