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Mismatched Dishes/Glassware, etc. [Moved from Not About Food board]

I'm having a (small) dinner (birthday) party for my husband next weekend. Probably will have between 7-10 people, including us two. Here's my dilemma...I only have 6 matching dinner plates (solid white), and then I have 2 china dinner plates (white with blue design with thin band of gold at the edge), then I have a few really casual white/blue plates. I have the same situation with glassware, silverware, etc....well, you get the picture.

I really can't afford to go out and buy any more plates, etc. Is it okay to use all these mismatched items? This is not a "formal" dinner, and we are not pretentious people, lol.

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  1. I would just be happy to be invited to a dinner party-IMHO, who cares that the china doesn't match! As long as the food is edible and conversation flows-I wouldn't worry.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocchipcookie

      Of course it's okay. In fact, I have friend who collects china and does it on purpose to show off his collection. Just pretend you're doing it on purpose.

      I do have a suggestion though, if not for this party perhaps in the future. A couple of years ago I was having a party for about 40 people. I went to a restaurant supply store and bought two cases of stemmed 8-ounce wine glasses for about a $1.25 apiece. Except for very special occasions, these are now the glasses I use for absolutely everything--orange juice, iced tea, wine, cocktails, milk for the kids. They look nice, they're sturdy as all get-out and absolutely dish-washer proof, are a very convenient size, and I never run out of glasses. One of the smartest investments I ever made.

    2. Sure it's ok, and what I'd try to do if I were you is to, if you can, create a pattern with the different patterns. If you are 8, I'd use the 6 white ones for your guests, and put the two ones with the gold at either end of the table for you and your husband. Try to alternate the different pieces from place setting to place setting, rather than having all of one kind of thing at one part of the table and others at the other part, if that makes sense. Then it will look like a carefully thought out theme rather than a mish mash! And if you can unite everything with the same placemats and/or napkins, that would be nice to.


      2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I agree with you Ruth! I actually saw a segment about this on some show, where they mixed up different patterns on purpose and it was quite charming. Since all of your plates are either white or white & blue it should look lovely. Just do like Ruth said and stagger them out.

        1. re: MMRuth

          There was a restaurant in Stockbridge VT, Annabelle's, that did this very mismatched thing....with stemware, silver, and all the plates.. Each table had a different bud vase, candlestick. All the linen matched, though. It was so very charming.

        2. ctflowers, the first thought that struck me when I read this post was wow, how sad is it that anyone even has to ask this question, but I guess in this day and age of excess and expectations there really is an emphasis on presentation. I then thought about my mother, who never worried a bit about whether all the plates matched. I can remember running out of glasses and using paper cups! The whole idea of entertaining, whether a birthday party or holiday event was to be with those we love, and believe me no one worried about the china and I can remember a few good laughs over the paper cups. I am sure that your table will be lovely no matter how you choose to set it. I hope you have a wonderful dinner party and happy birthday to your husband.

          1. I collect old blue and white china and in particular those heavy thick old diner, blue plate (divided into 3 parts) specials. I also collect (thift store) old monogrammed silverware. SO my setting are always mismatched. And I have seen guests checking out the settings to see which of the various places they want to sit at (I never assign seats....) The 3 partitioned plates always get picked first. ;)

            1. It totally doesn't matter and your friends should feel very lucky to be invited over. Food and fun conversation are what counts.

              If you reach the point where you want to have MORE people over at any one time, consider trolling the local Salvation Army or junktique sorts of places for glassware and dishes. If you are in Baltimore, hit the Turnover Shop in Hampden; if you're in Eastern Mass check out the places on Route 1A between Ipswich and Newbury. You can find some really pretty things for a few dollars...or even far less than a dollar.

              1. We have a standing joke in our family "that you have to pay extra for things to be mis-matched/dented/faded/scratched/etc". Those of us who do not blindly follow dictums, often promulgated by merchants and advertisers hellbent on selling their latest wares or worse those chirpy magazines, set much more interesting tables than the everything-matches group. Call it "legacy" or "eclectic" if you want a name for your interesting collection of personal pieces. It shows much more personality than simply plunking down money for (shudder) "a set". Learning what you like is a valuable lesson, sticking to your likes is even more important. Our world would be a poorer place if we all were the same.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Sherri

                  Yup! We just just moved into a smaller place, so have stored some of our dishes. Rather than keeping whole sets, I kept some matching things, but our glasses and mugs, for example -- none of them match at all, though I had ones that would have. I kept out the ones we like best! A little variety is fun :)

                  1. re: juster

                    "A little variety is fun :)" Amen! ....... and ever so much more personal. Having stories about the tableware choices can even make the food taste better since everyone gets into the act sharing their own tales of special pieces. This personalizes the dining experience which makes it memorable. To the OP, your husband will likely forever remember his Blue & White birthday dinner served with love & care.

                2. Over the summer, I had a little "dinner party" for my BF birthday and I realized at the last minute that I was short 2 forks....plan B...everyone got chopsticks...I have a large collection of beautiful chopsticks because that is what I prefer to use for eating. When I moved in to my new (very tiny) studio, I gave a friend most of my table setting stuff because I was down-sizing and had planned on traveling again...2 years later, I've been making due with some pretty creative stuff and I love it this way!
                  I've served tiny game hens on pretty, compact chopping blocks (I have a thing for great cutting boards)...it looked great and it was so handy for clean up and they were very well received.
                  Tomorrow, I will have friends over for charcuterie before going to a wine event...everyone gets their own little bamboo cutting board as a plate which will tuck perfectly in their lap as we lounge on cushions, some will have stemware, others will get stemless O's, people know that if they want first dibs on stemware that they have to show up early...it always works and no one has complained about what their eating off of, using to to pick up their food, or what they drink outtuv...all that matters is good company, good food, and good wine.
                  I am sure your table will look fantastic!
                  Have fun!

                  1. Ok, Im going to play devils advocate here or Rain Man, depending upon how you take it. Finances were mentioned and therfore of course whatever you have goes and no one will care. Its really about whats on the plate that maters anyway. I'm not that creative when it comes to stuff like this so I have to keep it simple so I can work it out.

                    But.....given the opportunity, I like things to match and no im not gay.... just have people over allot. And, this is where I get picky, I like large white plates. I think everything you serve looks better on big white plates and I need all the help I can get. Round, square or rectangular works just as well. I think most of mine have come one way or another from Crate and Barrell and have been bought on sale for very little. Glassware too. You can walk in just about any time and buy large bowl red and white wine glasses for as little as three to five dollars a piece and they will last forever if you take care of them. The glasses in particular have to be about the best deal in town. Almost....as good as Reidel for a tenth of the money and no one will know the diff. Regardless: make sure your guests get as many matching plates as possible, you and your husband take the leftover mismatched. In the past I have done that and it worked out fine. Have a great time!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: thomtompkins

                      You pay THAT much for wine glasses? BB&B sells perfectly acceptable "genteel poverty" stemware just like the ones most caterers use for $10 a dozen! With the 20% off coupon, that's 67 cents apiece. I've seen disposable plastic for more than that! I have cases of those things for parties.

                      Kidding aside, I've still got white plates picked up at thrift shops, garage sales and auctions, some for as little as a nickel or dime, that we use all the time. They aren't as nice as my good white porcelain, but for a big casual dinner, they're fine. And the price was right. The Salvation Army has been my Salvation more than a few times.
                      Who cares if they match or not? Nothing at my house does.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        When we were married many years ago, husband and I received set of 12 of nice china and of course were told by moms to save the set for special events. Not a lot of originality in using them anyway. So, we picked up white plates anywhere we could afford them-five and dime stores (Woolworths), etc. and 35 years later those are still are favorite plates-don't think we have two that match. Enjoy the birthday and be proud of your creativity.

                    2. I have seen photos in magazines of some very lovely table settings that combine a lot of mismatched this and that - it can be done very artistically - and don't apologize for it - just do it. You'll start a new trend among your friends!

                      1. If you go to France, you will see people using mismatched dishes a lot - and I don't just mean people who couldn't afford new, matching ones. A charming presentation will involve the tablecloth, flowers etc.

                        I do have more than enough white plates - I bought a couple of sets on sale over 20 years ago and have been able to find a lot of matching ones at church bazaars and garage sales (Montréal is a wonderful source of such things, imagine that is the case with other "older" cities).

                        Thom probably wouldn't find them large enough, but I dislike the little dab of food on a big plate style - so popular in the 1980s. Often I serve up small plates and tapas - yes, it can make more dishes to wash, but guests really enjoy that kind of presentation. And yes, I found the little Vandesca dishes (kind of an oval ramequin, foods were served in them at department store cafeterias with tea, at hotels and in railway dining cars) at a church bazaar in an affluent old neighbourhood.

                        A lot of those new, cheap white dishes are very heavy and bulky - there are lovely dishes made in China, but I don't find those to be among them.

                        One consideration in favour of matching things, though, is if you are very short on space. Matching things stack and line up better, and take up less room.

                        1. We ditched our cheap dinnerware, and are now slowly collecting pottery made locally in our area, or by individual artists wherever we visit. So I'm clearly on the mix and match bandwagon!

                          It's fun deciding which pieces we feel like using at any particular meal, and remembering where we got them. It's also great to meet the potter, as often happens, so that we can associate the piece with the artist. We are being pretty disciplined about really thinking something is special before we buy it since it is not a particularly inexpensive thing to do, but when given cash for holidays, we go on a mission and splurge a little. Lots of color and texture on the table now, and I also need all the help making food look good, since I'm not great with presentation.

                          Have a great party!

                          1. I've only ever purchased bone white china. I don't see the need for blue or black or multi-colored plates. I like to add color via my: linen napkins, placemats, tablecloth, etc. Having said that it is still fine to use mismatched plates.

                            1. In my head I'm hearing Nina Garcia calling some poor Project Runway designer's creation "too matchy-matchy." Definetly not a compliment.

                              Every year, my husband's aunts host a ladies' luncheon, and the highlight--for me--is choosing which one of the myriad mismatched cup-and-saucer sets I'll use for my tea.

                              Embrace your mismatched dishes, and enjoy your lucky guests!