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Nautical Party

Decorating Ideas For A Nautical Party

Anything related to seamen, navigation, and operating ships is appropriate for a nautical-themed event.  A nautical theme is the perfect setting for a spiffy cocktail party and makes an excellent backdrop for a bon voyage or farewell tribute.

Combine or choose one of 3 distinctive nautical styles: 
  • Rustic includes natural and ye olde seaman items, such as weathered wood, lanterns, buoys, and fisherman accessories.
  • Refined is a breezy and casual style featuring crisp, clean lines and bold colors, include white-painted wood, sailboats, flags, and related items.
  • Traditional embraces sturdy and durable elements of ocean travel and motor-yachts, use ship navigational items, dark polished wood and brass, such as a captain's wheel, lighthouses, and anchors.
Combine elements to create a semi-formal setting with rudiments of the yacht club, navy ship's deck, and a fishing pier. Use natural elements, like cotton and wood, along with brass and rope. Add bold colors and clean lines reminiscent of sailing, like white and navy with red and/or gold accents and striped fabrics.

Strategic Placement

When decorating, we like to choose locations most guests will eventually visit to place our decorations, arranging accents & "surprises" so guests discover them over the duration of the party.

Nautical Life Rings & Flag Banner EntranceENTRANCE ==>

Make a great first impression and set the mood for your arriving guests with a "Welcome Aboard" life preserver hanging on the front door or position one on each side for twice the fun. For an extra bit of fanfare, string a Nautical Flag Border above the entrance or in the foyer.

The fresh, clean and cheerful greeting placed in this very visible location will go a long way in creating a lasting memory of your event.  Hang the life ring as a bar decoration after your Nautical party is over. 

The wreath door hanger is an easy way to adorn your front door without nails, tacks or tape.


Boats & Buoys

The bar is an ideal location to showcase your detailed theme-related decorations, because all of your guests will visit or mingle nearby at some point. Use a variety of nautical icons in varying shapes and textures to add interest and festivity to your bar.

Arrange a mini maritime scene with a variety of boats, buoys, lighthouses, shore birds and monkey fist rope knots to create just the right nautical feel for your party or event.

For cocktails, rename a nautical-inspired drink for the event or guest of honor, find plenty of drink suggestions in our Nautical Drink Ideas section, like Port & Starboard melon martinis. Use nautical flag toothpicks in your drink garnishes and wherever possible.

Serve cocktails on seaside, fishing, sailing, or nautical oriented beverage napkins to complement your decor. Hang a blue or red life preserver behind the bar.

Liven up every bar scene with a light sprinkling of confetti in your nautical colors.

Announce your signature drink and/or extend birthday wishes to your guest of honor with a nautical placecard or photo holder, such as a Captain's Wheel or Lighthouse. Monkey Fist Rope Knots, large and mini, also make create sign holders.

Vintage & Rustic

Alternatively, setup an easily accessible rustic style bar in your party area using a Genuine Heavy Gauge Fisherman's Net as a background. 

Adorn the net with sea creature decorations, starfish and shells. Optionally, add green crepe streamers to mimic strands of seaweed caught in the net. If you don’t want to use screw-in wall hooks to hang the net, try clear adhesive wall hangers that remove easily. 

Rustic Nautical Bar Decorations
String up some Vintage Red Hurricane Lantern or Glass-Style-Plastic-Buoy Party Lights to give your net decoration some pizzazz. Coordinate the scene with LED Classic Old 97 Lanterns and Blue & Red Lantern Salt & Pepper Shakers

Decorate the other side of the bar with a Metal Tugboat Sculpture or an arrangement of buoys in a variety of styles. Include a perched pelican and a smattering of sea shells as accents. 

Position a red Votive Candle Lantern on the left (port) and a green Votive Candle Lantern on the right (starboard).

Use Multi-colored Sword Picks and Nautical Flag Picks as garnish and food skewers, and serve Cape Cods in tall glasses with Dockside and Lighthouse beverage napkins.   

Nautical Color Lanterns

Depending upon the occasion, you can create a celebratory mood by hanging Nautical Flag Ceiling Swirls in the party area or over your dinner/serving table.  Or take a more subtle approach with a mix of Round Paper Lanterns in nautical colors (blue, red, white, yellow-gold).

White Sofa With Nautical Flag Throw PillowsSwitch out the throw pillows on your sofa for nautical colors repeated in the decorations such as navy blue, red, white, and yellow-gold; feature stripes, geometric designs, or Nautical Flag Pillows.

DIY Nautical Rope Coasters With Anchors
Decorate side tables, shelves, and mantels with nautical ships, buoys and lighthouses to continue the theme. Maintain an open space free of chairs and furniture in the party area for guests to circulate and mingle. 

Nautical-inspired rope coasters make a nice addition for guests to set drinks. Check out this link to do-it-yourself at

Nautical Serving & Appetizer Table Decorations

Build an engaging nautical display for a buffet, appetizer, gift or favor table with a raised display along the back. Start with a white tablecloth on your table and a coordinated Nautical-Striped Table Runner down the center.

Use boxes or shelving along the back (we use 2 ClosetMaid 12"H x 12"D x 31"L organizing shelves) and cover with an aqua or navy blue sheet or tablecloth to create an ocean scene. Pin the sides like a table skirt.  In addition, you may also choose to pin white fabric across the front and sides, so that only the water surface is visible.

Add lighthouses, sailboats, fishing boats, shrimpers and trawlers to emulate a bustling harbor. Hang Miniature "Welcome Aboard" Life Preservers across the front and run Vintage Glass-Style Buoy String Lights along the bottom. You may also want to add a backdrop to the scene, we are using under the sea bulletin board paper here. 

Serve food and appetizers with Sailboats Flying Spinnakers Salt & Pepper shakers, Lighthouse-Topped Spreaders, and Blue Sailboat on Striped Yellow Luncheon Napkins. Display the names of your dishes with Captain’s Wheel Placecard Holders.


Like the bar, virtually every guest will visit the bathroom at some point, making it an excellent showplace for your distinctive decorations.

Tastefully coordinate your bathroom decorations with a combination of ship, sail, and navigation icons in a display of towels, soap, and a mini nautical scene, which include:
Not only will you have a captive audience, but it keeps your party interesting as guests discover surprises throughout the evening.

Sprinkle a few pieces of red star confetti for continuity and a dash of shimmer and shine.


Incorporate festive and fun lighting elements to add depth and interest to your theme. Indirect lighting and candlelight will enhance the atmosphere, relax your guests and encourage conversation.

Start by eliminating all overhead lights, then find creative nautical and ship related light sources to add warmth and entertainment.

String lights along the deck rail, under the bar, or around a doorway to make an attractive theme-inspired decoration for a day or night party, such as these vintage glass-style plastic buoy string lights.

For dusk to nighttime events, use votive candles liberally in frosted holders, etched with teal blue sailboats, ocean waves, and seagulls, to add soft, flattering lighting.  You may also use a combination of tealblue, and frosted votive holders to represent the ocean or use the nautical colors of bluefrosted whiteredyellow/amber votive holders.

Lighthouse and Votive Candle Holders Ligiting

Create a colorful display on a shelf or mantel by alternating Votive Candle Lanterns and Lighthouse Replicas. In addition, you may use white Metal Tealight Lanterns and Nautical Lantern Tealights as lighting decorations.


Passing hors d'oeuvres on silver trays with doilies, or water-themed paper, not only adds a touch of style and elegance, but introduces another level of excitement as guests anticipate the next tray of intricately assembled appetizers.  

In addition to wowing the crowd with your detailed bites, this is the perfect opportunity to introduce another Nautical themed surprise to each guest as the tray is passed.  

Buy small and sturdy accents as serving tray centerpieces for your hors d'oeuvre to delight your guests over the duration of the party.

We are using:
Use the tray centerpieces as party area decorations once the appetizer has been served. For a birthday party, also place multi-colored Happy Birthday food picks randomly in a tray of hors d'oeuvres to reinforce the occasion. 

We have included these and other appetizer recipes in the Nautical Food Ideas section.


From rustic to refined, a nautical theme can easily be tailored to a casual event or formal affair.  Focus on natural and environmental elements to create a rustic, more casual event.  Conversely, the establishments of recreational yachting and sport sailing are expensive and exclusive.

For maximum visual impact, use a bright white background to make your decorations clearly visible and distinctive.  Start with a white tablecloth and white dinner plates and build your centerpiece on a blue canvas runner symbolic of the deep blue sea.  

Center your table around a seagull or pelican perched on a piling flanked by a pair of coordinated buoys. Then, 'tie' into the buoy and seagull piling rope with the complementary texture of large monkey's fist rope knots in 3 different colors. Position one or a grouping of knots on each side of the buoy centerpiece.  

Continue the contrasting nautical colors of blue & white with solid blue beverage napkins in the center of each charger, plate, or place setting. Recreate the shimmer of the ocean's surface with metallic blue star confetti.  

Go to Dinner Decorating for a more refined nautical dinner table centerpiece. And check out out the dinner party section for more dinner party planning tips.


Metallic confetti is an easy way to add subtle details and lift spirits. Create a big impact  by scattering confetti sparingly on the bar, in the bathroom, and on the dinner table. 

Use red or blue stars to repeat your nautical theme colors. If you are mailing invitations or thank you notes, add just a sprinkle of confetti fun and festivity in each envelope. 

Color & Repetition  

Choose colors and nautical symbols for a consistent presentation of your theme throughout your party:
  • Primary Colors: Create a fresh, clean look with white & navy blue as your main colors.
  • Accent Colors:  Use bright red as a third color with the occasional yellow gold accent.
  • Background Colors: In addition, you may optionally use colors symbolic of water as a background, such as light blue and/or aqua.
  • Consider neutralizing the background to make your decorations stand out with white, gray, and/or beige.
  • Remove competing colors and objects that distract from your theme.
  • Repeat your primary chosen colors and motifs as often as possible, ideally 5 times for each setting and/or field of view. 
  • Motifs:  Select a primary motif, such as the sailboat. Then select easily recognizable nautical symbols as complements and accents, such as: 
  • Lighthouse
  • Captains wheel
  • Rope, monkey's paw
  • Anchor
  • Sailboat
  • Signal Flags
  • Captain
  • Life ring
  • Pelican
  • Compass rose
  • Sextant
  • Crossed oars
  • Rowboat
  • Stars
  • Ocean, water, waves
  • Buoys
  • Lanterns
  • Maps, navigational charts
  • Fish
  • Shells
  • Divers helmet
  • Port hole