How to Host a Beach-Themed Backyard Dinner Party
Create a stylish coastal-inspired party with these clever ideas, projects and practical tips.
Cozy Dining Space
From the lanterns atop the coastal-casual pergola to the cool colors and textural sea-life accents, this beach-inspired backyard dinner party was created to be as appealing to men as it is to women. Coastal and nautical styles are an excellent inspiration for creating something relaxed and gender-neutral.
When creating the menu for your beach-inspired dinner party, stick with light fare. Consider quick and easy menu items evocative of coastal entertaining, such as boiled shrimp or shrimp cocktail, vegetables or fruits on skewers, bite-sized sliders and light salads.
Add a Little Whimsy
Ship-in-a-bottle accessories are a great way to bring a playful touch to your nautical centerpiece. These can be found online through major e-commerce sites or you can create your own.
Dress up your dining area with a candelabra made from a grouping of disparate lanterns. Gather an odd number of lanterns in assorted shapes, sizes and finishes. Suspend them at different lengths from an old wooden ladder using 1"-thick nautical sisal rope, ensuring balanced positioning. Secure tops of lantern ropes to ladder rungs using bundling wire.
Nautical flags, or international maritime signal flags, represent certain letters of the alphabet for coded communication at sea. Given their wide range of colors and shapes, nautical flags are a quick and easy way to add graphic impact to a basic wooden bench with painter’s tape and exterior latex paint. Simply paint any basic pine bench with flat exterior paint in ultra-white or off-white, then distress it with sandpaper. Next, use painter’s tape to outline a nautical flag shape, then paint with an angled brush or mini roller using accent colors. Once dry, remove tape, distress until the proper balance is achieved, and seal all surfaces with matte or satin sealer.
Lighthouse-Shaped Drink Stands
Coastal architecture can be a non-literal way to bring beach-inspired flair to your nautical dinner party. Look for accent furniture such as punch-bowl pedestals with shapes reminiscent of lighthouses or beach shacks. The drink station of this party is made up of iced tea and lemonade stands complete with drinks and cocktail napkins below.
Mix It Up
Texture is the most popular design element decorators use to create coastal or nautical interiors. Although most organic elements associated with the ocean are muted in color, they offer a plethora of textures ranging from the rough, nubby surface of coral to the rubbery leaves of succulents to the coarse, matte finish of driftwood.
Nautical stripe is one of the most iconic decorative elements of coastal style. Dress up a basic sisal indoor-outdoor area rug with hand-painted stripes using outdoor paint and sealant. To create the stripes, lay the rug out on a flat, level surface. Use a measuring tape to determine the proper width of the stripes for your particular rug. Mark the positioning of each stripe with a marker or pencil, then use painter’s tape to mark off the span of each stripe. Use flat-finish spray paint to create stripes, then add an even coat of sealant to protect the paint. Pull back painter’s tape and position rug in place.
Stackable Steel Chairs
Industrial touches of metal work well in giving nautical or beach-themed settings masculinity. Bring elements of steel to your dining table with powder-coated, stackable steel armchairs. When in use, they’re sturdy, graphic and help complete a color scheme. Once stashed away, the stackable construction takes up less room in a closet, maximizing storage space.
Beach-inspired centerpieces don’t necessarily need to feature flowers. Think outside the box when creating your coastal centerpiece by grouping textural objects reminiscent of the ocean: seashells, coral and driftwood as well as potted succulents and even wooden toys.
When hosting parties outside, keep in mind that outdoor drapery panels help soften the hard edges of house exteriors as well as pergolas and arbors. To add coastal appeal to outdoor draperies, choose panels made from casual beach-inspired fabrics such as cotton or washed linen in light colors such as blue-gray or cream.
Coastal style is known for its casualness, so keep that overall aesthetic in mind when putting together table settings for a beach-inspired dinner party. To work the blue-gray and natural tones of the design into the tablescape, woven-seagrass chargers were used along with periwinkle dinnerware, navy-blue drinking glasses and antique pewter flatware.
Beach-themed parties are meant to evoke a feeling of open air, bright sun and casual vibes. When choosing yard space to set up your dining area, pack the experience with elements of nature by selecting a location surrounded by lush greenery.
Burlap and Antique Tie-Backs
Almost anything ship-related makes for great beach-themed decor. By simply adding decorative burlap ribbon or rope to salvaged ship parts, disparate objects instantly become accents which enhance the overall design of the event.
Themed photo booths are great for helping guests break the ice and engage in conversation upon entry. They’re also perfect for ensuring all guests leave with lasting memories. To create a photo booth, pick up precut PVC pipe from the local home improvement store and create a version that’s 7’ x 7’ x 4’ deep. In addition to pipe, you’ll need eight elbows to connect each pipe together along the top and bottom corners. In addition to the photo booth itself, you’ll need a soft box and soft-box stand for a flattering, diffused flash to capture your guests in the best possible light. You can rent soft boxes by the day at local photography supply centers. To keep the booth hopping throughout the event, keep a digital camera set up on a tripod, and either designate one guest to take photos or keep the camera on a timer.
Adding props will inject personality into your guests' photographs. Set up a table near the photo booth and stock it with silly items that will encourage guests to playfully interact with each other. To help carry the coastal theme, include props like water noodles or swimming floaties.