We enjoy helping you be the perfect host. If you like to have dinner parties, you'll know the importance of the role of your table setting. The look of your your place settings must by all means appeal to you and reflect your tastes, but it's also important to consider practical matters.
1. Pick a type of dinnerware that can be cared for easily
For care instructions, check the underside of any piece of place setting which is under consideration. Ideally, the dinner plates chosen should be dishwasher-safe. When hosting dinner parties, the last thing the host wants is a large pile of dishes that need to be hand washed. You needn't purchase fine china, provided that whatever you do purchase appeals to you. If stoneware or earthenware appeal anyway, oven safe varieties are especially helpful when entertaining (for warming plates or keeping cooked rolls warm). Microwave safe varieties of dishware sets can also be helpful.
On the other hand, if you are a fine china aficionado or simply love a particular fine china place setting, its aesthetics may be significant enough to overcome any care considerations.
2. Check availability of individual replacement pieces
At some point, a piece is likely to get broken. If these pieces are still available individually, this becomes a huge practical advantage because the entire set needn't be rendered unusable for large groups through the loss of one plate. Availability is best checked online from the maker of the china (printed on the underside of an item), instead of from the store it was purchased from. This is because stores may stop stocking a particular line even though it is still being produced. Current availability won't necessarily help ten years down the track, but while pieces are still available it will be cheaper to replace them than to purchase entirely new dinnerware sets.
3. Consider how many ways the dinnerware sets can go with different napkins or tablecloths
If you entertain frequently, the ability to create a range of different table settings will prove invaluable. Therefore, the appearance of the plate should not be considered alone.
Instead, look at the dinner plates in combination with several different styles and colors of napkins or tablecloths. This will help you get an idea whether or not you can create a range of different overall looks of place settings from the one set of dinnerware.
4. Order pieces such as a sugar bowl and gravy boat
A typical table setting contains most or all of the following, depending on level of formality: a dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, bowl and cup, and saucer. Some practical extra pieces that belong in dinnerware sets are: gravy boat, sugar bowl, butter dish, cream jug, pitcher, serving plates or bowls, tea cups and saucers. When you have guests, you'll be glad of having all the pieces. For example, a gravy boat may not be something you would use routinely, but it's something that's absolutely essential on the occasions when it comes into play.
5. Order dessert plates
When hosting dinner parties, it helps to have enough pieces such that the dessert can be plated without needing to re-use any of the plates used in the main course. This may mean ordering additional small plates individually. This allows you to spend the most amount of time with your guests, instead of washing dishes before the dessert course. If the range of pieces available in the maker's collection allow, having dessert plates that look clearly distinct from the salad or bread plates can add aesthetic value. If not, then simply ordering extra of an existing small plate will work. If none of this is possible then it is still possible to make even the most modest of sets function, but it requires more planning for the particular meal to be hosted: if dessert is to be plated, salad bowls should be used in the main course; if dessert is to be served in a bowl, salad plates should be used. Therefore ordering separate dessert plates gives you maximum practical value when hosting.
Aesthetics versus practicality
Ultimately, your table setting has to be visually appealing to you and reflect your tastes. The most practical design identified may simply happen not to provide the overall look you are seeking. On the other hand, the most beautiful design available may soon become a liability if it remains infrequently used due to demanding care requirements. The tips shown above can be helpful in evaluating which dinnerware set might be best for you from a shortlist of favorite patterns.