Party Plan: Nautical Large Group Banquet

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I love a nautical decorating theme, and I use it as often as I can–for dinner parties, outdoor parties and even large-group meals. Guests also like the coastal theme–it reminds them of the beach and being on the water. So however you chose to plan your nautical party, you are going to have one memorable party!

This versatile theme will appeal to both adults and children, and can be held on the water or on the shore. Your community may have boat tours on a lake or river; they might also rent out the tour boat for events. You may have friends who have a catamaran barge that you can all can party on. If you are actually on a boat, you don’t need to do as much decorating because the ambience of the boat and water take care of that. Many larger vessels have dining rooms where your banquet could be catered.

If you don’t live near natural water, you might be able to rent a community pool and clubhouse for an evening. Or you can just create a nautical feel by decorating for an indoor party.

I did this particular nautical large group banquet in the school cafeteria for the high school band. All the band students and their families were invited, and we expected about 500 guests. We had 50 long tables to decorate and then put up enough other decorations to get our guests in the mood of our theme–Smooth Sailing to Success.

I always think that a great visual when your guests arrive puts them in the mood as does a great thematic musical playlist. If you walk into a space that is colorful and thematically decorated and you hear appropriate music playing, you are suddenly in the mood to celebrate. Our entry way table, at the corner of the cafeteria where you come from the parking lot hallway, was covered with a red with white stars vinyl table cloth from Walmart. On the table was a large cardboard lighthouse saved from a church vacation bible school I had worked with, a pair of white shutters from the thrift store, three Styrofoam life rings from a banquet I had been to years before, fish netting and seagull figures I had in my party props. The anchor in front of the table belonged to my parents–why they had it, I have no idea.The nametag table had the coordinating red with white stars vinyl tablecloth and several nautical decorations like a white metal lighthouse, blue lantern and wooden sailboat. The white star-cutout bowls were for the nametags and the backings guests pulled off. The foam core sign on an easel behind the table directed the guests as to what to do when they arrived.

International maritime signal flags make wonderfully colorful wall garlands if you have wall space or ceilings on which to attach them. I have used these flags I made from poster board and strung together for other nautical parties, but there was no free wall space in the school cafeteria on which to use them at this banquet. You can make your own or purchase cardboard versions of these signal flags from online party vendors.

The sailboat table centerpiece is made from a white plastic hanging-basket flower pot. The pot is filled with balled-up paper from my recycling bin and a quarter of a floral foam brick. A red napkin (or red tissue paper square) covers the filler, and an 18-inch dowel is stuck down through the napkin and into the foam. The sail is cut from white cardstock (craft foam also has the same body and stands up nicely). Two slits were cut in the sail’s center for the dowel to slide through. The little flag on the top of the sailboat mast is cut from blue craft foam (cardstock would also work) and simply stapled around the dowel’s end. Real seashells are placed around the sailboat, and blue construction paper shreds (made in a paper shredder) are sprinkled about to simulate water.

The tent cards on each end of the table are created on the computer and printed on my home printer out of cardstock. Make two cards (landscape, two columns) with a total of four columns of different information and pictures. Fold each card in half, and tape the two together on the inside to form a square or a diamond shape, as you prefer. Stuff two colors of luncheon napkins or squares of tissue paper into the top for color.

The red, white and blue table runner on each end of the tables was made from the borders of paper tablecloths. Cut the two border strips of decoration off the tablecloth, and then cut into whatever length runner you want. This can also be done with inexpensive wrapping paper or wallpaper. I used a red, white and blue graduation table border in honor of the senior band students who were being honored after the banquet. In the center of each table under the sailing ship was a red square cut from a red plastic tablecloth and laid on the diagonal.Our high school band banquet was followed by an assembly to honor the graduating seniors and outstanding achievements of different band students. Depending on the organization sponsoring your banquet, the after-dinner entertainment might be a singing group, dance troupe, dramatic skit or speaker.

However you use a nautical theme–on the water or off, you will have a great time–enjoy!

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