Talking Tableware

January 09, 1994|By Beth Hannan

You've got your wedding dress, the caterer, the florist, the photographer and the band. Your work is done, right? Wrong. Now comes the fun part -- registering for tableware.

Most people think picking your own gifts is fun -- until they walk into a bridal registry department.

One look at a fraction of the tableware patterns available and the eyes of most grooms-to-be glaze over. Even the most energetic brides-to-be are intimidated. You are trying to pick sets of china, glasses and flatware that go together, but how can you be sure you will still like the pattern 20 years from now?

Bridal registry consultants and designers suggest you pick tableware that suits your home furnishings and your style. That's a big help. Many couples registering for tableware are still figuring out where they're going to live and how to blend their two very different furniture styles.

The following are tips from representatives of tableware manufacturers to help make your selection easier.

Above all, relax.

"There are no table-top police out there," said Roxy Gerber of Oneida. "[Tableware] needs to be pleasing to the eye. What's pleasing to one eye may not be pleasing to the other, so it's a very personal choice."

Getting started

The first step is to walk through the tableware department of your favorite store and get a rough idea of what you like.

Start by focusing primarily on the china.

(There is one exception to this rule: If you plan to buy sterling silver rather than silver-plate or stainless steel, start with the flatware. Then pick your china, then your crystal. "The reason for that is that sterling is such a soft metal, the detailing is so incredible on the sterling that it should be the dominant factor in your choices," said Ms. Gerber.)

If you already know what style of china design you prefer (the categories are generally traditional, modern, country casual and eclectic), you're ahead of the game. Ideally, a couple should visit the tableware department together and determine if their tastes are similar. If one likes elaborate florals and the other prefers simple, clean, modern designs, there will have to be compromising later.

Eliminate all of the designs you definitely dislike. If this still leaves you with 20 possibilities (or more), don't worry.

Next, make an appointment with the bridal registry consultant in the store. You can do everything yourself but a good consultant will make the process easier and can make valuable suggestions. If one of you owns a set of silver or china that you want to keep, bring a place setting with you to the appointment.

Arrive at the appointment ready to pare down your choices. Or follow these next steps on your own before the appointment, so that you arrive ready to make decisions.

Matters of taste

Alice Kolator, director of public relations for Lenox, has three suggestions to help couples narrow their choices:

Take a serious look at the colors available in a few of the patterns you're considering. Do you prefer pure white or creamy ivory? (Yes, china also is sold in solid colors, mainly for casual place settings, but the choices are limited.)

Consider the banding. Do you prefer gold banding, platinum banding or none?

Examine the shape of the china. Most dishes are round but a few today are octagonal, hexagonal or slightly oval.

The style of a particular pattern is best represented by the design of the cup. Is the handle fluid and scroll-like or more squarish? Is the cup rounded, almost bowlish or wide at the top and tapering to a narrow base? (Remember to hold the cup as if you're going to sip from it. You don't want to be like the couple who chose delicate teacups with handles too small for the man's fingers.)

"People react to shape like they do to color and design so it's important for you to select a shape that you like and enjoy using," said Ms. Kolator. "Shapes sometime tend to be very contemporary and sometimes they're very traditional so it's important to pick a shape that blends into your decorating style."

Maggie Pallett of Noritake also suggests looking at the shape of the serving pieces.

"Serving pieces are important because they usually have a very distinctive shape. And again, if they're more traditional or more contemporary, then the shape of the serving pieces may reflect this," said Ms. Pallett.

Deciding on the color, banding and shape right off will eliminate many options and help a couple quickly focus the search, said Ms. Kolator.

Being practical

In addition to design, your lifestyle should be a factor in your choices.

With the hectic pace of most couples today, microwave- and dishwasher-safe casual tableware is a virtual necessity.

Formal ware choices are more complex. If you will use your formal china often, you will want to choose carefully. Being able to put formal china in the dishwasher or microwave is usually a bonus. Some manufacturers guarantee their tableware to be dishwasher- or microwave-safe, but some don't. Gold- or platinum-banded china can never be used in the microwave.

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