Dinnerware 101 by

Because I do quite a bit of entertaining every weekend, I often get emails from readers about my dinnerware. With so many things to consider when it comes to dressing your table, I thought it would be a good opportunity for my friends at to share their thoughts about dinnerware. Special thanks goes out to Khara for her team's article!

Dinnerware 101

Exactly how many sets of dinnerware does the average household need? This is a question that comes up time and time again amongst my foodie friends! Sure, it's easier when you're living alone, as all you really need is one, maybe two sets. A nice, basic, machine washable set for everyday use and maybe a nice set of china for special occasions.

As you start to grow your family, however your cooking habits start to change. You're making more food more often, not to mention entertaining out of town family and other guests. Two dinnerware sets will no longer suffice! How do you determine what pieces are absolutely essential and what pieces are "extra?" Let's break it down and go over the basics that every household should not do without.

What's It Made Of?:

First things first, you need to decide what type of dinnerware you need. You have several options to choose from!

  • Bone China: Bone China dinnerware is the highest quality porcelain dinnerware on the market today. Considerably more expensive than standard china dinnerware, bone china is usually only available in white or ivory but can be purchased glazed or with ornate detailing. You most certainly get what you pay for, as bone china is deceptively hard and resistant to chipping and cracking. This is hard to believe as bone china dinnerware looks very delicate and fragile.
  • Fine China: If you don't want to spend the extra money, having at least one set of fine china is perfectly acceptable. Also considered very durable, fine china is most often available in white or cream but can be glazed in a variety of different colors. Essentially, it looks similar to bone china. You’re paying slightly less because the quality is not as fine.
  • Porcelain: Having at least one set of standard grade porcelain dinnerware is absolutely essential. Available in a bunch of colors and patterns, porcelain dinnerware is considerably more affordable than fine china and bone china. Durable, microwave and dishwasher safe it’s perfect for families.
  • Stoneware & Earthenware: While not absolutely necessary, the earthy appearance of stoneware and earthenware dinnerware is appealing to many consumers. Stoneware is extremely durable and available in a variety of colors, most are oven, microwave and dishwasher safe. It is produced from a dense clay and may be glazed in different thicknesses to create a unique textured look.

    Earthenware, the oldest form of dinnerware is available in a myriad of color options. If you plan on placing your earthenware in the oven make sure you let it adjust to the hot temperatures before cooking with it. The one downside to earthenware is its fragile lightweight clay, which makes it not microwave or dishwasher safe.

What Makes A Place Setting?

  • Formal Place Setting - 5 Pieces: If you plan on doing some entertaining having a nice set of formal dinnerware is absolutely necessary, but you're place setting will look different than a casual sit down dinner with the family. A formal dinner place setting should include a dinner plate, salad plate, teacup/saucer, bread/butter plate or a soup bowl.
  • Casual Place Setting - 4 Pieces: If you are having a more casual meal with friends or family, you don't need as many pieces. Most casual place settings include a dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl and a mug of some sort.

Other Things To Consider...

How many place settings do you need? Well this is determined by the size of your family or by how much entertaining you plan to do in a given year. Experts recommend that newlyweds register for 12 place settings. If you have a larger family, you might want to consider 18 place settings. Keep in mind, you can always purchase additional place settings if you find yourself short. If a certain dinnerware set you love is discontinued, you can purchase a different set and alternate both on your table to create a unique look.

In addition to your dinnerware, you might want to consider purchasing a server set as well. Server sets include matching platters, serving bowls, creamers and sugar bowls. You can fill in the rest of your table setting with sold-separately pieces like chip & dip sets, ramekins, casseroles, punch bowls, salad bowls, pasta bowls, etc.

By purchasing these pieces separately, you can exercise some creative control over your table. While a table full of bright white china dinnerware is certainly classic, change it up every so often by adding some brightly colored salad bowls or napkin rings. Now that we've covered all of the basics, you're on you're way to a truly stylish dinner table!

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