How Many Dinnerware Sets Do I Need?
Choosing the perfect dinnerware set can be a challenge, especially if you're the kind of person who likes to host both upscale parties and casual get-togethers with friends. It's one you have to meet head-on, though, because the choice of dinnerware can set the entire mood for the occasion.
The good news is that no one has to pick just one dinnerware set to use for every meal. Every household should have at least two sets of dinnerware: one for casual dining, and one for hosting events. Beyond those basics, the rest depends on what type of host you are. Instead of making broad generalizations, let's take a look at some of the factors that go into deciding how many dinnerware sets you need.
One or More Basic Dinnerware Sets for Daily Use
The first of your dinnerware sets is absolutely essential. It's the one you'll use on a daily basis, whether that means eating by yourself or with a large family. You'll need a set that has at least three pieces: plates, bowls, and mugs. Ideally, this informal set will be both durable and dishwasher-friendly, or at least easy to clean. For larger families, note that additional pieces may be required and that it's perfectly OK to mix and match.
Choosing the Right Materials
When it comes to dinnerware for daily use, you should prioritize durability and practicality as well as aesthetic concerns. Look for a set of plates, bowls, and mugs that is dishwasher-safe and shatter-resistant. These days, most casual dinnerware does not need to be washed by hand, but there are exceptions. Good options for casual dinnerware materials include:
- Melamine, which is virtually indestructible and an affordable option for all occasions.
- Earthenware, which is inexpensive but prone to chipping.
- Vitrified glass, which looks elegant but tends to be expensive and may not be the right aesthetic choice for everyone.
Most people stay away from materials like porcelain and ceramic for casual dinnerware, not just because they're more expensive and less durable but also because not all of them are dishwasher-safe. After all, no one wants to wash dishes by hand every night.
Some people prefer casual dinnerware designed only with function in mind, and it's fine if thick, plain white plates, bowls, and mugs are your thing. However, buying dinnerware just for the family can afford you a unique opportunity to be a little more expressive. Formal dinnerware needs to be versatile to go with a wide variety of party decor styles. Dishes for casual use within the home do not so feel free to step outside the box.
Plenty of families also have multiple sets of casual dinnerware so that everyone in the family can have their favorite mug. These dinnerware sets tend to be inexpensive, and they can be used for occasions such as backyard barbecues and other informal events, so having multiple sets is certainly not a waste.
Finding the Right Size
There are two different issues at play when it comes to the size of your dinnerware. The first is whether it will fit in the cupboards, which is especially important for casual dinnerware. Most people don't want to put their everyday dishes on display in a china cabinet. The second size-related issue is whether or not the largest piece of the set, usually the plates, will fit in the dishwasher. Failing to consider both of these factors could cause you some serious headaches when your dinnerware arrives at its new home.
Upscale But Versatile Formal Dinnerware
Everyone also needs at least one set of more elegant dinnerware for hosting dinner parties and other occasions that call for formal place settings. Formal dinnerware sets contain at least five pieces per place setting:
- A dinner plate
- A salad/dessert plate
- A bread plate
- A teacup
- A saucer
In some cases, soup bowls are also included. You can find formal dinnerware sold both in sets and supplied as individual place settings. However, it's usually more affordable to look for formal dinnerware sold in sets. Here's what to consider:
Number of Settings
Think carefully about the number of place settings you'll need. If you plan to host formal parties, it's better to have too many place settings than too few. There is always a good chance of someone inviting a plus-one to the event, and that person shouldn't be made to feel singled out by having to use dishes meant for casual occasions. It can also be difficult to find matching pieces to add to a collection retroactively.
Type of Dinnerware Material
Unless you plan to host society's upper echelon in the family dining room, there's really no reason to break the budget on fine china plates, bowls, and cups. If giving off an air of luxury is a top priority and there's a place to store china dinnerware to guarantee that it will be safe from harm, go ahead and invest in a fine dining set. Otherwise, it's perfectly fine to choose other materials. Most people stay away from earthenware or glass, but more elegant styles of melamine dishes are versatile enough to be used at any dinner party.
Style and Versatility
Even people who go all out when it comes to creating colorful mix-and-match casual dinnerware sets usually keep things more subdued when it comes to fine dining. White dishes are versatile, elegant, and will never go out of style, so don't be nervous about keeping things simple. White dishes will look good paired with just about any table setting, party decor, or theme.
Seasonal Dinnerware Sets
Those who host or attend a lot of parties, regardless of how formal or casual the get-togethers happen to be, may have noticed that the same host sometimes break out different sets of dinnerware for different occasions. One of the benefits of purchasing more affordable dinnerware instead of porcelain dishes, saucers, and cups is that you can afford to follow this trend.
Don't forget to take intended use into account when purchasing seasonal dinnerware sets. The summer months are a great example. Some people host huge family reunions with multiple tables set up in the backyard. They'll need more settings, and thus typically more dinnerware sets, than someone who wants to purchase unique pieces for summer to use for candlelight dinners for two beneath the stars.
The only real limit when it comes to how many seasonal dinnerware sets you can or should own is how much space you have for storing them. It's common for frequent party hosts to wrap and pack summer dishes to be stored along with other seasonal items, but you don't want to wind up renting an entire storage unit to keep up with the latest dinnerware trends. Use your best judgment.
Dinnerware Sets for Special Occasions
Some dinners and parties hold more value to hosts than others. If you're someone who loves to throw annual Christmas parties for the whole family, it's worth purchasing dinnerware sets that match your seasonal decor, while that would be unnecessary for those who only attend holiday parties. Of course, there are countless other examples of holidays and annual occasions that could merit purchasing different dinnerware sets, but they will vary by person and family.
Extra Place Settings
Everyone has been told at some point in their life to expect the best but prepare for the worst, and plenty of people take this approach to purchasing dinnerware. Because it's important to make sure all of the place settings match when hosting events, you may want to purchase extra sets or place settings to account for potential broken dishes. This advice is particularly important for those who prefer more obscure, difficult-to-find designs or fragile materials.
There are two ways to make sure you'll always have enough dinnerware on hand, even if you have clumsy relatives. The first is to purchase extra individual place settings. This approach applies primarily to more expensive dinnerware that people tend to purchase individually. The second approach is to buy larger sets or extra sets of more affordable dishes. For example: consider buying a set of 12 instead of 6 for hosting 6-person dinner parties.
The Final Verdict: How Many Dinnerware Sets Do I Need?
By now it should be clear that the answer to the question of how many dinnerware sets you need varies by person and context. No one should have fewer than two sets of dinnerware, with one for casual use and another for formal events. However, there is no limit as to how many sets of dishes, bowls, and cups or mugs you keep put aside for seasonal use or special occasions, nor are there any social conventions dictating the use of these specialized sets.
If you're someone who loves to change things up and keep both parties and family dinners interesting, you've come to the right place. We offer affordable dinnerware sets for any occasion, from casual daily use to formal dinner parties, backyard barbecues, and more. Browse through our stylish selections, then place an order online. If you live in the United States, we'll ship your new dinnerware set or sets to you for free.