Party Central

Ahoy! A Nautical Themed 4th of July Party

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Ahoy—party guests will have a sailin’ good time with a nautical themed 4th of July party! I’m thrilled to share this party theme I planned for family and friends that is perfect “from sea to shining sea”.  I’ve lived near the Pacific Ocean for most of my life so I have a great love for all things nautical.  I couldn’t wait to plan an event around their designs when Maureen, of Anders Ruff Custom Designs, introduced me to their festive Nautical 4th of July invitation and coordinating printable collection. While I planned this as a backyard 4th of July celebration, it would also work well for any nautical or patriotic themed event.  Finding fun props, decorations and coordinating treats like nautical flag cupcakes, was a breeze with nautical parties being such a popular party trend right now.  I hope you will love this land and sea party adventure, beautifully captured by photographer Rochelle Pettingill.

Nautical 4th of July Party Ideas

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nautical 4th of july dessert table

New England towns are famous for their gorgeous harbors and quaint living. I wanted the design concept for this party to imitate and celebrate what you’d find in a New England ocean front vacation home, but with a patriotic twist—wooden ships, anchors, nautical flags, lanterns, and more. Much of my design inspiration and color palette originated with the printable party décor, but my styling was also inspired by the colorful nautical products I already had around my house plus fun products I received from companies I was privileged to work with.

4th of july nautical themed cupcakes

4th of july nautical cookies

If you follow my Banner Events party styling, you know that one of my favorite parts of any event is deciding on the dessert table concept. I love making the dessert table a focal point of my events…is this related to my own sweet tooth?!  One of the ways I achieve this is creating interest with a dessert table backdrop. In my styling, a center statement piece must capture the guests’ attention.

nautical 4th of july party decorations

For this nautical themed party, I was pleased to work with the amazing Lauren, of Ten23Designs. I commissioned her to customize several laser-cut wood designs: the large AHOY letters and the wood garland of anchors, paddles and captain’s wheels, that I used on the front of my table. They arrived ready to paint—no sanding needed!—which made them so easy to transform into the impressive garland. I used coordinating DecoArt acrylic paints, so I was able to quickly assemble the design elements for the backdrop and table. I also used DecoArt paint on the boat shelf that held my cupcakes so everything was coordinated.  Paint is an inexpensive, simple way to readily transform what you already have so it perfectly matches your current party color palette.

I printed, cut and strung two sets of nautical pennant flags onto twine and crisscrossed them on my bead board background to add color and interest. (TIP:  You can purchase 4′ x 8′ bead board inexpensively and reuse it.  Mine was cut down to 4′ x 6′.)  I hung the AHOY signs using fishing line I taped to the back of the bead board.  My backdrop was flanked with festive star balloons from Party On! Designs.

nautical 4th of july drinks

4th of july custom water bottles

Displaying a variety of tempting desserts was paramount, but of course displaying them creatively was of the utmost importance to me. Oriental Trading Company is one of my favorite “go to” sources for party décor inspiration. You’ll notice I used some of their nautical themed pieces as well as many of their signature party basics throughout my styling.

Scalloped, navy treat boxes, with vinyl accents from Ten23Designs, were part of the dessert display. Mine were filled with both buttered and caramel popcorn and accessorized with glittered swizzle sticks from Party On! Designs, topped with printable flags. Everyone loves popcorn!

Designs by SK  made the delicious cupcakes and the adorable, custom fondant, nautical flag toppers were made by the talented 4 Kids Cakes.  I loved how they looked in striped cupcake wrappers from Pick Your Plum. They made an enticing display on the shelves of my wooden boat.

nautical 4th of july party

nautical themed 4th of july party strawberry pie

Pie is one of my personal dessert favorites; aren’t these mini pies cute? Peach, apple, blueberry, and cherry pies were spruced up with more party flags attached to wooden toothpicks.  What’s more “all-American” than pie?! My very favorite pie is this strawberry tart made by my mom (it has more of a sugar cookie crust vs a traditional pastry crust). Doesn’t it look cute with little nautical flags?

Rice Krispy treats are no fuss and kids always love them! They are easy to embellish with these festive sparkle sticks by Made by a Princess.

Red, white and blue macarons (made by 4 Kids Cakes) are a must if you love macarons like I do!  Christina never spares details, and her added star accents with shimmer were a hit!  I also used classic white trays to display a few store bought favorites.

Candy and sweets are always a party favorite. I included cute crab lollipops on our table as well as sweet treat boxes filled with salt water taffy. (Tip: For custom treat boxes I repurposed fry boxes, added cute nautical labels and then made paper rosettes from sturdy, textured cardstock from American Crafts. I also used the same boxes as chip containers on our food table.)

4th of july candy

Firecracker gumball favor tubes were a hit, especially with the kids (thank you for the inspiration Giggles Galore). These were a quick DIY with a few scissor cuts and dabs of hot glue. The favor tubes and gumballs from Katarina’s Paperie, 4th of July ribbon from Ribbon Revelry, plus sparkle garland in red, white and blue from Party City, made an easy-to-do favor. Because man cannot live by dessert alone, I also set up colorful nautical themed beverage and food tables. A printable nautical banner spruced up the beverage table. A red fish net, DIY wood display stands and printable beverage wraps transformed our soda and water for thirsty sailors.

nautical themed 4th of july food table

To accommodate all of the different sides, salads and condiments that go along with a great BBQ, I added layers to the food table. The DIY wooden stands housed rope handled baskets which were filled to the brim with individual chip containers and buns. The galvanized three-tiered stand (from Pick Your Plum) reminded me of the crow’s nest on a ship; it was perfect for displaying a beautiful variety of summer salads. I loved displaying baked beans in individual lidded cups with twine and decorative circle toppers; functional can be festive!

nautical 4th of july party guest tables

nautical 4th of july table setting

Rain isn’t uncommon in Seattle on the 4th, but we lucked out with the perfect summer day for our party so we were fortunate to be able to set up outdoors. Beautiful tablecloths from Wholesale Event Solutions dressed the tables, along with rustic remnants of burlap, and blue mason jars were filled with vibrant red and white flowers. I wanted EACH table setting to be colorful!  Red placemats were paired with colorful layered tableware and patriotic napkins from Petite Party Studio. I love the gorgeous farm-stand milk bottles from Red Mill Farm. I decorated them with beverage wraps and cute striped party straws and printable party flags. Mini treat cups were filled with colorful gummy treats and taffy. Each place setting was flanked by an embellished set of sparklers and a tin pail overflowing with snaps, treats, and wooden utensils (Katarina’s Paperie). Of course the pails were decorated; I used cute printable labels and tags, a wood anchor and I topped it all off with coordinating ribbon and jute.

nautical 4th of july party favor ideas

Kids and adults enjoyed water balloons, lawn games and a bike parade. Having s’mores kits already assembled for our party made our traditional s’mores roast an easy and fun end to the night.

If you love this nautical themed 4th of July party, be sure to check out more of my party ideas on my Banner Events Facebook page.

Additional Vendor Credits

Sugar star pops:  Tikkido

Custom nautical shirts:  Make it Mine Couture

Custom 4th of July firework shirts:  Great Stitch

Custom pom wands:  Cupcake Wishes & Birthday Dreams

Planning a nautical themed 4th of July party?  Check out these party sources put together by the Spaceships and Laser Beams crew.

Be sure to check out more nautical party ideas here:


Jennifer Carver

As the mother of 4 children, 3 of whom are busy boys, much of Jen’s free time is spent at the ball field, brushing up on video game terminology and building Lego towers. Jen is the owner and creative mind behind Banner Events. With a passion for event planning & party styling and an obsession with the little details that take an event from ordinary to extraordinary, Jen wakes up every morning excited to get to work.