DIY Nautical Wedding: A Clever Sailcloth Dress and More!

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Lifestyle
  • Reading time:9 mins read

What sailor hasn’t dreamed of sailing around the world? Meet Catherine Watts, who bested that by planning a nautical wedding while she does it – including an amazing DIY sailcloth wedding dress! Here is her story.

We did not set out to have a nautical themed wedding per-se but as live aboard cruisers, it was was rather fitting.

catherine and soon-to-be husband at mt. cook

Catherine and her partner enjoy a quick kiss before Mount Cook, photo Tuuletar.

 My partner and I met and dated at high-school in tropical Darwin, Australia over 18 years ago. Circumstances beyond our control pulled us apart not long after, but 10 years later we met again and after some polite conversation he suddenly blurted out:

“Lets get married and go sailing around the world.”

He knew exactly how to get my attention.

tuutletar in fiji

Tuuletar cruising Fiji, photo: Tuuletar.

Seven grueling years later we bought ‘Tuuletar’ in Queensland and set sail together just over 18 months ago.

One of the most satisfying things about our new lifestyle is fixing and making things ourselves. Sometimes it happens out of necessity, when we are in remote locations. Sometimes out of frustration, born of being unable to reasonably source the right item. Increasingly however, it is because we have gained confidence in our abilities to do a better job ourselves and we are enjoying the learning. It was a little of all these things that led to the sail-dress.

sunset from tuuletar

Sunset at the New Zealand anchorage that inspired Catherine’s dress, photo: Tuuletar.

moody weather in new zealand

While hunkered down due to weather in Northern New Zealand, Catherine planned her wedding, photo Tuuletar.

We were hunkered down in northern New Zealand for a week of extremely bad weather. Stuck on board, we finally had the time to think about the small wedding we wanted to hold in about 6 weeks time. I had acquired a vintage sewing machine with the boat, tensioned for sailcloth and heavy canvas, as well as half an old sail to practice on from another generous cruiser. It was the only white fabric I had and I knew I’d get little or no chance to shop before the day, so I figured it would not hurt to give it a go and with a basic dress pattern from the op-shop, I got stuck into it.


The beautiful bride in her sailcloth creation, photo Tuuletar.

I changed the skirt to an A-line, figuring that in the stiff Dacron fabric that was the only way I’d manage to walk properly. I also modified the pattern for a boat neck line which I’ve always liked and was easier to achieve in Dacron. Four hours later I sat there stunned looking at this dress, although far from perfect, I could not believe how well it had worked.

Soon after we left for Australia and around five weeks later we arrived in Darwin. It was a pretty brisk pace and when we did linger it was often without phone coverage so I barely got the required paperwork done for the wedding, there was little chance to prearrange anything else.

origami flowers made from an old chart

How clever! Origami flowers made from a discarded chart, photo Tuuletar.

chart thank you cards

Adorable thank you cards from a discarded chart, photo Tuuletar.

gift pouches made from sailcloth

gift pouches from a recycled sail, photo Tuuletar.

Buoyed by the success of the dress, I made a few more items for the day including; Origami flowers and thank you cards from a discarded chart; hold-alls for cutlery and decoration, as well as little gift pouches from scraps of the old sail with zippers from the op-shop.

nautical wedding, arriving by dinghy

The couple arrive by dinghy, photo Tuuletar.

nautical themed bubbly - chandon limited edition brut classic

A tasty nautical themed bubbly! Chandon Limited Edition Brut Classic, photo Tuuletar.


Tightening a hose-clamp ring with a screw driver! photo Tuuletar.

The day went perfectly, and arriving by dinghy in my tongue-in-cheek dress helped set the tone for a very relaxed and fun event. Most of the small gathering came from sailing backgrounds, even if that was not how we knew them, so the dress was a hit. Tightening the hose-clamp ring with a screw driver also got a lot of giggles.

tuuletar's bride and groom

Cheers to the bride and groom! photo Tuuletar.

You can see more photos and read a little more detail on our blog.

Catherine & Mark are former building industry professionals who now run a small software company, focussed on environmentally responsible building practices, in between all the boat maintenance, whilst attempting to travel around the world (slowly) on their 44′ Ketch. You can follow them or create your own free boat logbook at

If you liked this article you may enjoy Baja Ha-Ha Cruise Rally Report and Living Their Dream: The Clipper Round the World Race Story.

Leave a Reply