I Didn't Register for Formal Dinnerware and I Actually Regret It

I Didn't Register for Formal Dinnerware and I Actually Regret It

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Lisa Freedman
Apr 30, 2017
(Image credit: Zola)

When my husband and I got married almost four years ago, we didn't register for much. We had already lived together for a few years and we were in our 30s, so we had a pretty decent stock of essentials. It wasn't like we were fresh out of college and looking to replace hand-me-down pots and pans. We also lived in a small New York City apartment and I couldn't imagine ever needing any more stuff.

Together, we made the executive decision to skip the formal dinnerware and instead asked our families for a set of everyday whites from Crate & Barrel. (Just registering for the plates, bowls, and serving platter. I felt very strongly about keeping the mismatched mugs we already had!)

Verge Dinnerware at Crate & Barrel
(Image credit: Crate & Barrel)

We'd be able to use them for homemade weeknight dinners — and we could dress them up for formal occasions, I thought. (I can work magic with some table linens and flowers.) Plus, I didn't foresee us hosting any major holidays anytime soon. I thought, if we registered for and received two sets of dishes, the formal set was destined to sit in my parents' basement for all of time. So we just weren't gonna.

If you're storing unboxed china in your own basement: 7 Smart Tips for Storing Your Fine China

Buy: Verge Dinnerware at Crate & Barrel

I was pumped partly because this meant we could save a lot of time by not browsing store after store in the search of the perfect china pattern. (Also, why are most formal patterns so over-the-top flowery?)

My mom couldn't grasp our decision. I told her that plenty of brides these days were opting to skip the fancy china and that couples my age were shifting to a less stuffy way of entertaining at home. I didn't have any stats then, but I now know that only 26 percent of today's couples register for formal dinnerware, according to Zola, an online registry site. She told me she would have never even considered the omission when she was getting married and then went on to list all the times she's used her china so far during their 42 years of marriage. (Okay, maybe not all the times — but a lot of them!)

Only 26 percent of today's couples register for formal dinnerware, according to Zola, an online registry site.

As much as this pains me to say this, my mom was right. I should have registered for formal dinnerware. (Granted, registering for it wouldn't have guaranteed that we would've received it, but the chances would've been a lot more likely!)

This revelation shocks me. I'm not a total minimalist, but I don't like having a ton of stuff around — especially stuff that I can't use all that often. Turns out, though, I have plenty of opportunities to pull out some nicer plates. We entertain way more than I thought we would and I see us inheriting the rights to host Thanksgiving sometime in the near future.

The everyday stuff from Crate & Barrel is great. I love the lip around the edge that helps keep pasta sauce on the plate, and I can't eat cereal out of the giant salad bowls fast enough. I just wish we had something else to pull out when we had VIP guests over for dinner or a reason to celebrate. I wish I had something a little more special. Is it uncouth to register for gifts for a fourth anniversary? Asking for a friend ...

3 Tips for Registering for Formal Dinnerware

1. Think long-term.

This stuff is expensive and you are probably going to want to keep it for a while. Like, your entire life. While it's impossible to know what your kitchen or dining room will look like in 30 years, and your tastes will undoubtably change over time, these are things that have to be considered. If you and your better half tend to love bold patterns one day and hate them the next, that's something to keep in mind. Of course, there's nothing wrong with going classic (see my picks below!).

2. Consider the material.

You'll probably gravitate to a particular set because of its pattern (see above), but some couples care about the material. Bone china is probably what you think of when you think of formal dinnerware. Just know that it does actually contain bone ash, making it not a vegan-friendly option. Porcelain, another very popular option, is vegan and the two are about equally as durable. (In fact, despite being thinner, fine china is actually more durable than casual dinnerware.) Some fine china can go in the dishwasher, so look for that if that's an important sell for you.

3. Ask for a service for eight or 12 people.

There may only be two of you right now, but your family may grow and your circle of friends will expand, too. Get enough for a whole dinner party now: Patterns often end up being discontinued, which means you won't be able to go back and complete the set later. Plus, you're bound to break a few things here or there. (Of course, sites like Replacements, LTD and eBay are great resources.)

5 Options I Wish I Had Asked For

They're all pretty simple (read: mostly white!), but still a step up on a scale of zero-to-fancy compared to our usual stuff. Note: All of these — except for the last setting, which is porcelain — are bone china.

  1. Kate Spade New York Larabee Road Platinum 5-Piece Place Setting, $139 at Bed Bath & Beyond
  2. Eternal White 3-Piece Place Setting, $115 at Lenox
  3. Wedgwood Arris 5-Piece Place Setting, $160 at Macy's
  4. Villeroy & Boch Anmut Platinum 5-Piece Place Setting, $187 at Bloomingdale's
  5. Ralph Lauren Audrey Collection, from $35 for a bread plate at Zola

Did you register or are you registering for formal dinnerware? Why or why not?

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