(Illustration via The Titanic Gazette of a plate used on the Titanic)
There’s a little known fact about me that might intrigue you all: I am not the first wedding professional in my family. My mother was the bridal consultant at a department store in San Francisco long before I was so much as a gleam in my father’s eye. It was her job to help brides-to-be choose their china patterns and cookware and household linens and then organize the list so that her friends and family members had only to go to the store and choose something off the list.
In order to do her job well, Mom had to learn a lot about china and cookware and linens and so on, of course, so as to help those blushing brides make good choices. And eventually she gave me quite a bit of good advice for making those same sorts of decisions when it came my time.
I realize that many brides now already own china, glassware, cookware, etc. well before they either say yes or pop the question themselves. Still, there are those who haven’t got anything, those who want an upgrade, and those who decide that a wedding is a great time to replace all those broken and mis-matched things. So I’m going to pass on a couple of Mom’s favorite tips for picking a china pattern you’ll love.
Traditionally, one chooses a single pattern and gets either eight (for informal) or twelve (formal) place settings of it. That’s a good place to start, especially if you have a dining room that seats twelve, and like everything to match. Just remember that none of that is carved in stone. If there are only going to be the two of you, you live in an apartment with a breakfast bar, or you regularly hold formal parties for fifty, it would be wise to adapt the numbers to your situation. If you hate it when everything matches precisely, look carefully for ways to mix and match. If you cannot ever see yourself holding a party more formal than a potluck again, feel free to nix the formal china.
Once you have an idea of how much you want and whether you need formal as well as everyday china, it’s time to start looking – and I mean looking as often as possible – at some of the patterns that appeal to you. Wander through the china department in a store, or Google manufacturers to get a feel for the sort of patterns you like. Whittle that selection down to a couple choices in each category, and then take at least a couple weeks to look at them every chance you get. After all, you’re going to be looking at these plates every day for a long, long time! You may find that after a while you get bored with the plain white plates with the narrow blue border that looked so clean and fresh the first time you saw them, or your eyes may hurt after looking at that funky op-art border every day for a week.
When you find a pattern you truly love and don’t think you’ll get sick of, it’s time to do the most important exercise of all: the scrambled egg test.
Sure, that plate looks pretty with the pastel flowers all over it, or that quaint scene of country life. But does it still look appealing to you with a big ol’ pile of scrambled eggs on it?
It’s easy to get seduced by a china pattern because it’s pretty and completely forget that it needs to showcase the food going on it. But in the longrun, you’ll be much happier with plates that make your food look delicious than with ones that look good hanging on a wall but fight for attention with the food itself.