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Tableware serves as the centerpiece of any event. From family dinners to wedding receptions or formal business functions, the pieces you choose can greatly impact the overall atmosphere and dining experience. 

Luxury tableware table setting

This guide will provide an overview of tableware, including what it is and the different categories of items it comprises. It will also elaborate on the specific varieties each type of tableware comes in and how to choose the right pieces for your occasion.

What Is Tableware?

The term ‘tableware ‘encompasses all of the dishes, utensils, and vessels used in distributing and eating a meal. Also referred to as ‘crockery’ in the United Kingdom, these items come in sets that can be rented or bought for large gatherings involving food. 

They play both a functional and decorative role, as aside from enabling guests to enjoy fare offerings, they also add visual interest to a dining table.

Getting To Know Each Type Of Tableware

Tableware is an extremely broad word that covers a litany of dishes and utensils. Generally speaking, items can be broken into four main categories: serve ware, dinnerware, silverware, and drinkware. The following sections will review each type’s role in the dining experience.


Serveware, as its name suggests, is used for serving food. Anything that holds it or helps the distribution process can fall into this category, including serving platters, bowls, salad bowls, casserole dishes, soup pots, and teapots. Think of any item that you could use to present food to others.

While large dishes are usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of serveware, certain utensils like serving spoons, tongs, ladles, and pitchers can also be considered part of the family.


Sometimes called crockery or china, dinnerware is where food goes as it’s portioned to individuals. The category comprises any items used to eat directly, from dinner plates and soup bowls to salad plates, saucers, and dessert plates.

Beautiful table setting

Types Of Dinnerware

Dinnerware can come in various sizes, shapes, and forms to suit different dishes. Let’s take a closer look at some common types and what context each is used in.

Dinner Plate – Used to hold main courses, this is one of the most common pieces of dinnerware you’ll come across. Dinner plates are the largest on the table, measuring 11 or 12 inches in diameter.

Dessert Plate – Dessert plates are saucers used to serve smaller portions of food. They measure 18 cm across and are best suited for informal gatherings that don’t involve a full sit-down meal.

Bread And Butter Plate – Sometimes referred to as a side plate or quarter plate, these pieces serve as accessories to main dinner plates. Bread and butter plates are smaller in diameter at roughly 15 cm and hold items like bread rolls, butter, and small condiments.

Appetizer Plates – Appetizer plates are slightly bigger than the average bread and butter plate, with a length of 17 cm or more. Simple and slightly curved, they’re meant to hold smaller portions of food or snacks before a full dish is served.

Soup Bowl – Holding up to 16 ounces of liquid, soup bowls can come in various shapes and sizes, depending on the type of soup served. Usually, they are round and measure between 11 and 12 cm in diameter.

Plates in a display

The Materials You Can Find Dinnerware In

Aside from size and purpose, dinnerware can also differ in the material it’s made out of. You can find dishes in various options to suit any occasion – the following are some of the most popular.

Melamine –  Melamine is a type of plastic that’s used to make dinnerware inexpensive and durable. It can be found in various colors and patterns, and is ideal for everyday use.

Porcelain – Porcelain dishes are made from kaolin and feldspar, resulting in a delicate yet strong material often used to make dinner plates and soup bowls.

Glass – Glass dinnerware is great for special occasions like weddings and corporate events, as it adds a sense of elegance to any table setting. Glass comes in various shapes and sizes, with transparent and colored options available.

Stoneware –  Stoneware is usually found in earthy tones like cream and brown. It’s a heavy material that makes great dinner plates and soup bowls, and is ideal for outdoor use.

Earthenware –  Earthenware is a type of pottery that’s been fired at low temperatures. It has a porous, matte finish and can be used to make various items, from cups to plates.

Silverware And Cutlery

Cutlery includes any implements used to eat food, from knives and forks to spoons and specialty utensils. This type of serveware can be made from various materials like stainless steel, silver, wood, and plastic.

Vintage silverware set

Like dinnerware, cutlery encompasses many different sub-varieties, each of which can be used for a specific purpose.

Forks – are commonly used to spear, cut, and hold food on a plate. They come in varieties such as dinner forks, salad forks, and dessert forks.

Spoons – Spoons are used to scoop up liquid or solid food. They range from soup spoons to teaspoons, tablespoons, and finally, the dessert spoon.

Knives – Knives are used for cutting and spreading items such as butter and cheese. They have sharp blades and come in different lengths, from the small steak knife to the larger dinner knife.

The pieces that make up a cutlery set can differ depending on the occasion and menu, but typically you’ll find one of each type for an informal setting. From there, you can add more utensils as the occasion and complexity of dishes demand.


Drinkware comprises all items from which one can drink, such as cups, mugs, and glasses.  As with dinnerware and cutlery, the drinkware you choose will depend on the occasion and menu.


Types Of Drinkware

There are countless varieties of drinkware out there, all of which can be broken down into two main categories: stemware and tumblers.

The first, stemware, refers to any glass with a thin and elevated base. Common examples include the martini glass, wine glass, brandy glass, Champagne coupe, cordial glass, Champagne flute, and Sherry glass.

Tumblers, on the other hand, look more like conventional cups and have a flat-bottomed design. The family includes glasses like tumblers, shot glasses, beer glasses, beer mugs, rock glasses, water glasses, Collins glasses, and tall glasses.

While the majority of drinkware that you’ll find at a formal event will be glass, several plastic and ceramic options are available for different budgets and beverage temperature levels.

Choosing The Right Tableware For Your Event

With all of the varieties out there, it can be difficult to know what type and style of tableware fits a particular event. These guidelines will help you discern what options make the most sense for your occasion.

Consider The Nature Of Your Event

The context of your gathering can help you determine the most suitable tableware to select. A casual outdoor barbecue will naturally call for more relaxed, picnic-style plates and cups, while a more formal indoor affair might require more structured pieces, such as traditional dinnerware or elegant china.

Think About The Number Of Guests

The number of people attending your event will also determine the type and amount of tableware you need. If you’re hosting a smaller gathering, you may want to opt for individual place settings. A buffet-style set up with shared plates and serving ware may be better if you expect a larger crowd.

Keep The Menu And Courses In Mind

When deciding on tableware, you’ll want to consider the menu. Multi-course meals will inevitably require more types of plates and utensils than small receptions. Formality comes back into play here as well; generally speaking, the more formal an event is, the more intricate you’ll want to get with place settings.

Tableware is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to hosting a successful event, yet at the same time, it can be incredibly impactful. With the right combination of items and careful consideration for quality, style, and material, you can create a dining experience that exceeds expectations and leaves a lasting impression.


What’s The Difference Between Tableware And Flatware?

Tableware refers to any type of dish or plate used during a meal, while flatware is a collective term for cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, and other utensils).

Should I Rent Or Buy Tableware?

Renting tableware is often the most cost-effective option for large events, while buying them is usually more practical for smaller occasions. Call on Curated Events for all of your table setting needs- it is our specialty!