In last week’s blog post we delved into whether china might be something you feel you want (or need) to add to your wedding gift registry. This week, now that you’ve possibly decided to tableware it up to the max, we’ll take a look at how to go about choosing the right china set for you. Once again, this is simply my advice as a recent bride who’s had to go through this experience herself; for more (actual!) expertise, you should consult your local store.
Part 2: How to choose the best china set for you.
1. The look
Before you get into the logistics of the china (didn’t know there would be logistics? Read on!), you of course need to find a set where you like the aesthetic… and, considering that good-quality tableware should last you a lifetime, a set you think you’ll continue to enjoy for many years to come. If you’re not sold on how the set looks right now, scratch it off your list immediately. On the topic of lifetimes, consider whether the design could soon look outdated. Some options we looked at for our own wedding featured gray silhouetted flowers or decorative square spirals… but we concluded that while their patterns were okay now, it wouldn’t take much for them to look retro. The Reflective Groom and I settled on china patterns with an edging of double silver lines, hoping that “simple” might also be “timeless”. We could have just as easily opted for no pattern altogether, but we already had an all-white crockery set at home and wanted china that would look more distinctive.
As well as the pattern, you should also consider the shape and form of the china when it comes to the look. Narrowing our options down to silver edging left us with two candidate china sets. We had a lot of difficulty deciding between them – as the plates, bowls and cups all looked fairly similar – until we compared the teapots in the two sets. One was round, cute and looked exactly like something you’d be served with at a traditional high tea, whereas the other was taller, more square and more modern. We opted for the former and still love that stout little thing!
2. The elements
Obviously you’ll be needing plates (smaller ones and dinner sized) and bowls in your china set, but consider what else you will need, and whether the china set you have your eye on offers it. We were surprised by the number of accessories available within our china set: larger serving plates (in oval or circular shapes), small and large serving bowls, soup bowls and dessert bowls (who knew those were two different things?), sugar bowl, creamer, gravy boat, soup terrine, teacups, coffee cups, teapot, coffee pot, salt and pepper shakers, and more. You probably won’t need all these things (we’ve hardly used our soup terrine), but some things you will need – so make the china set has what you seek on offer, if you want things to match together.
3. The cost
Yes, a wedding gift registry is a great opportunity for your nearest and dearest to chip in on what can be a quite expensive purchase… but keep the prices reasonable for your guests, and make sure there are purchase options in several price ranges. In our case, we debated whether to even include the really expensive pieces on our registry – because we were afraid we would look money-grabbing. The larger, pricier items – like the soup terrine and larger serving bowls – were claimed by grandparents and parents, while other guests bought 4-8 plates, bowls or cups, to make for a fuller gift without it costing too much. Make sure there are some lower-cost items in your china registry for those guests with lower gift budgets; someone might feel embarrassed if they can only afford to buy you one plate, but one plate might cost the same as a sugar bowl or creamer, which feel a bit more substantial.
Another reason to keep your china prices reasonable: you and your partner might end up paying for a lot of them. Not everything in your registry will get bought up by your guests, so to have a full set of tableware in the quantities you want, you’ll need to buy up the unpurchased leftovers. Think about what you yourselves can afford before going too high end!
4. The maintenance
Check the care information to find out what will be involved in keeping your china in top-notch condition. This might be written in care symbols on the bottom of each piece, or you could ask the store for advice. Do you have time for polishing silver regularly? Do you have the patience to hand-wash an entire set of china, instead of throwing it in the dishwasher? (This was vital for me; being in charge of the washing up in our chore list, if it wasn’t dishwasher-proof, we weren’t buying it.) If your china of choice isn’t heatproof, make sure to keep it out of ovens and microwaves. Care information might also explain the best way to store the china, like with paper in between each plate to avoid them getting scratched while stacked.
Best of luck in choosing the china for your wedding registry! I hope it joins you for a lifetime of celebrations.