Perfect settings

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When I was planning my wedding, I liked browsing my friends' registries, as you all probably do, too. What do you look at first? I would always go straight to the china. It's my favorite wedding gift. I love the idea that a set of dishes can signal something special is about to take place, not just a meal. And I love that this is a gift that may eventually be passed on.

Sometimes seeing a friend's china pattern gives this instant sense of recognition: Of course! It's so them! That's how it was with my friend Robyn and her Hermes Africa, a yellow- and orange-hued pattern with zebras, elephants and giraffes around the border. Her fiance had steered her away from the simpler platinum-bordered pattern she had thought she should get as a "safe" choice, since china is expensive, and instead they went for "something more fun, young and modern." It totally fits the contemporary style of their apartment and they use it often.

I got married nine years ago and I still find the blue of my Haviland Val de Loire pattern (pictured) so beautiful. Equally beautiful to me is the china I inherited from my grandmother; the floral plates and shallow bowls remind me of eating turkey sandwiches and chicken soup in her NYC apartment, because she used these as her everyday dinnerware and even put them in the dishwasher. I don't have the full set, but I use the pieces I do have all the time. The small dessert bowls are a perfect size to serve rice cereal to my 7-month-old and fruit to my 4-year-old, who calls them "Grandma Janet bowls," which always makes me smile.

What's your china pattern? Share it with us in the Comments section below. —Betsy Goldberg, deputy editor, Modern Bride

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