How to Speak Southern

Life Lessons Learned from Fine China

October 8, 2013

This past December my mother-in-law took me to register for china in Wilmington, NC, for my wedding. Wilson was not invited.

As I looked around at all of the gorgeous china, I was stunned at the prices. Shocked. Floored. Are you serious? $250 for a bowl? I felt… guilty. Very guilty. Guilty because a) I didn’t want my dear family and friends to pay so much on a present for me — and Wilson — ok mostly me — and b) the whole china idea is so extravagant. I started thinking about how many people could eat for a week for what someone will pay for my wedding china dinner plate and the whole registry event started to lose its luster.

As I grappled with the exorbitant costs, my china guilt and wanting everything in the store — leading to more guilt — the sweet lady helping us, Carolyn, gave me some advice that I will never forget.

In her honey-sweet Southern drawl, she explained to me everything I needed to know about china, and life too. Her words were so profound that I have to share them.

1. If you love it, then you should buy it — or in my case, register for it. Even though it is very expensive, you can get a few pieces of it over time, and really enjoy collecting piece by piece. You aren’t going to get everything you want all at once in life, and you shouldn’t. It’s no fun that way — it’s about the process.

2. Even though it is so expensive, you have to use your china. Or any expensive, coveted item you own, for that matter. Life is too short to save things for the right time, or the special occasion, or when the President of the United States comes to dinner, or because you don’t want people to break anything. Use your fancy things, because if you just keep them in the china cabinet all the time, they are as good as broken anyway.

3. Variety is the spice of life. If something doesn’t match exactly, who cares? That’s what makes it special. Using different colors, patterns, opinions, voices, etc. makes an incredible story, and you should try to make your story as unique and creative as possible.

Clearly, Carolyn is a wonderful person. I took all of her advice, and chose the below setting as my wedding china. And I am in love.

   china 1

Isn’t she a beauty?


plate bowl

all together

Carolyn from Protocol thought she was selling me a set of china that I will keep for a lifetime, and she did. What she didn’t know is that selling the china came along with some priceless advice, and that was free. Plastic fork budget indeed.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Beth October 9, 2013 at 12:33 am

    I grew up with a great grandmother who had SIX sets of fine china (12 place settings each). Each pattern had its own purpose; Easter, Christmas Day, Winter Sunday dinners, Summer Sunday dinners, every day dinner, etc. I am still unsure of the use for of one pattern other than I remember once getting to eat off of it when my Great Aunt retired from her job after 30 years. I was enraptured with all of them and still am. My mom still asks (after 15 years of not settling in one place) when I am going to collect three of the sets I most covet. I live in a NY shoebox so my patient folks will be housing them just a bit longer. I find myself wandering through the wedding sections of department stores looking at what I’d register for should I ever have a second date that leads to a proposal. The colors, the weight, the packaging….all are a delight. I was born in the wrong era and feel like items like a gorgeous, indulgent, even pricey China pattern can make all of us feel wonderful and transport us to “a happy place,” especially when used to serve PB&J or mac&cheese I love the concept of spending time saving for the pieces you really love and cherishing them even if you only ever have two complete sets for you and your significant other. Good for you for letting go of the guilt and embracing the lifetime of memories.

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