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Red, White, and Blue Nautical Shrimp Boil (44 photos)


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Recently, I was asked to style a red, white, and blue nautical shrimp boil for a high school graduation party.  The graduate’s school colors were even red, white, and blue so the color scheme was meaningful to him!  With the party occurring right before Memorial Day, my worst fear was that the colors would look like a big, giant red, white, and blue party.  (However, I think this would make a great Fourth of July party theme!)  I wanted to keep the party fun, but with a tasteful, modern, Pottery Barn look, so I stuck to a palette of primarily navy, white, and sand with a pop of red to give it that modern, playful touch.  It was part New England clam bake and part southern, low country shrimp boil.

Kim at Silly Me Design did a fantastic job of creating a custom invitation that embodied the modern element in bold navy and white stripes, but incorporated that pop of red with a minimal lobster graphic.  It set the tone for the entire party and got guests excited about the theme!

I usually make a wreath to adorn client’s front doors on party day, but since this was a backyard bash, I turned an old life preserver into a “wreath” and hung it on the gate as guests entered the celebration. In place of a guest book, guests had the option of leaving the graduate a message in bottle, which was surrounded by framed vintage nautical prints I found online.

Feeding on inspiration from a great clam bake scene on Revenge (beloved by the graduate’s mom and mentioned in our consultation) and the Pottery Barn summer catalog, I chose to use blue gingham tablecloths and glass fish bowls and hurricane glasses filled with sand, starfish, shells, nautical rope, and pillar candles for centerpieces.  I strung large white paper lanterns down the entire length of the 50’ banquet table.  Rather than the typical newspaper table runner you see at a shrimp boil, I printed off vintage art of ships, crab, lobster, rope knots, nautical maps, and starfish and glued them together to create a place for guests to dump their food.  I also purchased inexpensive $6 black battery operated lanterns from Ross to use on the table and painted them with copper paint to give them an upscale look.  Classic white china was livened up with a rolled red napkin tied with twine and an anchor tag (free from Pottery Barn’s website) and the mason jars had striped red straws with anchor flags.  Of course, lemon slices, butter, and hot sauce were spread along the table with crab crackers and wooden mallets (made by my husband!).

To decorate the bar area, I hung an old life preserver on the wooden fence and flanked it with red, white, and blue pennant banners.  I set a galvanized tub on top of a wooden Coca-Cola crate to give it some height and filled the decanters with Arnold Palmer!

The dessert table was the focal point of the entire party!  I draped the table in a navy cloth and fishing net, which just popped against the bright red and white striped backdrop (a shower curtain I scored from Target!).  After searching all over for the perfect vintage map to paint the graduate’s name on, I finally decided to find one online and just photoshopped the graduate’s name into it before printing and placing in an ornate frame.  Although the graduate did not want a cake, the custom starfish and crab cookies by Sugar Me Desserterie took the cake!  I placed the crab cookies atop a boiling pot like they were crawling out of it and the starfish cookies on a bead of graham cracker crumb sand.  Guests could also build their own shortcake and select berries served in an antique fishing tackle box.


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