Thoughts on formal plate settings

When registering for formal dinnerware most brands will have a pre-set mix. The traditional formal plate setting consists of the following 8 pieces:

  • Charger plate
  • Dinner plate
  • Salad plate
  • Soup bowl
  • Bread plate
  • Desert plate
  • Coffee cup & saucer

Which you would look to arrange in the following manner (image found on

As we looked at how to set up our table we initially registered for a 5 piece dinner set, which consists of a dinner, salad and bread plates, with a coffee cup and saucer and the matching charger plate and soup bowl (note: we didn’t even remember the desert plate!).  This seemed like a good idea, guests can give you a set, and it is already pre-packaged with pretty much everything you need.  Or is it?  In all honesty how often does one have a formal table set up where you would have a formal sit down dinner?

Here are some questions worth asking yourself:

  • Are you really going to be making soup for 12 people? That is a big BIG batch of soup! If not you could probably live with out the soup bowls
  • Do you plan on having plated sit down dinner? In other words are you going to be making a pretty salad which will be on the salad plate on top of the dinner plate which is on top of the charger plate?  If not you can also live without the charger plate.
  • Is a bread plate necessary?  You will see lots of NICE/FORMAL restaurants now days forgoing the bread plate as you can just place the bread on your plate.
  • Does every single friend of yours drink coffee? Some may prefer tea, others would like espresso; I would suggest getting a mix of different cups and saucers like this you have some flexibility.
  • Finally if you answered yes to all these questions. Do you plan on washing all the dishes? For a 12 person dinner all these plates means 96 dishes to be washed!
  • If you have answered no to all of the above then you will need:
    • Dinner plate
    • Salad plate
    • Dessert plate
    • A mix of different coffee cups and saucers

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