From classic Hermès to $7,000 Flora Danica, how to choose place settings with style

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First come the dishes. Then comes love. What is this unbreakable bond between a girl and her bone china?

by CONNIE DUFNER / styling by BRITTANY WINTER / photographs by CHRIS PLAVIDAL

CLOCKWISE, from top: Haviland Tambour dinner plate, $106, the Ivy House; Vietri Lace salad plate, $43, the Ivy House; L’Objet Perlée white saucer, $25, Madison; Almoco gold flatware, $50 the set of five, Design Within Reach; Haviland Tambour tea cup, $108, the Ivy House; L’Objet Aegean mug, $30, Madison; Anna Weatherley Antique Polka charger, $170, Madison; Bernardaud Eden Platinum dinner plate, $154, Copper Lamp; Ted Muehling for Nymphenburg White Coral salad plate, $270, Grange Hall; Richard Brendon Flight Barr C. 1815 Reflections tea cup, $464, Grange Hall; Kelly Wearstler Trousdale tea cup, $126, Forty Five TenGentlemen, consider yourselves warned.

Yes, she said yes and booked a manicure to show off the ring. But we’ve seen the signs: the fidgeting, the distraction, the furtive Internet searches. We’d bet our Cartier cushion-cut that she’s got her eye on a pretty little dish called Flora or Willow or Imari.

Many girls dream about an unforgettable dress or ponder how big a rider to take out on the sparkler. Others fantasize about tying the knot barefoot on a beach in Cabo. But you, oh smitten groom, may be the lucky chap whose intended prefers haute plates to haute couture. Get used to competing with the china registry and its incessant needs. Service for 16 or 24? Practical or pricey? Simple band or decorated well? And if perchance you hear her talking about Byzantine Dreams, followed shortly by a swoon, it’s not porn and it’s nothing you did. Blame Versace.

“I love china and linens,” says newlywed Daley Bennett. “It’s definitely a weakness.” Her husband, Rob, knew of Daley’s true first love when they settled on a whirlwind eight-week engagement prior to their February wedding. After all, she had come into the marriage with a batch of Wedgwood’s Chinese Dragons scored at an estate sale, and regularly raided her mother’s and grandmothers’ cabinets for vintage china. The pair boldly settled on Herend Fishscale and Raynaud Nin Sou and registered at the Ivy House. “The whole process of picking it out was pretty fun,” he says. (That’s one well-taught groom.)

FROM TOP: L’Objet Perlée Bleu dinner plate, $65, Madison; Kelly Wearstler Tracery salad plate, $31, Forty Five Ten; Juliska Firenze Medici salad plate, $38, Neiman Marcus Downtown; Hermès Mosaique au 24 square saucer, $150, the Ivy House; Hermès Balcon du Guadalquiri salad plate, $115, Neiman Marcus Downtown; Hermès Bleus D’Ailleurs charger, $310, Neiman Marcus Downtown; Raynaud Trésor salad plate, $158, Copper Lamp; William Yeoward Avington tea cup, $280, Madison; Ricci Argentieri Art Deco flatware, $70 the set of five, the Ivy HouseStephanie Golman warmed a frozen meatball and served it to herself on the first dinner plate — Chinoise Blue by Mottahedeh — she received for her wedding last year. “I wanted to use it right away,” confesses the manager of the Highland Park Village gift and tableware boutique, Madison. She is in good company with her boss Kelli Ford, the philanthropist owner of Madison and an avid dish collector who entertains frequently. Ford’s most recent party was a graduation dinner dance for her daughter’s fourth-grade Hockaday class, where the table was set with white buffet plates festooned with white linen napkins monogrammed in dayglow pink and yellow. “It’s her first set of monogrammed napkins,” explains Ford. “She can keep them forever and use them again.” The education of a china girl, however, only begins with napkins. Every year at Christmas, Ford gives her two daughters one piece each of Flora Danica, the iconic Royal Copenhagen pattern based on botanical drawings — each piece hand-painted, rare, off-the-charts expensive and worth every nickel. “When they grow up, they’ll have a beautiful set,” she says. “I think it’s a great gift. Sometimes my husband says: ‘You’re giving them what?’ and I say ‘They’re going to love it. Trust me.’” Ford’s china collection includes her own set of Flora Danica (with mushrooms), Fantasy by Anna Weatherley (she loves butterflies), Cristobal Blue by Raynaud (“great for summer; it’s crisp and nautical in a way”), Gold Aves by Royal Crown Derby (“really pretty; goes with so much”) and a purple-and-cream set from World Market. (“We got 40 place settings. It’s such a good look.”)

RIGHT , from top: Royal Crown Derby Japan salad plate, $75, Copper Lamp; Kelly Wearstler Tracery dinner plate, $49, Forty Five Ten; Anna Weatherley aqua green tea saucer, $60, Copper Lamp; Christofle By flatware, $369 the three-piece set, Copper Lamp; Haviland Syracuse turquoise tea cup, $160, Neiman Marcus Downtown; Hermès Mosaique au 24 square dessert plate, $220, the Ivy House; Kelly Wearstler Trousdale saucer, $58, Forty Five Ten; Mottahedeh Imperial Blue salad plate, $80, Copper Lamp; Spode Delamere Rural dinner plate, $26, the Ivy HouseWhile few carriage-trade brides would even dare to register for Flora Danica because of its $7,000-per-place-setting price tag — a few brave souls have done so at the Ivy House, according to owner Laura May — they are most certainly channeling their inner royal. (“They’re going for that organic, leafy floral look,” she says.) What is atop many a wish list? “The Anna Weatherley look is hot,” says the Ivy House proprietor. Kimberly Schlegel Whitman agrees, and admits a soft spot for the house of Anna, among others. The author, blogger and lifestyle-media star stays true to her Herend Chinese Bouquet in rust and to Mottahedeh’s Tobacco Leaf (“I found a large set in a Christie’s auction and won it for an average price of $19 apiece!”), and she appreciates the presence across town of mom Myrna’s Fabergé service for 26. The Whitmans entertain frequently as a couple, and Whitman has recently enjoyed hosting ladies-only morning coffees and teas at their home. She followed her own advice when it came to registering for her storied 2005 wedding in Lee Park — 34,000 square feet of tent, caviar-and-vodka buffets and a seated dinner for almost 750 — to husband Justin. “Follow your heart and pick something you love.” (This applies to choosing grooms as well.)

From top: Royal Crown Derby Spring Serenade salad plate, $175, Madison; Anna Weatherley aqua green tea cup, $38, Copper Lamp; Almoco gold flatware, $50 the set of five, Design Within Reach; Royal Crown Derby Elizabeth Gold salad plate, $130, Madison; L’Objet Canape dessert plate, $175 the set of four, Madison; Anna Weatherley aqua green dinner plate, $98, Copper Lamp; Royal Crown Derby green charger, $195, Neiman Marcus Downtown; Versace Le Jardin dessert plate, $75, Neiman Marcus DowntownSocial dynamo and new bride D’Andra Simmons, also a frequent entertainer, followed the most efficient path to a beautiful table, sticking with mom Dee’s Geneva by Pickard, a classic pattern of white with embossed platinum trim. “My mother has 24 place settings, so I just decided on the same pattern, for consistency in the family.” When she adds to it, Simmons says she’ll go for bold color. Ever the pragmatist, Simmons, who squeezed her Valentine’s-weekend wedding to Jeremy Lock in a narrow window free from business and social commitments, suggests that china is not the most important decision a bride will make. Embrace the inevitable and listen to Mom on this one. “Unless your mom’s pattern is heinous, stick with hers, your grandmother’s or one that will complement theirs if you are thinking you will inherit any of it. This makes it easy to marry the pieces — and you can also borrow from your family.”

China4Thanks to china-obsessed mothers like Ford, savvy brides like Golman and Bennett and confident hostesses like Whitman and Simmons, the future of the elegant table is assured. “Entertaining is alive and well,” says Lizzie Post of the etiquette dynasty. “It’s making a comeback. We went through this wonderful pendulum swing with eating off paper plates on your laps and serve-yourself buffets. Now people are saying, ‘Let’s do something special. I feel like being pretty.’ Everyone loves having a friend who throws formal parties. It gives us an excuse to wear the dresses we all own.” The great- granddaughter of Emily Post, who is an author and expert on entertaining and weddings at the Emily Post Institute, recalls growing up in a family where both sides loved entertaining at home. “My mother was able to pull out this beautiful orange pattern which looks stunning on a beautiful white tablecloth. Go for it and plan that dinner party. Don’t be afraid to use it. Don’t treat it as so precious.” Perhaps a more sage piece of advice from the etiquette arbiter: Brides, keep dishes in perspective. “Material items are there for our enjoyment and appreciation,” Post says. “They have shelf lives. Some live for generations. Some live for one night.”

FROM TOP: Ted Muehling for Nymphenburg White Coral spoon, $220, Grange Hall; Juliska Firenze Medici bread plate, $148, Neiman Marcus Downtown; Kelly Wearstler Mulholland salad plate, $82, Forty Five Ten; Richard Brendon Flight Barr c. 1815 Reflections saucer, $464, Grange Hall; Kelly Wearstler Mulholland dinner plate, $126, Forty Five Ten; Haviland Syracuse bread and butter plate, $190, Neiman Marcus Downtown; Bernardaud Eden Platinum cup, $140, Copper LampAnd grooms, she’ll need a shoulder to cry on when a beloved dish breaks. Be strong.

TOP RIGHT, from top left: Kelly Wearstler Mulholland mug, $126, Forty Five Ten; Raynaud Trésor square saucer, $167, Copper Lamp; Raynaud Sérénité buffet plate, $118, Copper Lamp; Raynaud Attraction dinner plate, $198, Copper Lamp; Herend Fishscale salad plate, $215, the Ivy House; William Yeoward Avington saucer, $280, Madison; Herend Rothschild Bird tea cup, $300, Copper Lamp; Hermès Mosaique au 24 square dessert plate, $180, the Ivy House; Raynaud Trésor mug, $179, Copper Lamp

CONNIE DUFNER is a Dallas freelance writer and a former editor at ‘The Dallas Morning News.’

Styling by BRITTANY WINTER. Photographs by CHRIS PLAVIDAL, both SISTERBROTHER MGMT.

 

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