The wedding and honeymoon are over, and all those friends and family who gave generously for the nuptials are waiting for an invitation to dinner, or a party, or a luncheon, or supper, or any special occasion.
Is there enough china, flatware, and linens to set a pretty table for four, eight or twelve?
For a couple that has planned well, the answer is yes. Everything will be as nearly perfect as anyone could desire.
Planning wisely generally involves establishing bridal registries at the couple's favorite stores.
Today's brides will discover that prices are high, and friends who were once able to buy an entire place setting for a wedding gift, find today that they can purchase only a plate, a cup and saucer, or an accessory.
Despite that, bridal registries are busy. And, say both stores and furnishings experts, registering choices with one's favorite store is still the best way to let friends and family know what to contribute.
And if bride and groom come from different parts of the country, it is sensible to register in both places -- and to keep those stores apprised of what pieces have been given to avoid duplication.
It also helps to register with a store that has branches countrywide, as Marina Voutselos of Lord & Taylor's china and glass department in Boston pointed out.
On request the company will keep the registry in the branches the couple deems appropriate.
What are young people looking for these days when informal living styles seem to have taken over and the cost of even that informality has become increasingly expensive?
Interestingly enough, they often still want "a formal set" of 12 place settings at least of china, crystal, and flatware -- and they often want percelain in the classic gold-and-white. As Mrs. Margaret Reif of Cooley's in Boston points out, such a design (all the famous makers have them) can be mixed with many others in brighter colors, for variety.
In addition to design and price, something to think about in choosing a dinner set is whether it is going to be possible to get as many place settings and serving pieces as desired at the time of the wedding. Many patterns remain "open stock" for a while and then vanish.
Others, such as the classic designs by some of the famous British and French makers of this day and earlier centuries can be counted on to stay around a good long time.
Wedgwood, Spode, Worcester, Lenox, Meissen, and Limoges, among others, all have patterns that have been favorites for many years and the designs are as adaptable to today's tables as they were to those of a generation or more ago.
A "must" for earlier brides, sterling silver has suffered a decline in desirability due, however, only to its cost. Some young couples are fortunate enough to receive family silver and so only look for odd fill-in pieces and for a more casual flatware design for everyday use.
Others, knowing they cannot count on sterling gifts, have to choose between the relative merits of silverplate and stainless. Many opt for stainless for its uncompromising honesty, its simple care needs, and its lower price.
Suprisingly, perhaps. many brides want the stainless that looks and feels like what it is, not a pattern that imitates sterling.
Some of the best manufacturers in the world, including, for instance, Fraser and Jensen of Denmark, make heavy, elegant pieces similar to sterling designs, but also turn out the sleek, simple designs that say stainless immediately.
Many of today's brides have been working before marriage and have already furnished a home for themselves. But they still want all the trimmings that were associated with marriage in their parents' day.
The things the couple themselves have loved and lived with separately for a few years will not be abandoned, of course, but will be used for everyday, and informal entertaining.
Some brides like mixed place settings of different patterns. For those who might like to follow this path, it is wise to choose patterns that can interact with each other, thus providing even more variety and usefulness in settings for two or four.
Some bridal couples also find they can use antique pieces with today's patterns. Imari and Crown Derby, for instance, looks well with a plain white, or with a solid color, chosen from the design on the antique piece.
Others brides vary the pattern they use for each meal. Breakfast is not always on the blue-and-white. One morning it may be on the yellow solid color, the delicate floral, or that wild, zippy pottery.
As Mrs. Reif noted, however, "There is not a general rule. Today's brides are all different. Some want very traditional, others very modern." As for price, the pieces come in all ranges.
At Cooley's that can vary from $1,875 for a five-piece place setting of Royal Copenhagen's Flora Danica, to $16.50 for a simple but lovely white porcelain.
The well-known makers of crystal are still dominant. Stuart, Baccarat, Rosenthal, and Waterford make intricate cut patterns much favored by today's brides and plain ones that depend for their glowing beauty on their intrinsic purity.