Some 123.3 million Americans--or 39 percent of the population--live in counties directly on the shoreline. That's according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and they oughta know. 

Of course, that means that 60 percent of us are a county away, a state away or half a continent away from the ocean. And face it-even if you've got a river or Great Lake nearby, without salt air you're not truly at the shore. Take Rae Lynn, for example: Getting to the ocean shore means planning a road trip to Charleston, South Carolina, or Destin, Florida. 

Or I can just plan to bring the beach home. With the right bits and pieces, you can create your own shoreline scene and invite your friends and family for a beach party. Start with one of these ocean-themed centerpieces for your table, then build on the theme for a sun-, sand- and surf-sational soiree. 

Swizzle Trick: If you're hosting a summertime soirée, cool down your guests with soothing sea colors-white, aqua, navy and tans in clean stripes, with yellow and red accents. If it's wintertime, warm up your world with bright pink, yellow, green and blue, especially in florals. Whatever the season, mix the nautical elements with natural and nostalgic items for an ambience that will pull guests in quicker than a saltwater taffy shop. 

Oh Buoy, Oh Buoy

For a rustic nautical theme, center your table around bright red and yellow buoys with traditional warnings like Shallow Area, No Boats, Swim Area and Caution Diver. Flank them with monkey's fist rope knots in blue, natural or bleached-or all three. 

Alternate Buoy Themed Centerpiece

Every self-respecting buoy doubles as a perch for ocean birds, so grace the table with a carved wood pelican or seagull too. Then set all on a table runner of marine blue canvas to summon up thoughts of ocean boating and sailing. For beach-themed table settings, add a red, gold, or white buoy floater to the center of each charger or dinner plate. 

Seagull Themed Centerpiece

If you or a guest of honor are mad for lighthouses (Rae Lynn's BIL qualifies here), change out the buoys for lighthouse replicas (Assateague, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout are some of my BIL's faves) to create a table that conjures up the history and romance of ocean-going. Place simple, small glass lanterns with white candles among the towers to suggest the beacons that bring ocean-goers safely home. 

Under the Sea 

On a hot summer evening, submerge your guests in a serene underwater scene to cool them off. Start with a cloth of aqua or sea green to invoke the ocean, then top with a strip of natural burlap as surrogate sand. Or conjure up seafoam with creamy lace or netting artfully draped and you have the perfect beach wedding centerpieces. 

Under the Sea Themed Centerpiece

Add pale starfish, mollusk, scallop and fox conch shells, and embellish with white coral. What's missing? Your favorite sea creatures, of course. Rae Lynn's sister's nickname is Turtle, so she can't resist sea turtle figurines, string lights and napkins. Add a sea-glass glow with teal table scatter for the finishing touch. 

Ships Ahoy/Bon Voyage 

In the good old days, friends departing on a trip were feted first to wish them a safe and happy journey. So convince someone to leave, then throw a nautical goodbye party. For your ocean-themed centerpiece, start with a traditional sailing vessel, like a schooner or clipper ship. Place a few life preservers nearby-or didn't you see Titanic? 

Set everything atop coarse navy blue netting, and wend a string of white lights around the elements. Brighten up the setting with red or yellow napkins, nautical flag food picks, and Sail America confetti in red, white and blue. 

Day at the Beach 

They say any day at the beach is better than a day at the office. They're right-unless you work at Party Swizzle. Sadly you don't, but we'll still share some of our beach-themed dinner ideas. Start with a surfer bus as the table centerpiece. Go authentic by placing it in a long, shallow tray of sand and scatter mollusk, scallop and fox conch shells and driftwood to make it real. Then add a sand pail plus beach ball salt & pepper shakers, cabana candlesticks and beach scene or flip flop napkins. 

Surfer Bus Themed Centerpiece

Or keep the beach safe by swapping out the bus for tall blue and yellow lifeguard chairs complete with red and white life rings. Finish your beach scene with flocks of fluffy shorebirds. Add brightly striped dinner napkins and you're ready to kick off your day at the beach. 

Laidback Beach Shacks 

If you want to stay at the beach longer than the surfer bus allows, we have a couple of oceanfront properties to show you. First up is the surfer shack. We think you'll be happy as a clam with the same trimmings you loved for a Day at the Beach, plus some whimsical picket fence candle holders. 

Beach Shack Sand Themed Centerpiece

Or for a more tropical feel, switch out the surfer shack for the Margarita Lounge beach birdhouse. Add a little grove of palm trees and some palm tree string lights too. Add Palm Tree & Hibiscus or HuluGirl napkins to conjure up the islands, then sit back and enjoy a limey libation. Ahhhhhhhhh..... 

Ahoy Maties! 

What's more fun than a pirate-theme party? An evening with Johnny Depp springs to mind, but I digress. Keep his alter-ego, Captain Jack Sparrow, as your inspiration, however, when you embark on a celebration of 18th and 19th century's seafaring buccaneers. 

Pirate Themed Centerpiece

It's simply not possible to go overboard (get it?) with this theme. Line up a schooner or clipper ship for looting, a talking parrot, the iconic Jolly Roger flag, and a bountiful treasure chest complete with booty and loot. Set them all on a plank, but be warned-if you forget the rum, you'll be walking it. Then toss sparkling gems and gold doubloons on the table to transform your nautical event into a swashbuckling affair. 

Pink Flamingos 

Ever wonder how pink flamingos became such an omni-present part of our culture? Not the birds themselves, of course, but the tchotchkes they inspired? For a bit of flamingo history, starting in 1957, check out this Smithsonian article. Or forget the reading and just go wild. 

Pink Flamingo Themed Centerpiece

Start with pink flamingo glass sculptures or balsa wood carvings or a metal beach flamingo complete with chapeau. Tickle your guests hot pink with votive holders, candles and round paper lanterns. 

Then go green for accents, with palm trees, palm tree tea lights, votive holders and beverage napkins. Toss some pink flamingo confetti on the table and string flamingo lights or palm tree lights overhead. Voila! Ocean-themed centerpieces that would make John Waters proud.

For these and other ocean, beach, nautical, pirate, and pink flamingo centerpiece decorations visit

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