Buying Guides

Dinnerware Buying Guide: How To Pick Out Plates You’ll Love

How do you choose the perfect dinnerware set for your lifestyle? Our expert guide will take you through the process, from materials to caring tips.

3 Min Read

Denby studio blue dinnerware

Setting the table with beautiful dinnerware brings a real sense of occasion to your meal, whether a fancy dinner party or a simple weeknight supper. But with so many dinnerware options, making the right choice can seem a little overwhelming.

This expert guide will help you pick the perfect plates for your style and lifestyle. From the material to the design, we'll cover all the key factors to consider so you can make an informed decision. After all, dinnerware is truly a wedding gift you'll use time and time again, so let's dive in and explore your options!

Choosing Your Dinnerware Material

Start by deciding on your dinnerware material. Are you looking for everyday dinnerware that is dishwasher-safe? Or are you looking for something special for high days and holidays? How about a versatile set that can do both!? Each type of material has its own benefits. Below we break it down:

1. Bone China Dinnerware
Bone china dinnerware is a type of porcelain known for its high quality and delicacy. It's made by mixing bone ash, feldspar, kaolin, and other fine materials, which are then fired at a high temperature to create a strong and translucent material. Adding bone ash to the mix gives bone china its signature ivory hue and durability. 

Dinnerware made from bone china is often known to be the finest of all dinnerware types because it's light and elegant yet strong and resistant to chipping. Its smooth and glossy surface also makes it easy to clean.

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2. Stoneware Dinnerware
Stoneware dinnerware is a type of ceramic dinnerware that is known for its durability and rustic charm. It's made by mixing clay and other natural materials, fired at high temperatures to create a strong and dense material.

Stoneware dinnerware is typically thicker and heavier than other types, giving it a substantial feel and making it resistant to chipping and breaking. It comes in a variety of earthy tones and finishes, from smooth and glossy to matte and textured, and is great for those who prefer a more organic and natural feel in their home décor. It's also great for retaining heat, so it's perfect for serving hot dishes straight from the oven.

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3. Porcelain Dinnerware
Porcelain dinner sets are much lighter in weight than their stoneware cousins, but amazingly – they’re every bit as durable! Made from fine Kaolin clay and fired at very high temperatures, they are usually dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. Unless they feature any metallic detailing, in which case steer well clear of the microwave! 

Porcelain also has a beautiful white, almost translucent finish and can be worked into fine, elegant forms. This fine china is a popular choice for formal, luxury dinner sets.

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4. Earthenware Dinnerware
Earthenware dinnerware sets have a nice weighty feel and a chunky, rustic aesthetic – they work very well for casual dining settings. Often more affordable than other types of dinnerware, they are also a little less durable and can be prone to staining or chipping. But most glazed earthenware is dishwasher and microwave safe – check with the manufacturer if you aren’t 100% sure.

Earthenware dinnerware comes in a variety of earthy colours and designs, and its porous nature allows it to retain heat well, making it perfect for serving warm dishes. Its rustic charm and affordability make it a popular choice for those who prefer a more natural and laid-back feel in their home décor.

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5. Melamine Dinnerware
If you’re after something truly indestructible, then a melamine dinner set could be your best bet. This lightweight, yet ultra-durable plastic is BPA-free (making it food-safe) and is virtually unbreakable. It’s the perfect choice if you have young children or are planning on outdoor dining. It’s usually dishwasher-safe but can’t be used in the microwave or oven.

Melamine dinnerware comes in a variety of fun and colourful designs too, making it perfect for adding a pop of colour to your dining experience. It's a practical choice for those who want durable and easy-to-use dinnerware that can withstand frequent use and accidental drops.

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What Should Your Dinnerware Set Include?

Next, it’s all about deciding which pieces you need to have in your dinnerware set and how many place settings you’ll be wanting… There are no right or wrong answers here – it’s a matter of what works for you. Here’s a list of the basic elements you may want to include:

  • Dinner plates
  • Side plates (for bread and butter)
  • Starter/ salad plates
  • Round bowls for cereal/ noodles
  • Shallow bowls for pasta/ risotto/ soup
  • Serving bowls/ platters
  • Mugs
  • Cups and Saucers

Some dinnerware sets are sold as full boxed sets, some are sold by place settings and others are sold as open stock – which means that you can mix and match individual pieces and personalise your set according to your needs. When it comes to deciding how many place settings you need, there are several questions you should ask yourselves:

  • How many people will be using your dinner set on a daily basis?
  • When you entertain, how many people do you see yourself hosting for a sit-down dinner?
  • Is anyone in your household particularly clumsy or prone to breaking things?
  • And if so, how much space do you have to store spares?

Caring For Your Dinnerware

Once you’ve picked your perfect dinnerware, it’s important to learn how to care for it properly. There’s something extra special about your wedding dinnerware set – it’s something most couples keep forever and enjoy for decades to come, even passing it down as an heirloom for future generations.

So, before doing anything, always double-check whether the set you’ve chosen is safe to go in the dishwasher, microwave, oven and freezer. As a general rule of thumb, anything with metallic detailing should not be used in the microwave, and anything hand-painted should not go in the dishwasher.

Top Tips To Keep Your Dinnerware in Tip-Top Condition:

  1. Soak pieces for 3 minutes in white vinegar before rinsing and towel drying to prevent or remove hard-water spots.
  2. Remove tough stains from your dinnerware by rubbing a paste of baking soda and water over the problem area, before rinsing and drying.
  3. Stacking everyday items is fine, but if you want to keep your dinnerware set ‘for best’, store it in a padded storage case or stack with fabric between each piece (napkins are perfect for this!) to prevent scratches or chips.

SinkSide Foldable Dish Drying Rack

Finishing Touches: Build Your Dream Tablescape

And last, but certainly not least, once you’ve found the dinnerware set of your dreams, complete the look with a tableware set of accessories to match!

We’re talking tablescape galore; from tablecloths, placemats, coasters, napkins, napkin rings, candlesticks to dinner candles, glassware, serveware and cutlery... the whole shebang! Have some fun mixing colours, patterns and textures to create a beautiful tablescape that’s uniquely you.

So there you have it! We hope our dinnerware buying guide has given you some food for thought when it comes to picking out your set of dining plates, bowls and all the rest. The most important thing to remember is that it’s all about what works for YOU. 

If you have your heart set on a bright colour dinnerware set – go for it! If you want clean and classic white – that’s great too! At The Wedding Shop, we have options to suit every couple’s style, so start your wedding gift list today and set your table your way!


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