Location: A yacht club, aquarium or private boat are ideal settings.
Décor: Try to keep the event from becoming too clichéd (nix the faux anchors and kitschy lighthouses), says New York City event planner David Tutera, author of Big Birthdays (Bulfinch). Tutera mixes in unexpected elements; for example, he likes to use beach grass to make napkin rings that go around silk napkins edged in crystals. (You can use iron-on crystals from a party supply store.) Top each napkin with a chic orchid. Linens and other accents might be in boating blue, bright red and yellow and sailcloth white.
Menu: Serve such seafood favorites as clam chowder, lobster, oysters and yellow-fin tuna. (Include one non-seafood item for landlubbing guests.) Serve crisp white wines and fresh-tasting cocktails like the Sea Breeze (vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice).
Favor: Give small picture frames with pretty shells glued around the edges or stylish leather luggage tags in the shape of a ship (visit beau-coup.com).
Valentine's Day Romance
Cocktail hour: Serve up crimson-hued cocktails, and give them Valentine's-themed names like "Cupid's Kiss."
Décor: Forgo the usual cutesy hearts for a more sophisticated Valentine's symbol: the red rose. Tutera suggests using rose petals to create an aisle runner at your ceremony or a blanket of color atop your tables. You can even make pretty tea-light holders by cutting the stem off an open rose bloom and removing a few of the center petals to clear a spot for your candle. Generous groupings of rose-scented candles throughout the room will create a lush, romantic glow.
Menu: An all-red dessert lounge is a hot choice for a venue. Serve a variety of sweets: chocolate-covered strawberries, a raspberry tart, a red velvet cake.
Stationery: Customize your printed materials—place cards, escort cards, menus and cocktail napkins—with famous love quotes (visit quoteland.com for ideas) or intriguing factoids about the history and significance of Valentine's Day.
Favor: Consider small boxes of exotic, spice-flavored chocolates topped with a note reading "Sweet Dreams" or favor boxes filled with candy hearts, or pink, red and white M&Ms stamped with your names or "I love you."