Nautical 1st birthday party ideas

Nautical 1st Birthday Party Ideas

My son Grayson’s nautical 1st birthday party was a few months ago.  I’m just now getting this post up, but better late than never, right?

I started planning his nautical-themed 1st birthday party well in advance. I felt like it was a big accomplishment, making it through the first year with my first child. My what a year! His first birthday party was as much for my son as my husband and I. I wanted a party both the adults and kiddies would enjoy, so scoured the web for great nautical 1st birthday party ideas. I hope my experience can help you with your party plans.

Invitations and Printables

Nautical birthday party invitation + party ideas!

We invited friends and family about a month in advance with customizable nautical invitations purchased on Etsy from youmakedo. The invitations are printable, or can be sent in an email, always a convenient alternative for those Facebook friends.

I also purchased the matching nautical party printables pack from youmakedo with straw toppers, drink labels, party banner, cupcake toppers and cutlery wraps.

Nautical Decorations

Table decorations included several sailboats, a ship’s wheel and a life preserver, all available on Other nautical items were picked up from a Zulily sale.

Nautical party decorations + party ideas!

Nautical Party Food

I did a mix of store-bought food and homemade, trying to keep the emphasis on homemade and organic. The sandwiches were ordered from Fresh Market and they were delicious. I made a simple cheese plate, a spinach orzo salad and a big fresh fruit plate including strawberries, honeydew melon, blueberries, grapes and watermelon. A simple glass vase with whole wheat goldfish crackers sat on the table for snacking.

Nautical party food + party ideas!

For treats, there were Jell-O cups filled with orange “boats”. I attempted to make and decorate sugar cookies in nautical shapes. It’s been a really long time since I used a piping bag so I wasn’t too happy about how they turned out. Still, they were cute and delicious (and good practice for next time!).

natical party recipes + party ideas!

Nautical party desserts + party ideas!

The cake was an organic chocolate cake with vanilla cooked flour butter cream. I swirled a tiny bit of blue food coloring into the icing and gave it some swirls with the back of a spoon to look like water.  A dozen chocolate cupcakes filled out the dessert table, along with nautical lollipops purchased from Candy Warehouse.

The cake topper was handmade by Msapple on Etsy. She makes the adorable paper sailboats to order, in custom colors. I ordered two in different sizes, not knowing which one I would use for the cake. One came with a custom “1st Birthday” cake banner for the top of the cake.

Nautical birthday cake + party ideas!

The homemade cake was a bit of a disappointment (to me–the baby certainly didn’t care!). I waited until the morning of the party to make the frosting and ice the cake, which was a mistake. The frosting didn’t set up properly and ended up too soft and a little separated. It still tasted delicious!

Nautical birthday baby + party ideas!

I wasn’t able to get nearly enough photographs during the party, but I did make sure each baby and child was photographed so I could put together a little  image to remember the day. An area was set up outdoors to photograph all of the little ones who came to the party. Since many of them were babies, it would be impossible to take a photo of them all together. Instead, I used my Photoshop skills to place them all in a paper boat. How cute is this?

Nautical birthday party pictures + party ideas!

Despite all of my planning, there are a few things I would improve on for the next birthday party. I hope you learn from my experience!

1st Birthday Party Tips:

  • Assign someone as official photographer. You will be too busy to take pictures.
  • Frost the cake the night before—or at least make the icing the night before. Don’t get caught frosting cupcakes when guests are arriving. Big mistake!
  • If you want to get great photos, set up extra lights or plan to take some photos outside.
  • Ask for help! The more helpers the better.

Nautical 1st birthday party ideas



  • Laura Barker

    I am pregnant with my first and it’s a boy. Now I get to enter this whole world of boys I have yet to venture in. Love the post and tips. Super cute theme 🙂 Thanks for the ideas.

  • Elizabeth (Rock-A-Bye Parents)

    This is so cute! What a fun and different theme, and I love how you carried it out through every aspect of the party. Well done getting a picture with all of the kids that were at the party (even if you did Photoshop it). I was so busy at my son’s first birthday party that I hardly got any pictures during the party.

  • Britni

    I love that you photoshopped everyone into the boat, such a cute party! Thanks for sharing on the weekend re-Treat link party!

    Britni @ Play. Party. Pin.

  • Cindy Eikenberg

    Hi Marni! What an adorable first birthday party and seeing the little one eat their 1st birthday cake is always one of my favorite things! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing at Best of the Weekend (great tips, too!) and pinning to our party board. Hope you’re having a happy weekend!

  • Jill

    These are all adorable ideas for a special birthday!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  • Carrie

    Ohmygoodness. SO CUTE. I *love* the boat idea! And I don’t know what you could have done better – it looks amazing to me!

    Thanks for linking up to Wordy Wednesday…pinning!

  • Jessica

    So Cute!!!! Where did you find the paper boat ? I am interested to see if I can do something similar with my limited photoshop skills.

  • Gladys

    OMG, everything looks perfect! I’m going to be trying to pull off a nautical 1st birthday party for my little one too! I really love how you created that one photo but i don’t have these skills. Would you be able to explain how you did this? I was going to try to do a card box sail boat and hope to get a few good pics but I know that will be hard. Anyway, thanks for sharing and job well done!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *