Setting the Table

As I think about setting tables for the holidays I think about the fine china I registered for for my wedding.  Of course, as with most big decisions I erred on the side of SAFE and CLASSIC.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I remember looking at other china patterns that were so beautiful but scared me with their bold color and pattern.  Yes, I can always pair my Vera Wang Grosgrain with colored chargers or pattered dessert plates, but something in me wishes that for fine china that I use only a couple times a year I had gone BOLDER!

The china that I was lusting after, and still am to this day, is the Etoile pattern below left by Bernardaud . Gold tipped and a gorgeous mix of plum and light turquoise it enchanted me from first sighting.  But I was too scared to go there. I also loved this mint green and gold design by Haviland. I would advise brides that if they ARE registering for fine china to make it some thing special and funky and keep the classic and safe patterns for everyday dinnerware! Perhaps someday that Etoile will be mine!

Also currently adoring the bold orange and gold setting as well as this chain link Hermes pattern!

I also fell  head over heels for the pewter banded Match goods and the over-scale Royal Copenhagen style for a less formal look.

What about you? What china did you register for? Do you still love it or wish you had chosen something different?


  1. You struck a chord with me on this one, as I love china and think that it really makes a dinner party or family dinner something special. I didn’t play it safe…I went with my gut and love my Dior Casablanca. Totally unique with its band of tigers and palm trees. And you can go high or low with it for any occasion. For the holiday season I went for my real true love — Lynn Chase’s Winter Game Birds in red (though also beautiful in green). I could just sit at the table at stare at it all night — no need for food! I add to the game birds theme at the table and even hand a pheasant feather wreath on the dining room door! I think a great move is to go traditional with antique china — that makes it traditional with an asterisk! I went with Rosenthal — bands of gold and deep mustard(?) yellow, and Limoges salad — the yellow is so pretty in the spring and summer. You can go crazy mixing and matching with vintage, and that includes stemware or serving pieces, too. Can you tell I love the stuff? One tip for your readers…My go-to china person is Dede Rose at China & Crystal Center (I think it’s in Minnesota) — a nice discount and she can find anything. 1-800-432-4448.

  2. I registered for the uber-safe Nantucket Basket from Wedgewood. It’s simple, but I do adore it. My good friend opted for the Raynaud Cristobal in Turquoise. Gorgeous and bold. My sister-in-law went for the Bernardaud Frivole pattern. It’s gorgeous.

    I have had several friends opt out for registering for china, which baffles me. I love a gorgeous table!

  3. I did a mixture but mostly Bernardaud Constance, not because of Charlotte on Sex and the City, but I loved seeing it there. I have it mixed and matched with some lime green chargers and dessert plates. Unfortuantely they are all still stored at my parents house. Gotta love tiny Boston living!

  4. When we registered for our china last month, my fiance and I wanted something a little more eclectic. My mom suggested the idea of registering for several different patterns and getting 4 of each kind. That way when you want to add to your set in years to come as your family expands you just have to get 4 of something that matches the color ways you picked. We chose 4 patterns that feature white and platinum: Kate Spade Belle Boulevard, Kate Spade Larabee Road, Lenox Opal Innocence Striped, and Lenox Solitaire White. We love it because you can mix and match all the pieces for a whimsical look or keep the patterns together to give each place setting a unique feel.

  5. In an incredibly uncharacteristic move, we registered for Mottahedeh blue lace and imperial blue. I actually love it, and even as I set the table last night with red roses and a white tablecloth (red, white, and blue for Thanksgiving? really?) I thought somehow it worked. I got very simple silver and crystal, and the china somehow keeps it interesting. xox

  6. I went wild with my china. Well, not wild actually. But artsy and unique. I figured, why not? Everyone has the same platinum-lined white china, why would I want to be the same as everyone else? So I went with a great Dibbern pattern, and 5 years later I still have no regrets.

  7. We have the same Grosgrain pattern! I still love it and will not regret making such a safe decision. In fact, everything that we registered for is neutral and classic! I like to change things up too much to commit to a color/pattern on something I hope to use forever. You can always add in personality elsewhere.

  8. Erin! It was so flattering to see my dessert plates (Haviland “Oasis” – the green and gold pattern) highlighted on your blog!

    When choosing china I took the advice of an older, experienced hostess friend who told me you are much better off having dinner plates in a fairly simple, classic look that can be dressed up or down depending on the glassware, silverware and linens you use. Also, she believes and I agree that food looks more appetizing on a plain white or cream background (think classic French bistro plates). Then choose a different but complimentary patterns for dessert/salad plates and serving platters and bowls – that’s where you can go with bolder patterns and colors. It’s also easier to mix in vintage pieces with a simple base pattern.

    So, my dinner plates are Haviland “Symphony Gold” which has just enough detail on the edge to be interesting on its own, but is also simple enough to play a secondary role on the table (, dessert plates as mentioned are Haviland “Oasis” and I’ve mixed in some other pieces I picked up at antique stores. I think your pattern is lovely and you will be happy with it over the long run.

  9. At my traditional mother’s uncharacteristic recommendation, we did not register for china. 5 years later, I am thrilled with that decision! Our wedding was smallish and there were so many gifts I am happy to have received versus completing a china set. We also live in a small home and it would probably still be stored at my mother’s house. More than any of that, however, is I was a young bride and my taste has really become more refined over the years. Like you, I would have probably opted for something traditional and classic, which is lovely, but it wouldn’t have felt quite “me”. Personally, I’m a fan of the mismatched look and might put a set of that together on my own. Or if something ever screams my name I will purchase the set myself. I wonder who came up with this funny idea that we have one occasion, our wedding, and one occasion ONLY to purchase china. I thought speak now or forever hold your peace was referring to something else :)

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  10. I registered for the Michael C. Fina orange ones but in turqouise this past year! I absolutely fell in love with both and had a hard time deciding between the orange and turquoise – the gold trim made both so delicious looking! I almost considered doing half of each but untimately decided on the turquoise. I just kept going back to it. Seeing all my friends’ “safe” china choices, makes me know I made the right decision and I’m thrilled every time I open my cabinet and see them sparkling at me. I even thought about hanging them instead of using them because they’re just so beautiful. So glad you posted them!

  11. I too wanted the Bernardaud Etoile, debated it for WEEKS and ultimately picked Vera’s Grosgrain, as well! As much as I love it, I do think about the Etoile every time I take out my china. The Match always turns my head, as well. I try to make things more interesting with textiles, flowers, candles and John Derian platters mixed in.

  12. I have the same Vera Wang grosgrain and love it (although I have yet to use it after 3.5 yrs of marriage). I love that its classic and that I will never get sick of it. Erin, in my humble opinion, you made a great choice!

  13. I am a Grosgrain girl, too! I chose gold, and like Nicole have yet to use it! I did get a china cabinet for my wedding present, though. I love the rustic, handmade feel of the cabinet with the perfect, dainty china inside.

    I do have some bolder Royal Crown Darby pieces from my grandmother that punch it up. I’m only 8 months into being married, but do not regret my china choice one bit, though I do love the guts of some of the patterns you highlighted, particularly the orange and gold.

  14. i know all my best friends’ china patterns by heart. when a friend registers, the first thing i look at is their china pattern. i know this makes me a nerd. but i really think of china dinnerware as an every day art. china is a usable art form, and how people set entertain their guests says a lot about who they are.

    i actually let my husband choose our wedding china. i’m not sure what came over me, if i wanted him to be more involved in the process, or if his first choice actually caught my attention, but we selected wedgwood’s “oberon” chinoise pattern. i love it! it reflects a ming influence, and he enjoys the greens, rusty oranges, and blues in the pattern. it just stood out a little bit from what was available. we both like the 24-carat gold accents that add to the warm flicker of our formal dinners together or with friends. it’s a pattern that is neither too bridal, nor too feminine, nor attached to a certain modern trend. we selected a pattern we could use to entertain his business contacts when we host business dinners at our home, and could use for romantic candle-lit dinners for two. because the plates are fairly simple, it looks elegant on the table. but the salad plates, coffee pot, and tea cups have the chinoise pattern which is perfect for whimsical tea parties.

    not that i didn’t oscillate between patterns. as my engagement went along i frequently thought of changing my pattern to something more modern, more feminine, or with a platinum band over gold. like some of the other responders, i love bernardaud constance, for a more casual pattern i love vietri incanto. i also think the pattern at the fairmont hotel is gorgeous.

  15. I went with the Bernardaud Etoile and love it! I mixed it with their simple white with gold band Palmyre, and don’t have any of the only purple star pattern. I do have the long relish dish and the darling sugar pot with a fun gold handle and they are my faves. Some people thought I was crazy and that it was too whimsical, but I loved it the second I saw it.

  16. the mint green Haviland was my #1 pick. but it was VERY pricy, so I opted for a mix of royal crown derby darley abbey dinner plates and royal crown derby tiepolo salad plates.

  17. I distinctly remember selecting a china pattern with my mom. Or should I say I distinctly remember when my mom selected my china pattern?

    I wanted people to go to the store and pick a plate/bowl/cup they liked and I would end up with a unique set of china that would remind me of each and every person every time they were used. My mom had a complete set of Wedgwood’s Signet Platinum china ( ). She “suggested” I get the same pattern so when we have big Easter brunches and parties we can combine the two sets. That was 19 years ago. Care to guess how many Easter brunches and big parties we’ve had? Zip.

  18. I have the same regret! I registered for Vera Wang Lace and it’s nice and simple and safe. But I totally wish I had went bold and crazy. Maybe I’ll become one of those old ladies who has like 8 sets of china.

  19. I love my china pattern, though it is very simple and classic, but I want to comment on all you people who aren’t using yours – USE IT! We use our china all the time. Friday night dinner after the kids are asleep- Random Sunday brunch with just our family- Dinner with another couple in early December- the list goes on! Why does china have to be for holidays and big family celebrations? I don’t believe in that. I don’t use it every day because I do like for it to be “special,” but my definition of special is about how I want to feel, not what the calendar says or how many people are in attendance. If you love your china, why aren’t you using it? What’s the point of owning something you can only enjoy once every 10 years? Use yours tonight!! Seriously, it will change your mood.

  20. I love dishes! It’s a dangerous and expensive habit. We registered for the monogram china from Pickard because my great grandmother had personalized china that I have always loved.

    It’s pretty plain like your Vera Wang dinnerwear, so I like to spice it up with accent plates. I’ve also started collecting lots of everyday dishes instead of china. I love Arte Italica or Vietri.

  21. We are such a casual family. We usually eat on throwaway plates for the holidays ’cause nobody wants to do dishes. But it’s always been a dream of mine to have formal tableware. So pretty!

  22. Erin, I’m running around like a mad man today but had to answer this post!! I got the VW Grosgrain as well. We probably got married around the same time because I feel like there was a consipracy during a two year period to convince all new brides that Grosgrain was the only one that would work and fit into your life as you got older. Every time I walk past my china cabinet, I get annoyed. It would’ve been fine if I just got the basics but I registered and recevied the whole darn collection!! It’s hard for me to justify buying new pieces to incorporate b/c I get even more annoyed at the thought of spending more money on china. In other words, I try to avoid the Macy’s Home Store here in California. I hope those that still have time to register listen to your advice b/c it’s so right on. I’ve decided that I need to wait until (hopefully) my ten year anniversary to make a decision about what I want to do next. Until then, it’s all Grosgrain!! :)

  23. I just got married this past summer and I got the Kate Spade June Lane china. It’s very traditional in it’s coloring (white and silver) but it has little June bugs on it for a bit of whimsy that I think are so so cute. There’s no June Late dessert bowls and mugs in a baby blue so I’m going to get those at some point too.

    I LOVE the Etoile and the mint green set shown above.

  24. I went with Lenox Murray Hill pattern which is virtually identical to your Vera Wang classic choice. I admit that it might be the safe choice, but I still love it!

  25. You picked the PERFECT china. Believe me, over the years, your taste will change but what you selected is simple, elegant and will be beautiful in any type of decor you choose to experience in the future. There is nothing more beautiful than a white plate to display beautifully prepared food!

  26. I have a kate spade set — library lane with larabee dot accent plates — I love its classic navy and gold lines. I also have a set of gien dionsys — it is stunning! I love Gien patterns — you should look into those as well. I am glad my mom made me register for china and we got my gien set in Gien, France at the factory store. It is like being a kid in a candy store!

  27. We have the Bernardaud – Louvre pattern, love it and use it everyday, from the sugar bowl, to the tea pot. LOVE

  28. Even though we registered for china (it is the “thing” to do for brides I guess) we never got any of our china as wedding gifts…and 25 years later I am so thankful for that! We just aren’t formal dining people and prefer our everyday white dishes and colorful cloth napkins to fancy plates!

  29. My husband and I were married four and a half years ago. I decided not to register for a formal set of china since my mother only brought out her set once or twice a year. Instead we registered for and received the White Pearl Dinnerware from Crate & Barrel. I love it and we use it everyday. There are some beautiful china patters out there that I would love to have a set of salad plates in as an accent, but I ultimately think food looks the best on a plain white plate.

  30. My grandma bought me this versace china for my wedding… i used it today. its DEFINITELY bold. BUT i find that its a bit hard to use.

    When I have friends over, I always feel like I want to do a different table setting, and with these its not so easy… I do love them though.

    Im OBSESSED with haviland banded china. I want it SO BADLY. I also saw this jasper conran designed black and white edgy pattern that i loved.

    Funny thing is, i don’t even like to cook.

  31. I have my mom’s dinnerware – a gift to her upon my birth. LOVED getting it ready with mom for Thanksgiving dinner, and looking forward to the day when I pass it on to my daughter. I don’t know the pedigree, but the coolness of the silver lining and the delicate flowers always makes me smile…and thankful for my family, specially my mom. For everyday, I use blue and white china and ironstone. Standards work for me because I get PRETTY CRAZY with the flowers. Happy Thanksgiving!

  32. After much deliberation, I went with Mottahedeh blue lace seven years ago. I still love it, though sadly it is not used as much as it should be, and like to mix in Mottahedeh blue canton and other blue and white chinoiserie pieces. I also registered for 8 place settings of Kate Spade pompano point, a lovely light green and gold bamboo pattern, which has since been discontinued, but you can still find it online and at some outlets xx

  33. I have Mikasa Platinum Links, with pieces of Martha Stewart Bouquet, and a think platinum banded set I found at Homegoods. I like to mix and match them. I love my china, but I’m dying for something in gold!

  34. Just found your blog and it’s amazing! I felt the need to comment on this post because I’m newly engaged and just selected my china pattern after MUCH deliberation and asking my mom, sisters and best friends their opinions wayy too many times. I opted for Royal Crown Derby Elizabeth in Gold with dessert plates in Spode Stafford Shire Accent Plates with all the different flowers (the sales woman told me the whites of RCD and Spode’s bone china were exact matches). I’m still not entirely sure of my choice though. Haviland’s Oasis made my list, as did Herend’s Princess Victoria Pattern in either Rust or Light Blue. I LOVE china and am so excited to be finally registering for it even if making a final decision is driving me nuts!

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