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Wedding Registry China 101

And you thought a plate was just a plate. Read up on our china primer.
The Knot
Updated Jul 17, 2020

China is, traditionally, the centerpiece of any wedding registry. But even if your idea of entertaining is ordering pizza for the gang, there are many pros to registering for elegant tableware: It's the center of any table setting, can inject loads of style into your home decor, and it's a big investment. China is something you can keep forever, maybe pass along to your children one day. We'll help you learn the lingo, figure out your personal style, and care for it once you take it home. From figuring out how many place settings should you have to finding the ultimate wedding china  to add to your wedding registry, we've got you covered. Check out our guide below for all the information you need regarding wedding china. 

Wedding China Registry Guide 

First things first: what is wedding china? Wedding china refers to the dishes and dinnerware you receive as wedding gifts. Usually, your wedding china is not for everyday use, but rather it is reserved for special occasions or fancy events when you host a meal at your home. If you're inviting guests for a holiday or dinner party, this is the perfect time to pull out your special wedding china. 

Formal or Casual

China, a catchall term often used to describe dinnerware and dishes, is either formal or casual. Formal, or fine china as some call it, is usually more expensive and made of a higher quality. Formal china includes bone china and porcelain. Casual china, such as earthenware and stoneware, is often less costly and a lower quality. Some bridal gurus advocate buying two china sets: one formal, one casual. But there's no real need to buy two sets if you don't want to. True china, once reserved for special occasions, is now making its way to everyday use.


In addition to all-white, there are four basic categories of china patterns:

  • Floral china, as you might guess, features flowers and perhaps even fauna.
  • Geometric china has strong, geometric lines and patterns.
  • Banded china is white or ivory china with a gold or platinum rim. You'll sometimes see blue or green rims too. Banded china requires hand washing.
  • Oriental china, as the name implies, has an Asian flair.

Today it is absolutely acceptable, even hip, to mix patterns. An easy way to mix and match is to vary different prints or colors of the same pattern. Or blend different types of china to create a funkier look.

Wedding China Inspiration

Simple Sets

Not into all the flowery details? No sweat. You don't have to go with wedding china that reminds you of your great aunt's table settings. Look for simple sets that feature a pop of color or more preppy designs, such as polka dots or confetti. You can find playful dinnerware that is more contemporary. 

Elaborate Collections

You can always go with a set of wedding china that makes a statement. Explore edgy settings that feature unexpected elements like dark, charcoal-colored designs or dramatic imagery. These plates and bowls will be the talk of your dinner party. 

Vintage Inspiro

Have you always admired the collections in your grandmother's china cabinet? Search for wedding china that looks antique and exudes vintage charm. These throwback treasures are also perfect for mixing and matching. Find some in a similar color family and go wild with your display.

Place Settings

How many place settings should you have?

Bridal experts recommend buying 8 to 12 place settings. And while dinner parties are most successful with six to eight people, if you have a large family and plan on entertaining during holidays, you may want more.

Place settings come in either 4- or 5-piece sets. The 4-piece place setting, usually found in casual china sets, includes a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, soup/cereal bowl, and mug. The 5-piece setting, typical of formal china, includes a dinner plate, salad/dessert plate, bread plate, and a cup and saucer.

Special Touches

To complete your china set, think about registering for a large and small platter, two to three serving bowls of various sizes, the gravy boat, a cream pitcher and sugar bowl, a teapot, some small serving dishes of various sizes and shapes, cereal bowls and/or soup bowls, and chargers (a.k.a. service, buffet, or chop plates).

Best Places to Register 

Now that we've answered all your questions regarding what is wedding china, now it's time to find the prime place to register. If you want variety, consider registering at a large department store that carries multiple brands, such as Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, William-Sonoma and Bed Bath and Beyond. You can also register with individual chinaware brands celebrated for their lovely designs, including Lenox, Noritake and Waterford. 

Check out our detailed wedding registry checklist for all your china essentials.

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