Wedding Registry Choosing Your Plates and Serveware

With so much to choose from, here's the dish on deciding on china.

Don't know much about choosing china? That's okay. Options today are almost limitless. And with the number of designers entering the tabletop arena, you're bound to find something extraordinary and familiar.

Suss Out Your Style

Remember, this is a joint decision. Both of you should look through magazines and browse online to pull favorite plates and serveware. Most patterns fall into a few categories: floral, banded, geometric, or all white. Of course, there are a million variations in between, but in the broadest terms, think about how these different types would fit into not just your current decor, but the look of your dream home too. Choose something that inspires you immediately but you think you can live with forever. Always loved big, bold patterns? Don't try to squeeze yourself into white plates with a platinum rim -- trust us, it'll be an uncomfortable fit.

Plan for the Future

Lifestyle issues play a big part in how you register, but unless you're much older, you can't possibly know how you'll ultimately entertain 20 years from now. These days, couples are registering for both fine and casual china sets, and while many can't imagine ever throwing a formal dinner party for eight, they're smart enough to know that one should never say never. Plus, this is your opportunity to get the goods for free. (We're guessing that when you're paying for your kids' college tuition, the last thing you'll want to splurge on is fine china for yourselves.)

Complement Your Colors

Hopefully, there are at least a few serving pieces that will come with your china pattern. If not, choose shades and materials in keeping with the tone of your china, or stick with neutrals like white and glass -- remember it doesn't all have to match, but it can work together in style and spirit. You'll want to get options for both casual and fine china, with a couple of pieces that you'll be able to overlap as well.

Analyze Your Skills

Think about the types of dishes you love to make, and register for pieces that work best for those meals. Fish plates, huge pasta bowls, and a turkey platter for Thanksgiving dinner are all great additions. What about ethnic foods? The kind of dishes you'll need for serving tapas will differ greatly from what you'll need to serve sushi.

Imagine a Dinner Party

Keep in mind the different courses of a meal, and work through your own imaginary dinner party to make sure you've got the bases covered. For example, you'll need plenty of trays to serve appetizers. Some with divided sections are helpful, and don't forget those ubiquitous chips and salsa bowls. For the soup or salad course you'll need a salad or soup bowl (naturally), and perhaps a soup tureen. Round platters, also known as chop plates, work well for meats; oval platters can hold anything from bread and cheese to a roast lamb; and round and oval bowls for vegetables are a necessity. And then, of course, there's dessert. Cake plates and tiered serving trays (which can also be used for appetizers) are great add-ons. Select at least a few items with lids to keep food warm, as well as pieces that can go from oven to table, eliminating the need to transfer food into another dish.

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