Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Doing dishes

My favorite bit of wedding planning was spending weekends gathering the mismatched dishes we used for our dinner and dessert. I won't say it wasn't a ton of work, we literally spent almost a year of weekends working on it, but since Paul and I both love going thrift store and garage sale shopping, it was worth the extra effort for us.

Since we were inviting 130 or so people to the wedding, we collected enough dishes for roughly that many folks. That meant 130 dinner plates, 200 or so small plates for dessert and appetizers (we figured not everyone would take their own plate), 130 dinner forks, dessert forks, and knives, some spoons for sugar & coffee stirring, 100 or so coffee cups, and around 250 glasses for water and wine. Crazy!

Collecting the Dishes

We probably could have collected the dishes faster but we had a few rules for ourselves.

First, while we originally wanted just china, after realizing the limitations of that, we expanded our search to dishes that primarily included white, brown, green, and yellow in their patterns. We wanted things that looked vintage, so we mostly avoided things that looked like they'd been created in the last few years.

Second, we rarely bought something that cost more than it would have cost to rent that dish. So that generally meant buying things on sale. Luckily our local thrift stores have frequent sales and color tag 50% of sales daily, so we were able to do this without too much problem. If you are just doing this for aesthetic reasons, you could probably pick up your dishes much faster than if you are also doing it to help your budget. We did sell most of our dishes after the wedding so we made up some of the money that way as well.

Third, we tried to get some of the dishes on Freecycle (for free). That meant driving around town picking things up. Again, if you aren't concerned about cost, you could eliminate this and save time.

Preparing the Dishes for the Wedding

Before the wedding, we had to wash all of the dishes. This took two full days. At home, we soaked all of the dishes in big tubs on our lawn. Neighbors thought we were insane hosing off dishes on our lawn, but we found that the sooner we got the price tag stickers off the dishes, the easier it was and our kitchen was too small to unload that many dishes.

LinkOf course you can't really get dishes clean on the lawn, so after a quick rinse and removing the sticker, we would box them up. We drove all the boxes up to my parent's house (where the wedding was held) and a few weeks before the wedding we spent almost a full day running them all through their dish washer before separating them into boxes for each table. You can see pictures of the boxes piled high on the post I wrote about it.

Setting up Mismatched Dishes

One of the challenges of using mismatched dishes is how to actually use them at the wedding. While I've seen people use one pattern at each table, we decided to mix it up more than that. But we found that it looked not as good (to us) to use both china and stoneware on one table. So we stuck with mismatched china on certain tables and mismatched stoneware on others.
I actually handpicked the specific dishes for each table based on who would be sitting there. Again, crazy.

Cleaning Up
Edit to Add: After people ate we had a few wood crates (purchased for cheap from JoAnn's Fabric), set out next to the trash cans. A few people were in the know about this ahead of time and set the tone for others to do the same. Some people left their dishes on the tables, which we just picked up the next morning during clean-up.

One of the hardest parts of doing your own dishes is that you actually have to do your own dishes after the wedding. We could have hired someone to do it, but we decided to take matters into our own hands. So on Sunday, after most people had left, we spent the afternoon rinsing off all the dishes, throwing out the broken ones, and sorting them into piles (garage sale, keep, give to friends). Honestly, we didn't wash them that well. We basically rinsed in soapy water, hosed off (yup, the hose again), and dried them in the sun.

We actually use the dishes from our wedding as our house dishes now (and we have some of our favorites of the china saved for dinner parties). It's kind of a nice, daily reminder of the wedding.

And one final note...If we had to do it over we'd rent the silverware. There are 20 knives at every thrift store for every 1 fork. And thrift store silverware isn't cheap and is often kind of gross. Also, some thrift stores package the silverware so you are forced to buy a big bag of knives to get three or four forks. Annoying!


christina said...

i love this! it looks great & what a fun, eco, diy way to go! we thrifted for our cupcake tier plates, but we mostly rented, with a mix of vintage...since we had a buffet, i didn't get to set the tables like you did--it looked so cute!


Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this! i LOVE your wedding and the dishes were something i could totally do cos i love yard saling. not that i am anywhere close to a wedding : )

jenifriend said...

thank you for posting about this! we are spending the next year gathering silverware, actually. thankfully i have a friend of mine who made it her job to collect forks far before we ever made the decision to use our own silverware at our wedding...thank goodness for her!!


LindzML said...

I've thought about doing this...such an amazing idea! I just might steal it...I love mismatched dishes.

Jillian said...

Thank you! Really great to know

Anonymous said...

I love the eclectic-ness of this! Very original!

Jesse said...

I love your napkins - how did you do those? did you make them? was that hard to do?

Blablover5 said...

That is so cool and has such a homey feel. I can just about imagine the conversations as guests compared their different dinnerware.

Anonymous said...

i love the idea of providing your own tableware and not hiring help, but i have a few questions regarding how this all went:
how did the table bussing work after your guests used the dishes? were they collected by someone or did guests take them somewhere (where?) themselves? how was this expressed to them?

Meredith said...

I'm so glad to here someone else has done this. We are currently in the midst of thrift store shopping for all our china. It's very rewarding (plus, I've found a couple great deals that have nothing to do with the wedding!!) Originally, we said we were going to donate or sell all the plates after the wedding but I'm actually getting somewhat attached to some of them so we'll have to keep a few!!

PDX Bride said...

Can I ask a really random question . . . you had some fabric in the center of the tables . . .we are doing something similar . . . what are the dimentions on "table runners"? Thanks!!

backyardwedding said...

Anon-I just added a note about how we dealt with clean-up. Hope that helps!

I'll do a post about our linens soon!

Megan said...

I really love the look of the thrifted dishes, and I think it would look awesome at the old house where I'm getting married.

I really really appreciate all the tips! Thanks!

rebecca s. said...

cute! it's nice to see how it turned out. we are doing this for our wedding in may. i already had my own collection of vintage dishes so it has not been too difficult to gather the rest.

Self said...

I'm really enjoying reading your recap posts.

Would you write about your registry? We are setting up with Wishpot but I'm tentative. I'd love to hear how it worked out for you.

Adrienne said...

Just a note-- we looked into sourcing our own cutlery, etc. for our wedding in August and then discovered that certain things you can buy for super cheap at Ikea. You can get a 16-piece set of cutlery for less than $3.50...

JMB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JMB said...

Your table tops turned out beautifully! I was prepared to do this exact same thing but then we changed our wedding to a box lunch wedding instead. However, one week before the wedding I have now gathered all of the vintage napkins that I need for all of our guests.

I love love love the fabric that you used for your napkins, particularly the yellow gingham one.