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Home>Choose Theme>Nautical Party>Nautical Receptions & Banquets
Nautical Party
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Nautical Receptions & Banquets
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Nautical Reception Centerpieces & Banquet Table Decorations
Nautical Banquet & Reception Decorating Ideas

Nautical themed banquets and receptions offer a wide selection of ideas, symbols, and decorations to create any type of atmosphere from casual to formal. Based upon a long history of established traditions, the nautical theme imparts a tone of precision, order, wealth and masculinity that is also spirited, fun, and playful.

Colors:  In addition to the theme, choose 1 to 4 theme colors to maximize the visual impact and provide continuity throughout the venue. Blue, red, white and gold are dominate colors in naval, sailing, and yachting and are a popular color combination for decorating.  These are also the colors found in nautical flags, in addition to black.

Motifs:  Nautical refers to those things related to operating a boat or ship, including seamen, navigation, and sailing. Use nautical symbols and icons, in addition to your colors to decorate.  Some ideas include:

  • Sailboat
  • Lighthouse
  • Captainís wheel
  • Rope, monkey's paw
  • Anchor
  • Flags
  • Captain's hat
  • Life ring
  • Pelican
  • Compass rose
  • Sextant
  • Crossed oars
  • Rowboat
  • Stars
  • Ocean, water, waves
  • Boats & ships
  • Buoys
  • Lanterns
  • Maps, navigational charts
  • Fish
  • Shells
  • Divers helmet
  • Port hole

Dining Tables:  Banquet and reception dining tables are typically rectangular or round. For round dining tables, create similar or duplicate centerpiece displays for each table.  

For a rectangular table, you can place a number of theme-related items down the center using a more significant decoration every few chairs. Be sure centerpieces and floral arrangements do not obstruct eye contact between guests on opposite sides of the table.

Round Tables

Nautical Round Banquet Table DecorationsFor a round nautical  dinner, banquet, or reception table, bring together your theme colors and icons in each centerpiece. You may also want to include some subtle variations at each table, such as color or lighthouses from different states.

Start with a decorative Solid Color Life Ring in blue, red, green or gold on a white tablecloth. Build a mini sea adventure inside the ring with a 19" Pond Sailboat in red, blue or green.

Add 2" risers and position a Lighthouse Replica on each side of the sailboat. Use blue Hawaiian Silk Leis or real blue flowers to give the appearance of water and waves.

Nautical Banquet Place Setting
Light the table with red & blue Lighthouse Tealight Holders inside the life ring rope. Continue the theme with a set of Lighthouse & Boat Salt & Pepper shakers.

At each place setting, use red & white striped napkins , alternatively make sisal rope or clothesline napkin rings with this simple DIY project at

Use mini Monkey Fist Rope Knots in the center of each plate or charger to hold flag placecards for your guests. Create ribbon flags on your computer in red & blue with each guests name, then simply print on paper, cut, apply glue and fold around a wooden toothpick. Create your own or use this template:

Nautical Ribbon Flag Name Tag Template
If you are not using placecards, just make flags without names or place a Nautical Chic Beverage Napkin, featuring a blue anchor on a red background, in the center of each place setting. For a playful touch, hang sailor hats on the back of each chair and, optionally, paint the name of each guest on the brim of the cap.

Rectangle Tables

An excellent format to build banquet table centerpieces is to evenly space multiple variations of a table decoration of approximately the same height and size. For a nautical theme, use different ships and boats, lighthouses, or buoys.  Then fill in the space in between with a wide selection of smaller nautical themed decor.

Nautical Banquet or Reception TableHere we have evenly spaced 4 ships and boats of approximately the same size.  If your event is focused only on sailboats, naturally use a number of different sailboats, for a more general nautical theme, we have included a white fishing boat with nets, a mounted sailboat, a modern white sailboat, and a mounted clipper ship.  We have balanced the look by combining a variety of mounted and unmounted boats with ship styles from different time periods.

Broaden the appeal and interest by including a diversity of other nautical decor, such as a lighthouse, and a sailor's monkey fist rope knot. Other ideas include: rowboat, pelican, shore bird, and vintage, glass-style, buoy float string lights. A lighthouse and dolphin waterball place card/recipe holder features an alligator clip to hold a small sign to identify the table number or guests' names.

Navy blue napkins on a white tablecloth add to the crisp, clean nautical feel.  In addition, your decorations will show up best on the white background. Sprinkle red or blue star confetti to create a festive sparkle, while tying the whole scene together for continuity.

Similarly, we have created a more casual nautical theme with buoys, birds, and rope knots. Here we repeat variations of a theme that we space down the banquet or reception table.

Use large wood buoys painted in different pastel colors along with a pelican and sea gull perched on seaside pilings.  Include monkey fist rope knots in natural brown and faded blue to match the ropes on the pilings and buoys to complete the scene. Again, use red or blue star confetti to add shimmer and continuity to each table.

This collection of buoy, bird, and rope knot would also make nice nautical centerpiece for round tables that would be consistent, but show a little extra creativity for each table.

Use a white tablecloth and position cut-outs of "water" down the center of the tables for a splash of aquatic color under ships and buoys; use scrapbook or bulletin paper of water found at hobby stores. Position a white sailboat, mounted sailboat, historic clipper ship, white wood shrimp boat,  and/or a wooden sailboat on each splash of ocean depending upon your budget.

Space red & white and black & white lighthouses down the center. Use rope-wrapped votive candle holders in bleached and natural twine for candlelight. A pelican perched on a piling and a carved wooden captain by a detailed rowboat add variety to the nautical theme.

Insert small fishing boats with nets to put the finishing touches to your banquet table. Meander pieces of rope through the length of the display and sprinkle shimmering metallic red & blue star confetti. 

Head Table:
  The head table is usually a rectangular table in the front of the room with the hosts and guests facing the other diners. This table is sometimes more elaborately decorated and should be skirted across the front.

Also, decorate the front of the reception head table with the a fisherman's net and shells and starfish along the top edge. You may also decorate the front of the head table with blue and white "Welcome Aboard" life rings.

Entrance:  Make a big first impression by decorating the entrance area and reception table with unique touches. Use vintage, glass-style buoy string lights at the sign-in table or in the reception area. Hang "Welcome Aboard" life rings on each side of the doorway into the banquet hall or reception area.

Replace white light bulbs on each side of the entrance or other key locations with a red and a green light bulb to represent the port and starboard sides of a ship. The red light is for the port side, which is the left side when facing forward on a boat. Conversely, the green light is for the starboard or right side.

Place mounted sailboats and etched sailboat votive candle holders or gold-colored mosaic votive candle holders on the welcome table. Use a rowboat for gifts instead of a skirted table.

Food:  Food service and buffet tables are another way to incorporate fun and unique highlights to your event. Most banquets and receptions offer either hors d'oeuvres passed butler style or an appetizer spread. When passing hors d'oeuvres arrange for Nautical themed centerpieces in some or all of the trays as they are passed, such as the perched pelican or rowboat. Then, signal each hors d'oeuvre or entree with nautical flag or American flag toothpicks.

For an hors d'oeuvre and appetizer food table, create a centerpiece of a clipper ship and lighthouse. Place red, frosted white, and blue votive candle holders or etched sailboats at varying heights between the platters. For a dinner buffet, use blue, and gold mini lights or vintage, glass-style buoy string lights.

Bar & Cocktails:  If you are using a skirted table for a bar, continue the Nautical theme with a white shrimp boat and a few sprinkles of metallic confetti in blue, red, or silver. Or place a few smaller items, such as a wooden sailboat and lighthouse. For an actual bar, just use a single display item along with drink napkins.  Position red and green votive candle holders beside each other to represent a boat's port and starboard lights.

Depending upon the size of your crowd, put detailed dockside lighthouse and/or martini life ring cocktail napkins out for display and have the bartenders use red & blue beverage napkins for service to reduce costs for a large group.

Ceiling:  Decorating the ceiling of your banquet hall or reception area goes a long way in filling the space and making your event unique. Some options to consider are swags of tulle with blue and gold mini-lights, nautical flags or large hanging pieces of fabric in red, blue, white, and gold. For a romantic and mystical display, hang stars at varying heights from the rafters.

Flowers & Plants:  Including the natural element of flowers and plants adds another dimension to your banquet and reception decorations.  As large centerpieces or small accents, flowers make a beautiful addition of color and freshness to your event decor. While strategically placed potted plants give a vast hall a much more comfortable and natural ambiance.

Make your floral displays unique with red and green submersible LED lights that light up the vase holding each arrangement. Use the green LED lights on the starboard (right) side of the banquet room or reception hall and red LED lights on the port (left) side.

Party Beads:  For an extra dose of fun, surprise your guests with party beads in red, blue, gold, and white. Use party beads as napkin rings at each place setting or fill a bowl or large martini glass at the reception table and bar. Beads make a great party favor that your guests will enjoy throughout the evening.

Special Themes:  Give your nautical banquet or reception a pirate theme by adding pirate ships, treasure chests, skull & crossbone beverage napkins, and sword cocktail picks. Or for a farewell/bon voyage tribute include miniature champagne bottle weights along with a "Good Luck" banner.