AHOY! A Nautical Backyard Summer Bash! {Great 4th of July Ideas!}

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Ahoy there! Jen Carver of Banner Events here to share a party theme perfect “from sea to shining sea”.  We invited our family & a couple of friends to join our “Carver Crew” for a sailin’ good time at a nautical inspired 4th of July party! Living near the Pacific Ocean, I have always had an obsession for all things nautical, & when Maureen of Anders Ruff Custom Designs introduced me to their festive Nautical 4th of July invitation and coordinating printable collection, I couldn’t wait to style an event around their designs.

nautical invitation collage Because nautical parties are a popular party trend right now and can be adapted for just about any season & any occasion– weddings, bon voyage parties, birthdays, retirement celebrations, baby showers  & so on–finding fun props, décor & coordinating treats was a breeze.  I hope you will enjoy our land & sea adventure, beautifully captured by photographer, Rochelle Pettingill. Star sucker collage Design Inspiration & Color Palette:

I long for the day when I can visit the beautiful coastal New England towns, famous for their gorgeous harbors and quaint living.  I wanted the overall design & décor of our event to celebrate & mimic what you’d find in a New England ocean front vacation home, but with a patriotic twist– nautical flags, wooden ships, lanterns, anchors, life preservers, rope handled baskets, shells, metal pails, glass bottles, buoys, wooden crates & fish nets. Much of the design inspiration and color palette of cherry red, white and various shades of blue came from Ander’s Ruff’s nautical printables themselves, but my styling was also inspired by some of the colorful nautical products I already had around my house & some fun products sent from companies I was privileged to work with for this event.

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The Dessert Table:

If you have been following my party styling for a while, you know by now that one of my favorite parts of any event is coming up with the concept for the dessert table.  It’s probably related to my own sweet tooth, but I love making the dessert table a focal point of my events.  One of the ways I like to achieve this is by creating interest with my dessert table backdrop.  Having a center statement piece that captures the attention of party goers is a must in my styling.

dessert table angled

For this event, I was fortunate to work with the amazing Lauren of Ten23Designs .  Lauren is one of those people that can take a design concept straight from my head and make it a reality. (That is such a gift!)  I commissioned her to custom craft several laser cut wood designs, including the large AHOY letters and the wood garland on the front of my table (anchors, paddles, captain’s wheels).  They came ready to paint (no sanding needed) and were so easy to transform into something impressive.  Using coordinating colors of DecoArt acrylic paints, I was quickly able to assemble these design elements for my table and backdrop.  I also used the DecoArt paint on the boat shelf that housed my cupcakes so everything would coordinate.  Paint is a simple, inexpensive way to quickly transform things you already have at home to perfectly match your current party color palette.

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To add some color and interest, I printed, cut & strung two sets of Anders Ruff’s nautical pennant flags (included in their printable package) onto some twine and criss-crossed them on my bead board background.  (TIP:  You can purchase 8′ x 4′ bead board from Home Depot inexpensively and reuse it time and again.  They will even cut it down to size for you.  Mine was cut down to 6′ x 4′.)  I hung the AHOY signs with some fishing line that I taped to the back of my bead board.  Our backdrop was flanked on each side with festive star balloons from Party On! Designs.

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Displaying the variety of delicious desserts was paramount, but a close second, was displaying them creatively with our theme in mind. One of my favorite “go to”sources for party décor and inspiration is Oriental Trading Company.  Not only are their prices fantastic, but they offer such a broad range of products to fit a variety of party themes.  When their patriotic catalog arrived in the mail and included some fun nautical items, I was so excited!   I knew their products were a perfect fit for our event!  You’ll notice I used many of their signature party basics throughout my styling,  in addition to some of their nautical themed offerings.

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Our dessert display included scalloped navy treat boxes from Oriental Trading with vinyl accents from Ten23Designs.  We filled ours with butter & caramel popcorn and accessorized them with cute glittered swizzle sticks from Party On! Designs topped off with printable flags from the nautical printable package by Anders Ruff. Who doesn’t love popcorn, right?

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Delicious cupcakes made by Designs by SK were adorned with adorable custom fondant nautical flag toppers by the talented 4 Kids Cakes.  I loved displaying them in striped cupcake wrappers from Pick Your Plum on the shelves of our wooden boat.

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One of my personal dessert favorites is pie.  Aren’t these mini pies cute?  We spruced up these peach, cherry, apple & blueberry pies with some more Anders Ruff party flags attached to wooden toothpicks.  What’s more “American” than pie?

pies Speaking of pie, my very favorite pie is this strawberry tart made especially by my mom.  (It’s more of a sugar cookie crust vs. the traditional pastry crust.)  Isn’t it cute with its little nautical flags?strawberry pie 4

Rice Krispy treats are another dessert staple that is so easy to embellish with something like these festive sparkle sticks by Made by a Princess  They are no fuss, and kids love them! nautical rice krispy treats If you love macarons, like I do, then red, white and blue macarons (made by 4 Kids Cakes) are a must!  Christina never spares on the details, and her added star accents and shimmer were a hit!  We added a few other store bought cookie options displayed on classic white trays.

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In addition to baked goods, candy & sweets are always a party favorite. We added some cute crab suckers from Oriental Trading to our table & some cute treat boxes filled with some salt water taffy . (Tip:  Need custom treat boxes? We repurposed fry boxes from Party On! Designs, added some cute nautical labels & made paper rosettes from some great sturdy textured cardstock from American Crafts. You will also see these same boxes used as chip containers on our food table!  Double threat! )

crab suckersfry box treat favors The kids loved our firecracker gumball favor tubes too.  (Thank you for the inspiration Giggles Galore.) These were a quick DIY, with gumballs & favor tubes from Katarina’s Paperie, 4th of July ribbon from   Ribbon Revelry & some red, white & blue sparkle garland from Party City. A few cuts with the scissors & a couple of dabs of hot glue and our firecracker gumballs were ready to party!

2013-07-04 16.16.29gumball tubes The Food & Beverage Tables:

Unfortunately, man cannot live by dessert alone (I may have to “test” this…), so we also set up colorful nautical themed food and beverage tables.

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A big thank you to Wholesale Event Solutions for our gorgeous white linens.

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I spruced up our beverage table with a printable nautical banner included in the coordinating printable collection by Anders Ruff.  The addition of a red fish net from Oriental Trading Company, some DIY wood stands for displaying different beverages & dressing up the various bottles of soda & water with printable beverage wraps from Anders Ruff easily transformed our beverage area for thirsty sailors. nautical beveragesnautical soda pop2013-07-04 16.39.49

Adding different layers to our food table allowed us to accommodate all of the different sides, salads and condiments that go along with a great BBQ!  We used more of our DIY wooden stands to house rope handled baskets filled to the brim with individual chip containers & buns.  Our galvanized 3 tiered stand from Pick Your Plum reminded me of the crow’s nest on a ship and was perfect for displaying a beautiful variety of summer salads.  We loved displaying our baked beans in individual lidded cups with twine and Anders Ruff circle toppers.  Functional can still be festive!

food tablenautical food details The Dining Tables:

We lucked out with the perfect summer day for our party and were fortunate to be able to set-up outdoors.  (Rain isn’t uncommon in Seattle on the 4th.)

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place setting

Tables were dressed with beautiful tablecloths from Wholesale Event Solutions, rustic remnants of burlap, and blue mason jars filled with vibrant red & white flowers.

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I wanted each table setting to be colorful and fun.  I paired red placemats with colorful layered partyware from Oriental Trading Company and red patriotic napkins from Petite Party Studio. Gorgeous farm stand milk bottles from Red Hill General Store were adorned with beverage wraps and accented with a cute striped party straw (Petite Party Studio) and printable party flag.  Mini treat cups (Petite Party Studio) filled with colorful gummy treats & taffy sat at each place to hold off each guests sweet tooth.  Each place setting was flanked on the right by an embellished set of sparklers and on the left with a tin pail (Oriental Trading Company) filled to the brim with snaps, treats, and wooden utensils (Katarina’s Paperie). The pails were decorated with cute Anders Ruff printable labels & tags, a wood anchor (Ten23Designs) and topped off with coordinating ribbon and jute from American Crafts! nautical place setting detailsfavor utensil buckets

Even our patio set & umbrella got a little makeover with these darling red and white lanterns from Katarina’s Paperie.  It’s all in the details! patio lanterns Activities:

The adults and kids enjoyed participating in water balloons, lawn games, a bike parade & the traditional S’mores roast to end the night!  We loved having these S’mores kits already assembled for our party.  Anders Ruff’s S’mores labels were the perfect touch!

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A big thank you to Great Stitch and Make it Mine Couture for the custom 4th of July shirts, Cupcake Wishes & Birthday Dreams for the pom pom sparkler wands & Designs by SK for the coordinating hairbows!

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I absolute adore the wonderful companies who contributed to our nautical celebration & hope you will refer to the vendor list often for your upcoming party needs!


Event Concept & Styling:  Jen Carver, Banner Events

Photographer:  Rochelle Pettingill


Graphic Design Suite & Invitation:  Anders Ruff Custom Designs

Invitation:  here

Coordinating printable suite : here


Custom fondant cupcake toppers & macarons:  4 Kids Cakes

Cupcakes:  Designs by SK

Crab character suckers:  Oriental Trading Company

Sugar star pops:  Tikkido

PARTY GOODS/DECOR: Nautical napkins & plates, nautical pennant garland, nautical table garland, life preservers, popcorn boxes, anchor stir sticks, rope handle baskets, lanterns, starfish:  Oriental Trading Company

Acrylic craft paint:  DecoArt Inc.

Custom laser cut wood letters & nautical décor (anchors, captain’s wheel, paddles, etc…) & vinyl:  Ten23 Designs

Textured cardstock, colored jute, grosgrain ribbon & This to That adhesive:  American Crafts

Farm stand milk bottles:  Red Hill General Store

Wooden utensils, red paper lanterns, red, white & blue gumball tubes:  Katarina’s Paperie

Star balloons, fry boxes, glittered swizzle sticks:  Party On! Designs

Red, silver & blue Sparkle Sticks:  Made by a Princess

White tablecloths:  Wholesale Event Solutions

Striped treat cups, napkins & paper straws:  Petite Party Studio


4th of July ribbon:  Ribbon Revelry

Custom hair bows:  Designs by SK

Custom nautical shirts:  Make it Mine Couture

Custom 4th of July firework shirts:  Great Stitch

Custom pom wands:  Cupcake Wishes & Birthday Dreams

SOURCES for products to help you create your own Nautical Bash:

3 Tiered Galvanized Metal Stand
Red Striped Paper Straws
Navy Striped Paper Straws
Unfinished Natural Wood Boat
Captains Wheel
Decorative Fish Net
Life Preserver Wall Decoration
Nautical Table Garland
Shining Sea Dessert Plates
Shining Sea Napkins
Crab Suckers
Lighthouse Décor
Lighthouse Lantern Red
Patriotic Paper Lanterns, Pack of 6
Kate Aspen Rope Lantern
Kate Aspen “Voyages” Anchor Muslin Favor Bag, Set of 12 
Nautical Flag Banner
Nautical Sea Cupcake Topper Picks
Nautical Print Latex Balloons

Wife. Mother of 4. Party planning addict. Official treat taster. Lover of Halloween. Football fanatic. Anders Ruff Guest Blogger.


  1. Hi Amanda-

    The AHOY letters are from Lauren from Ten23Designs.com . The link to her website is in the vendor credits.

    1. Hi Jean- thank you for your sweet comment. I purchased that boat several years ago at a craft store, but believe I’ve seen similar unpainted boats at Michaels in their unfinished wood section.

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