7 Ways to Embrace the Coastal Grandmother Aesthetic at Your Wedding

Plan a celebration straight out of a Nancy Meyers film with these ideas, courtesy of two event planners.

bride with bridesmaids in mismatched blue dresses
Photo: Lisa Ziesing for Abby Jiu Photography

Coastal grandmother style is easy, breezy, and blue-and-white everything—think Diane Keaton's character Erica Barry in the 2003 film Something's Gotta Give. Catapulted into mainstream fame by TikTok user Lex Nicoleta, the phrase "coastal grandmother" involves being chic without trying: It's straw hats, chambray button downs, and freshly picked flowers from the garden, all chased down with a good book and perhaps a glass of Pinot Grigio. Now, that's a wedding theme we can get behind.

The coastal grandmother aesthetic is a "look, feel, and lifestyle" that event planner Sarah Mastriano of A Lovely Universe, based in Red Bank, N.J., has always felt drawn to, but couldn't name until now. "It's traditional without feeling boring, expensive without feeling garish, organic, but not crunchy, and has the perfect element of undone elegance," she says. "Watching the coastal grandmother concept explode and find its way into events is a thrill."

There's another reason why it fits perfectly into the wedding landscape: Coastal grandmother style emphasizes the overall design philosophy of making choices that won't make you cringe in a decade—but also don't feel ultra-safe, adds Mastriano. "Events that incorporate that laid-back, but sophisticated and beachy ambience have always been a focus for me on the East Coast—but now, even more so," she says.

There's a coastal grandmother surge happening on the opposite side of the country, too. But according to Laurie Arons, the founder of Laurie Arons Special Events based in San Francisco, Calif, this trend goes deeper. "Since the pandemic, we've seen an increased appreciation for honoring family traditions while keeping a wedding fresh, effortless, and modern with the times," she says. "I think the coastal grandmother style marries these two goals perfectly." As for how her team channels the design ethos into events? "We'll bring in a touch of history from vintage china or a lace tablecloth that you may find at Grandma's house—but the rest of the design is clean and not too fussy."

Blend Traditional and Organic Materials

If you want to recreate this design trend, Mastriano says melding the traditional with the organic is paramount. "Iconic blue-and-white [details] are key, but so are grays, pale yellows, and creams—or subtle patterns like a thin French stripe, vintage floral, subtle gingham, or toile," she says. "Classic chinoiserie vases on guest tables, family-style meals even at black-tie affairs—because who doesn't love a big, beautiful arugula salad with local vegetables à la Ina Garten?—mixed in with rattan or jute chargers and fine white China feel quintessentially 'coastal gran.'"

bouquet wraps ribbon green flowers
Jose Villa

Bring the Outside In

When planning a coastal grandmother-inspired wedding, the outdoors is your friend. "It's impossible to get that coastal grandmother feel without recognizing that so much of that style is inspired by the beauty of living close to nature," says Mastriano. "Whether that's the salty air from the nearby beach or a garden filled with big, gorgeous hydrangeas, get inspired by this feeling when you select greenery or flowers for your big day."

Mastriano recommends using walnut or light wood chairs and farm tables for that organic touch, but direct your florist to keep your flower selections classic. Look to garden roses, lavender, topiaries, delphinium, peonies, and, of course, hydrangeas; Arons is a fan of lily of the valley. Display the flowers in vessels like mismatched ceramic vases, antique urns, or mixed woven baskets, Mastriano says.

blue table setting with printed table cloth and blush flower arrangement
Lisa Ziesing for Abby Jiu Photography

Look to Thematic Palettes and Table Linens

"Textural linens add interest to the subtle color palettes [associated with the coastal grandmother look]," says Arons, who uses lace tablecloths, checked linens, or organic fringe napkins to "add dimension to the tablescape."

Color—on the tabletop and throughout the rest of the design landscape—is also key: Some of the "cool, coastal tones" Arons has recently employed include monochromatic palettes of white, ivory, and beige punctuated with calming pale blue tones that don't skew pastel.

Work Rattan Into Your Big-Day Design

This vine-like material that's used to create wicker is so integral to the coastal grandmother aesthetic, it deserves its own section. While "rattan is a staple of this look, a little goes a long way," says Arons, noting that there are a lot of rattan products and event rentals available. "We've used it here and there via chargers, chairs, hurricanes, and one of my favorite cake tables of all time."

washington dc wedding flowers escort cards
Kate Headley

Decorate With Vases

According to Arons, antique vases—look to blue-and-white Dutch Delft or chinoiserie iterations—are the coastal grandmother-approved vessel of choice; they work better than standard glass bowls or terra-cotta compotes if you're set on implementing this design scheme at your wedding. "Vintage vases transform your centerpieces into Grandma's freshly picked (and perfectly arranged) flowers," she says.

Craft a Coastal Grandmother-Inspired Playlist

Another coastal grandmother-inspired trend that Mastriano is noticing at events both big and small? "Including music that makes guests feel like they're living in a Nancy Meyers' movie scene," she says. Mastriano suggests curating a playlist filled with throwbacks from Edith Piaf, The Temptations, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beach Boys, and Stan Getz; mix in Leon Bridges, Adele, and John Legend for "the perfect assortment of feel-good music" that matches this style's mood. Or, pull from the scores of your favorite Nancy Meyers flicks (think Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap, and The Holiday).

lace tablecloth with formal setting for wedding
Jose Villa

Don't Go Overboard

When it comes to this wedding trend, less really is more—after all, the coastal grandmother aesthetic, when translated in fashion or design, involves a fair amount of restraint. "Incorporate a hint of coastal décor without going too thematic," affirms Arons, who recounted a recent wedding hosted at the bride's grandmother's seaside home; her team created a custom escort display—a delicate linen half-wreath adorned with letterpress seashells holding the guests' names and table assignments—as a way to nod to the location without overdoing it.

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