Nautical Wedding Ideas for Your Coastal-Inspired Celebration
Whether you're getting married near the sea, on the water (who could resist an intimate sailboat wedding?), or miles inland, put nautical details on your radar. From anchors and buoys to ocean-inspired colorways, these elements will add a timeless touch to your wedding design.
Feeling confused about what exactly constitutes nautical inspiration? That's understandable, considering the fact that not every waterfront event actually falls under this category. (A seaside wedding with palm frond accents and a pink-and-green color palette would better be described as tropical, for example.) The recipe for a party that feels nautical involves naval and maritime influences—as opposed to exotic ones. Ultimately, if you're a classic couple with a penchant for timeless style, nautical is the way to go.
As for the best ways to bring this theme to life? Consider choosing navy blue, emerald green, or soft sky blue as the anchor (pun intended!) color for your celebration's design. Alternatively, layer in coastal motifs, like boats, buoys, anchors, and stripes, to help achieve that seafaring vibe you're after. This vintage rowboat is the perfect example: With a bright teal interior and greenery garland accent, the vessel served as a creative background prop for portraits at this fête planned by Gilded Lily Events.
You don't have to commit to a nautical theme entirely to incorporate sea-ready accents into your big day. A detail as small as anchor place card holders (that honor a spouse's service in the Navy!) or a sailboat crest (a nod to your go-to hobby, perhaps?) will delight your guests. Beyond ocean-ready décor, there are plenty of ways to add nautical influences to the food and fashion selections at your wedding. An ocean-blue wedding gown or blue-and-white striped bow tie would do the trick, style-wise. As for food? Consider serving oysters on the half-shell at cocktail hour, followed by crab cakes at the reception for a maritime-infused menu. Looking for even more inspiration? Bookmark the ideas ahead to achieve a timeless wedding that nods to the sea.
The tradition of a sailor's knot, created with two intertwined ropes, began as a way for sailors to remember their loved ones while they were at sea. Although it's a relatively simple knot to tie, it's one of the strongest—which perfectly symbolizes the bond of marriage. For this very reason, the maritime tradition has been adopted by modern-day couples; the knot-tying ritual, which often takes place during the ceremony, speaks to the duo's commitment to each other.
Shell Escort Cards
If you're looking for an affordable upgrade to paper escort cards, consider seashells. With a bit of planning, you and your fiancé (or even an eager ring bearer who wants to get involved!) can collect shells for your calligrapher to transform into seating assignment tokens, like Calligraphette & Co. did here.
Tipped on its end, a boat can easily become a useful and creative décor element. For this lakeside wedding, Upstate I Do transformed a canoe into a pashmina display.
If you're adding a nautical statement piece, in this case a model sailboat, to your tablescape, work in other thematic details to tie the design together. Aisle Society used compass-emblazoned plates to complement the central motif.
Arrival by Boat
Boats are sometimes used for grand exits, but have you thought about utilizing a sea vessel for other moments, as well? With Emily Clarke's help, this couple used a motorboat to get from their ceremony to their reception.
Nautical inspiration can be subtle—you don't have to include boat or anchor motifs if that doesn't mesh with your aesthetic. Instead, look to a color palette inspired by the sea itself. The white-and-blue color scheme at this Duet Weddings event subtly referenced the waterfront Charleston venue without feeling overly thematic.
One of the simplest ways to weave nautical influences into your wedding day is with an ocean-minded color palette. Soft blues, sea greens, and neutral driftwood hues connected this Gilded Lily wedding's design with the seaside venue for a cohesive, maritime aesthetic.
If you love the idea of adding seashells to your tablescape, but don't want to randomly scatter them around, consider crafting a shell garland. A few drill holes, some strong fishing line, and a bit of creativity are all you need to bring together an iteration like this one from Sinclair and Moore.
Saltwater taffy is probably the candy most associated with the ocean. Add the sweets to your welcome bags—and then fill them up with other seashore-inspired treats, as Pineapple Productions did here.
Shells' interior luminescence makes them an elegant source of sparkle—so why not add them to your wedding cake? Take this Baker's Pride confection, for example. The simple white one-tier didn't need any extra embellishments for sheen; the cake's shell cake topper had it covered.
Ocean-inspired stationery accents will set the tone for your seaside wedding from the onset. As if bold blue stripes weren't enough to drive their nautical theme home, this couple also asked Laura Hooper to pen wave-inspired calligraphy onto each envelope.
If you find yourself gravitating to this cake but can't figure out why, pay close attention to two of the elements The Sugary & Chic and The Foraged Fern incorporated into its design. Drastically different tier heights made the confection feel unique, while tide-inspired hand-painting connected the dessert to the waterfront locale.
Small nautical accents are still incredibly striking. Case in point? This bar sign from The Detail Department, which featured a simple boat motif. The elegant script added a touch of refined romance to the signage, preventing it from feeling overtly coastal.
Oysters on the half-shell are always a great summer cocktail hour staple—so make sure to highlight them at your event. Galvanized trays and servers clad in ocean-inspired blue bow ties made these passed raw hors d'oeuvres feel inspired and fresh.
Another great sea-ready addition to your cocktail hour menu? Lobster rolls. Whether you're tying the knot in Maine, or simply have a soft spot for these shellfish sandwiches, they'll bring a fun, nautical feel to your cuisine. Upgrade the savory snacks even more by serving them on raw-edged wood trays that reference driftwood.
If you consider yourself a classic-meets-preppy bride, this suite is for you. This Zazzle invitation proved that navy and white will always work for a seaside wedding.
These Lion in the Sun escort cards are a great reminder that paying attention to the smallest details is the best way to make your aesthetic feel cohesive. Mini anchor pins adhered guests' escort cards to the display board for a practical and on-theme addition to the wedding design.
It's not hard to understand why delicious King crab legs should make an appearance at your nautical celebration. But the part of this display that really resonates? The catering team displayed the seafood in oversized shell-inspired trays as yet another nod to the water.
Did you grow up building model boats? Or maybe you just love sailing. Either way, miniature sailboats with table numbers painted onto their sails are a thematic way to bring the sea to your reception tables—the wooden vessels at this Amorology wedding did exactly that.
You don't need to wait until the end of the reception to hand out favors—send a trinket along with your save-the-date to get the party started early. Crab hammers, engraved by Empress Stationery with pertinent big-day details, gave guests an idea of what to expect at this couple's seafood-filled event.
There are a million shells on the beach, which means they're an easily-accessible addition to your event design. You don't have to go crazy when adding seashells to your décor—Margaret Cally Events simply placed one at every place setting as a finishing touch.
With a bit of planning, shell escort cards are a wedding project that everyone can participate in. During your next seaside vacation, task your family with collecting shells for your calligrapher to decorate. Depending on their script style, the end result will look similar to what Chelsea Petaja created here.
A crab box caught a little something different at this Gilded Lily Events wedding: cards from friends and family! Selecting a gift container that fits into your overall theme is a thoughtful, personalized touch.
Of all the seafaring ideas on this list, this is one of the most unique. A calligraphed life preserver was used to commemorate the pre-wedding boat ride this couple hosted for guests at their destination wedding, which Bash Please planned.
To ensure that your wedding feels nautical from beginning to end, pay extra attention to the favors you're sending guests home with. Bottles of maple syrup got an anchor upgrade at this wedding, so attendees could remembered its ocean-inspired theme long after it wrapped.
One word of advice: Pay special attention to the fabrics you select for your oceanside wedding ensemble. Breathable materials like chiffon and organza are the way to go, as opposed to more structured crêpes and brocades. These brides selected light and breezy BHLDN outfits that felt right at home at their Rhode Island wedding.
If you want to carry your seafaring theme throughout every element of your day, don't forget to plan a nautical grand exit. This couple hopped into the back of a vintage boat for a one-of-a-kind getaway.
Portraits on a Boat
This couple took their wedding portraits on a picturesque sailboat. If your locale affords you the same opportunity, take advantage of the pretty prop—especially during golden hour.
Tying the Knot
Make like this this bride and groom—who participated in a traditional knot-tying ceremony using sailing rope—and display the keepsake in a shadowbox in your home to commemorate your marriage vows.
Arrival by Boat
Make your "something borrowed" nautical by borrowing a boat from a loved one for your wedding. This couple did just that; the groom arrived to the ceremony on his father-in-law's boat.
Wedding-day signage certainly doesn't have to be paper. This couple opted for calligraphed wooden oars to match their oceanside theme. The boat motifs from Life at Studio B were turned into signposts, guiding guests to all of the evening's activities and events.
Sailboat Escort Card
If you aren't able to incorporate an actual sailboat into your nautical wedding plans, consider creating paper iterations instead, like this bride did. These sailboat-shaped escort cards were actually calligraphed by the bride herself.