I have a few regrets from my wedding day. An incorrectly hemmed dress is one. Neglecting to tell someone to grab a few candid photos is another. But the biggest—and only lasting—regret is not registering for silver or china. At the time, we lived in a 600-square-foot apartment. We barely had room for everyday dinnerware. Where on earth would we put a set of china? I asked friends and colleagues whether they’d registered for silver or china and, again and again, the same answer echoed: “No, I didn’t even think about it.”
Now I’m in a house with an official china cabinet (a Facebook Marketplace heirloom from someone else’s family, of course). And, while it proudly displays a set of crystal waiting for the next dinner party, and I was fortunate to inherit a set of Gorham Chantilly silver a few years after my wedding, the china cabinet is still lacking its actual namesake—the china.
After coming across a gorgeous set of Wedgewood china in an antique shop recently, I posted a photo to Instagram lamenting my decision not to register for china. The DMs rolled in. It seemed like an official millennial epidemic. We were all encouraged to skip the fancy stuff—and we all regret it.
The experts could have told us this all along. “Register for what you love and what you will look forward to using both every day and for special occasions,” says Page Napier Morris, an event planner and protocol expert. We asked Morris and other experts for their thoughts on the matter, once and for all.
What Is Wedding China?
China is made of a different material than most dinnerware. It’s a kiln-fired material made of clay, kaolin, feldspar, and quartz, while dinnerware is typically made from porcelain or ceramic stoneware. Dinnerware has a heavier, sturdier feel, while china, and its even more delicate sister, bone china, feel precious. When your grandparents registered for china, they likely picked out a formal pattern they would pull out every year on special occasions. Now, most couples register only for everyday dinnerware.
What Is Silverware?
While your everyday flatware may look silver, it is more likely made of stainless steel. Silverware, on the other hand, is made of 100 percent silver, and this is what your grandmother is referring to when she tells you that your silver pattern one day will be Buttercup—the pattern she picked out in 1956. Open up a set of silver, and not only will you find the five pieces of a standard place setting, but you’ll likely encounter everything from an asparagus server to a fish fork. This is designed for the most formal occasions (though that doesn’t mean you have to save it for those occasions!).
Advantages of Registering for China and Silver
If you’re undecided about adding china and silver to your registry, consider some of these reasons why you should.
Silver Can Become a Family Heirloom
There’s a reason people wait their entire lifetime to inherit the family silver—it’s an investment that typically holds its value. “If you do not have a silver pattern that may be passed down through your families, it is worth registering for silver,” says Augusta Cole, a wedding and event planner. “It is a timeless addition to your entertaining arsenal, long-lasting as it can simply be shined up, and retains value and meaning as a family heirloom. I use my silver pattern every day.”
China Is Lovely for Dinners of Any Size
You’ll have beautiful china forever, and it’s just as relevant at a table for two as it is at a Thanksgiving table full of family. “This is your time to begin collecting items for your future entertaining goals,” says Cole. “Perhaps you are not hosting dinners for 12 in your current apartment, but down the road, the hosting responsibilities may be passed down, and you will want to be ready.”
You’ll Want to Entertain More at Home
While you can entertain at home with nothing but paper plates and napkins, there’s a certain magic that comes with pulling out the good stuff. “Since the pandemic, more formal hosting at home— think tablescapes and charcuterie boards—has increased tremendously,” says Cameron Forbes, founder of Forbes Functions. “Creating a registry that includes silver and china helps you build your first home together as a couple and form the backbone of your hosting arsenal.”
The Pieces Hold Memories
There are certain wedding gifts that you’ll pull out and smile. They’re the ones that you remember exactly who gave them to you. China and silver often fall into these categories. “The greatest advantage is the lasting memory attached to these gifts,” says Forbes. “Whenever you host, you will have an amazing array of pieces to choose from, all with deep sentimental value from family and friends.”
Disadvantages of Registering for China and Silver
Of course, with each sentimental reason why you should register for these heirlooms, there are a couple of reasons why it might make more sense to leave them off your registry.
Silver Can Be Expensive
While china and silver can cause sticker shock, silver is where the price tag skyrockets. “People still register for china but shy away from silver, since it is so expensive,” says Morris.
You’ll Need Space
If you live in a small space, the storage required for china and silver is a top consideration—and it’s probably the reason many couples skip adding these classics to their registry.
You’ll Have to Polish Silver
Don’t want to pull out a silver polishing cloth? Then you may not want to register for silver. Silver requires polishing every few months if you use it regularly. You can push it a little longer if it’s kept carefully tucked away in a tarnish-resistant case, but eventually, the day will come when you’ll need to polish it.
You Have to Hand Wash China
To keep your china in tip-top shape, particularly if it has metallic details, you should hand wash it. Some people will swear by throwing it in the dishwasher, saying it’s better to use it than not—and that’s true—but if you want to stick to the old-school rules and make sure you’re keeping it in great shape for years to come, you’re going to have to grab a sponge and mild dish soap every time you use it.
Tips to Keep in Mind If You Decide to Register for China and Silver
If you’ve decided to add china and silver to your wedding registry, take note of these tips to help guide you through the process.
Don’t Feel Pressured to Get It All at Once
“If you are a person who loves china, but you only get a few pieces for your wedding, don’t forget you can continue to build your collection by putting it on your gift list for birthdays and holidays,” says Morris. Adding a piece to your collection on your anniversary every year can become a tradition, and, year after year, you’ll watch your collection—and your table—grow.
Look for Something Unique
“More clients are registering for a more fun, everyday china that they’ve either found at a local specialty shop, like handmade pottery from Jackson Hole, and then they go for a more classic formal china pattern,” says wedding planner Arney Walker. “It’s not outdated if you are going to use it.”
Add Glassware to the Mix
Walker says that her clients are more likely to skip the silver these days and register for beautiful glassware instead. While polishing silver may not be high on your list of pre-dinner party must-dos, glassware is easier to care for and adds another layer of sparkle to the table.
Choose a Few Versatile Pieces
Having a hard time justifying the expense of china? Choose pieces that can be used outside of fancy dinners. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match and look around!” Morris says. “There are plenty of pieces that can do double duty in a more casual setting and work for a more formal meal.”
Consider the Classics
Cole suggests registering for timeless brands like Mottahedeh, Haviland, Bernardaud, Herend, and Ginori. These are the names that have stood the test of time. But she also recommends exploring stunning porcelains and ceramics like Paravicini, Carolina Irving & Daughters, Astier de Villatte, and Vietri. “Names like Lenox, Wedgwood, and Royal Copenhagen have been used in places like the White House and Buckingham Palace for centuries,” says Forbes.
Aim for Eight Place Settings
“While the number may vary based on how often you host and the size of your family, most silver and china come in four- or five-piece sets,” says Forbes. If you aim for eight place settings, you should have enough to accommodate most occasions (and you can mix and match other settings when you’re lucky enough to have more people seated at your table).