Wedding Registry China 101

And you thought a plate was just a plate. Read up on our china primer.
by The Knot

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.

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.

Place Settings

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).

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

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