Style Guide to the Nautical (Preppy!) Wedding

Let’s be clear, just so there’s no confusion — the nautical wedding is the preppy wedding. Every bit as much as Linda Carter is Wonder Woman, say. So what makes this wedding distinctive, other than having that thick preppy stylebook to help guide you on your way? Timelessness, for one. You’ll never look back on your pics and wonder, “what was I thinking?”

MORE: Find Nautical Themed Favors | Three Knockout Theme Wedding Ideas | Buy Wedding Favors

For another, freshness and space: the perfect setting for the nautical bride and groom is that big white tent within splashing distance of the beach, complete with clambake.

And it may not be in the official playbook, but let’s not forget the Scottish or Irish touches that inevitably sneak in, whether they call for a bagpiper, a cake layer soaked in Bailey’s Irish cream, or even a kilt.



Let’s start the symbols and patterns that make up the building blocks of nautical wedding: sand dollars and starfish. Lighthouses and Adirondack chairs. More monograms than you can shake a ribbon wand at. Fresh, beachy stripes.

And about those colors? Green and blue, of course … and a whole lotta crisp diamond-white.


The blooms are essential for setting that certain tone. Again, blue and green are the cornerstones, but this wedding doesn’t really call for hyper-designed floral arrangements that clamor for attention. Instead, the flowers are low-key, almost casual — like a friend might have plucked them from a garden that morning.

The usual suspects: tea roses and hydrangeas. You’ll also see come-as-you-are flowers like peonies in season, and fresh white gerbers. When a preppy bride wants to walk on the wild side, she might even throw in a few green orchids. After all, they’re sturdy, and make great boutonniéres.


MORE: Find Nautical Themed Favors | Three Knockout Theme Wedding Ideas | Buy Wedding Favors

The Clothes

The hallmark of the preppy, nautical bride: she wears the dress, not vice versa. Instead of billowing fantasy ballgowns, you’ll see absolutely classic A-lines. A bit of sparkly embellishment in the bodice? Quite possible. Layers on layers of champagne Alencon lace or frothy tulle skirts? Doubtful.

Instead, the gown’s typically a crisp, white strapless or halter top that follows the figure (but doesn’t bare or go ‘down to there’). The overall effect: elegance defined, typically accessorized with ladylike silver jewelry. This bride’s coif’s? More likely to be an ultra-sleek chignon than a tangle of ringlets.

MORE: Find Nautical Themed Favors | Three Knockout Theme Wedding Ideas | Buy Wedding Favors

As for bridesmaids, they’re wearing flirty, sashed cocktail-length gowns that sport the perfect preppy colors (seafoam green, anyone?). They might carry tin lanterns instead of those lovely hydrangea bouquets. The traditional nautical-theme gift from bride to bridesmaids: sterling silver starfish pendants.

Finally, let’s not forget the men. They’ll be dressed up — no open, Johnny Depp collars or loose linen shirts for these guys. No bow ties either: they’ll be wearing those striped satin ties we’ve all come to know and love as the epitome of male prep. But that’s not to say they’ll definitely don a tux. You’ll also see nautical best men in the classic combo of navy sportcoats and khaki pants (argyle socks optional).

The Cake

Once again, the cake won’t be screaming “2012 avant garde.” In fact, more likely than not, it’ll be white … or to charge it up, possibly pale blue. For embellishment, you might see classic Swiss dots with hydrangeas between layers. Or if the bride really wants to highlight the theme, shells, or a cute Adirondack two-chair topper. One thing’s for sure: this sucker will sit on a silver cake plateau that has presence.


The Details

You’ll see seashells pop up here and there, but never loudly: bouquet picks, placecard holders, accents for boutonniéres. A lobster trap might serve as a card box.

The centerpieces won’t look overdone. You’ll see something as simple (and elegant!) as a pillar candle in a hurricane lamp, set in sand or sea glass and dressed up with a starfish and a floating organza ribbon. Simple blooms in galvanized buckets with more white organza ribbon also add up to nautical-wedding perfection. The same understated look will extend to chairs (not covered) and linens (not layered-upon-layers).

Homey, familiar touches make the day personal. The bride and groom toast with Grandma’s Waterford. The bride carries a locket or pins a memorial frame to her bouquet wrap, remembering loved ones. Homemade sugar cookies make a sweetly personal gift for guests, made even sweeter when you tuck them in cello bags tied off with stripey ribbon. A memory quilt sewed from squares that your guests designed and signed makes a powerfully (and preppy) pleasing heirloom.

MORE: Find Nautical Themed Favors | Three Knockout Theme Wedding Ideas | Buy Wedding Favors

More Nautical Favors

The classics: Find Nautical Themed Favorss,Find Nautical Themed Favors, Find Nautical Themed Favors or Find Nautical Themed Favors in miniature galvanized pails and Find Nautical Themed Favors

Your Own Ideas

This covers the basics … but that’s only the start. What ideas have you tucked away for your nautical, East Coast wedding? How about a grand exit by boat before the reception winds down?