23 Coastal Grandmother-Inspired Ideas for a Nautical Wedding Theme

Grab your cashmere sweater and a glass of rosé.
Samantha Iacia - The Knot wedding style expert
Samantha Iacia
  • Samantha writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in wedding decor, trends, and fashion
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Samantha was a features and weddings contributor for The Baltimore Sun
  • She is based in Washington, D.C. and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism
Updated Sep 28, 2022

Whether you're thinking about an intimate sunset ceremony in the sand or a full-on bash at a yacht club or other coastal venue, a nautical wedding theme is perfect for creating a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere on your special day. But if you think this wedding style is just about anchors and seashells, think again. The trendy coastal grandmother aesthetic has brought a whole new meaning to nautical-inspired design, providing plenty of fresh (but classic) ways to incorporate the theme into your wedding day. Here, we're explaining the concept of a nautical wedding theme, breaking down the coastal grandma trend and sharing some of our favorite ideas to achieve an effortless, coastal chic look.

In this article:

Are the Coastal Grandmother Aesthetic and Nautical Wedding Theme the Same Thing?

While these two design concepts are technically not the same, they do complement each other and use a lot of the same fundamentals. You can think of the coastal grandmother aesthetic as a grown-up, refined version of typical nautical style—it's less preppy and more organic. But what is the coastal grandmother aesthetic? If you've ever seen a Nancy Meyers movie (try "It's Complicated" or "Something's Gotta Give"), chances are you have some sense of what it looks like.

Imagine: an impeccably styled but lived-in home, located somewhere idyllic, like the Hamptons or Cape Cod. A blue and white color palette, chintzy floral prints, rattan accents and crisp linen textiles are just some of the necessary elements you need for the coastal grandma trend. Add other details like fresh hydrangeas, striped patterns, jute rugs, a touch of cashmere and a hearty glass of wine to fully embody your inner coastal grandmother. Luckily, most of these things translate easily into wedding decor, especially if you're getting married at a waterfront venue or heading to a quaint beach town for your nuptials.

Nautical Wedding Ideas

From the venue you choose to the attire you wear and the food that's served, there are a few basic elements that will easily help you ace the coastal, nautical wedding theme. Here's how to do it.

Nautical Wedding Venues

cape cod wedding venue exterior view of wychmere beach club
Hannah Cochran Photography,
Wychmere Beach Club

Destinations like Martha's Vineyard, Block Island, Kennebunkport and Montauk are closely associated with nautical themes and the coastal grandmother aesthetic, but you don't have to be getting married in New England to pull it off. Regardless of which state you're marrying in, look for wedding venues like yacht or sailing clubs, maritime museums, lakefront properties or beach resorts. For an outdoor wedding, consider renting a Sperry Tent—they're made from sailcloth, the same material used for sails on sailboats, so they provide an instant nautical feel.

Nautical Wedding Attire

Think of nautical wedding attire as an elevated version of the beach wedding dress code, with a focus on classic designs and airy fabrics. Stick to colors like white, blush, light blue, navy and cream for a breezy look. Dresses and suits in breathable materials, such as linen, cotton and seersucker, will add to the laid-back tone of the theme. If you're going for a very casual approach, you can skip traditional wedding accessories like ties, vests or veils.

Nautical Wedding Colors

Rather than trying to rival the natural beauty of your coastal wedding venue, roll with your surroundings and opt for a color palette that's harmonious with the scenery. Colors like dusty blue, beige, green and white will echo the water, sea grass and clouds of a waterfront venue. Add gold or bronze accents to enrichen the color palette, or use hints of red if you're leaning toward an Americana wedding vibe.

Nautical Wedding Invitations

nautical wedding invitations with blue watercolor painted map of venue and couple's names in calligraphy
Cory Weber Photography
Katlem Design & Invitations

Hint at your wedding theme by adding a nautical-inspired map to your stationery suite. Other decorative details, like monograms, sailor's knot motifs, maritime flags and watercolor washes will play up the coastal chic design of nautical wedding invitations.

Find your kind of venue

From barns to ballrooms, discover reception venues that feel like you.

Nautical Wedding Flowers

Hydrangeas are some of the most popular wedding flowers of all time, and they're a favorite when it comes to a nautical wedding theme. These snowball-shaped blossoms can be found in nearly any coastal location, where they thrive in the sunshine and cool breezes coming off the water. White is the most classic and versatile variety, but hydrangeas also bloom in blue, pink, purple, green and multicolor shades. Other flowers we love for a nautical theme include garden roses, delphiniums, peonies and greenery, such as smilax, boxwood or eucalyptus.

Nautical Wedding Decor

Instead of using decor that's obviously nautical, such as anchors, buoys, lighthouses, seashells and sand, the goal of the coastal grandma trend is to pick items that aren't tied to one theme but can work together to create a coastal vibe. The decor should also be fairly classic—and don't forget that not everything needs to be "on theme." Spend time choosing details that feel homey, like something you'd actually want to use in your home after the wedding day, to achieve the lived-in look that will immediately make your guests feel relaxed.

Nautical Wedding Food

Would a nautical wedding be complete without seafood? Crab cakes, lobster rolls and oysters can be served either as cocktail hour hors d'oeuvres or alongside main dishes such as pasta, garden salad and freshly baked bread. Recreate the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal by incorporating locally sourced ingredients when possible—you can even share a note on the menu or add decorative flags to appetizers telling guests where the seafood was caught. Rosé is the beverage of choice for peak coastal grandma aesthetic, but you can also recommend red or white wine pairings based on guests' meal preferences. Finally, finish the day with a classic wedding dessert, like a white buttercream cake or fruit pie.

More Nautical Wedding Theme Inspiration

Now that you know the basics, check out these other ideas for even more inspiration when it comes to nautical wedding decor and coastal style.

Wedding Programs with Striped Ribbons

Find little ways to incorporate striped prints throughout your decor, whether it's via ribbon details on your wedding ceremony programs, striped linens for your reception tables or cocktail napkins served with your signature drink.

Bamboo Wedding Chairs

For an outside ceremony, you don't want decor that will distract from the gorgeous waterside views, so think about what you can add to complement the scenery in a subtle way. Decorative wedding chairs are one detail that will add a custom look to your venue setup without being obtrusive. This folding bamboo style suits a nautical or coastal setting.

White Peony Wedding Bouquet

Hydrangeas are a major component of the coastal grandma trend, but peonies also fit the classic-meets-preppy vibes of a nautical wedding theme. Pair white blooms with hints of greenery for a simple but chic wedding bouquet.

Sunset Wedding Cruise

Sail off into the sunset—literally. If you're having a smaller wedding, consider surprising your guests with a cocktail hour cruise or sailboat send-off at the end of the night. Another option: Book a sunset voyage as an alternative rehearsal dinner idea to create a memorable experience for your closest loved ones.

Chinoiserie Vases

These blue and white porcelain vases, also sometimes known as ginger jars, are a must-have for the coastal grandmother aesthetic. Use them to decorate the entrance to your ceremony aisle, display centerpieces or hold favors for guests to grab near the exit.

Compass Wedding Favors

We love wedding escort cards that can double as take-home favors. Enlist a pro calligrapher to write guests' names and table assignments on vintage-style compasses as nautical-themed keepsakes.

Blue Patterned Table Linens

Another big component of coastal grandma chic? Blue and white textiles. Decorate hightops or banquet tables with patterned linens featuring floral, ikat or jacquard prints to quickly spruce up your decor.

Rowboat Oar Wedding Welcome Sign

Wooden oars are the perfect nautical-themed alternative to traditional wedding signage, such as mirrors or acrylic squares. Fresh greenery will add life and play up the rich, natural colors of the wood.

Oyster Shell Wedding Escort Cards

If you and your partner love to eat oysters, start saving up the shells to recreate this idea. Use them as clever escort cards or wedding place cards on your reception tables.

Glass and Rope Wedding Table Decor

Adding some unmistakably nautical wedding decorations is fine in moderation—but remember to balance them out with other decor where possible. These rope-covered glass orbs would be a good addition to centerpieces, a bar top or the welcome table.

Glasses of Sparkling Rosé

server pouring sparkling rose champagne into glass flutes
Fidan Kandemir Photography

We'd argue that there's nothing more refreshing in the summertime than a glass of cold, crisp rosé. Choose a brut variety to pour as you kick off cocktail hour or serve dessert.

Hand-Shucked Oyster Appetizers

One of the perks of hosting a seaside celebration is the easy access to fresh seafood. Add a raw bar or hire roving waitstaff to shuck oysters right in front of your guests—it's something they'll be talking about long after your wedding.

Monogrammed Throw Pillows

Perfect for a wedding lounge area or your sweetheart chairs, embroidered pillows are a sentimental way to mark the start of your new life together. Decorate them with your individual initials or a new monogram if you're sharing a last name. The best part: You can reuse them somewhere in your home after you're married.

Patterned Wedding China

When it comes to the wedding place settings, we love the idea of using mismatched china to create an eclectic, inviting look. Stick to one color palette and similar designs on all of the plates so there's some cohesion.

Rattan Wedding Guest Seating

While Chiavari chairs are considered to be very formal and the popular cross-back chairs are typically more rustic, these rattan chairs are just right for a nautical theme or coastal aesthetic. They're similar in height and color but slightly different in design, giving the illusion that everyone grabbed their own chairs and gathered around the family table.

Live Event Painter

Custom art is another big ingredient for the coastal grandma aesthetic. Hire a professional event artist to create a one-of-a-kind reception scene painting that you'll have forever. Your guests will love watching them in action throughout the day.

Up Next
  • Couple sharing champagne toast on the beach with their dog
    50 Beach Wedding Ideas for an Amazing Seaside Event