When I registered I chose a lot of white pieces for serve ware, as well as for my nice dishes. Then I picked a more fun pattern for my everyday dishes. I also selected some accent pieces in various colors and patters. This allows for a lot of flexibility. I also use a lot of colorful and cheerful table clothes. White dishes allow for so many more options this way.
Here are my everyday dishes:
They are Martha Stewart from Macy's. I have dinner and salad plates, bowls and mugs. I also have one serving bowl and one large platter.
Then I have these white serve ware pieces (also Martha Stewart):
These are my "nice dishes". They are Country Heritage by Villeroy and Bach. I decided not to register for China but these instead. I wasn't crazy about any of the china patterns I saw and I couldn't bear to register for something so expensive that I didn't love. I also knew if I didn't love them I wouldn't use them. But these I both love and use. Although not everyday. Because I don't put these in the dishwasher (I don't want to get them scratched) there are a lot of times when I entertain that I opt for my ever day dishes and white serve ware instead.
I also registered for a set of 10 salad plates, and several serving pieces and mugs in this pattern, Cascara also by Villeroy and Boch. I like to use these plates and mugs as desert dishes or just mix and match the pattern's from time to time.
I love having the options that these pieces give me. For small things like a few friends to dinner, book club or charades parties I have simple pieces that work well for entertaining but I don't care too much if they are broken. For book club I love setting out a mismatched assortment of pretty mugs on a colorful table cloth with white cake stands full of treats and a pretty green plate full of cookies. I have a green tea pot that just happens to match my green plates perfectly. But it's also really nice to have the elegant white dishes for special occasions. If my grandmother is coming to dinner I like to set out the white dishes on a gold table cloth with the fruit accent pieces. The white serve ware from Martha Steward works well with both options.
So while the kitchen may be a frantic mess 5 minutes before my guests arrive, and I have yet to serve dinner on time, my table is always pretty no matter what the occasion!
What are your entertaining tricks? What go to pieces can you not live without?