best special occasion tableware for holidays
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We’ve curated some of our favorite fine dishes and table linens—from classic and elegant to modern and rustic—that you can pull out for special occasions. There’s a time and place for the good stuff, whether it’s a winter holiday or a random weekend when you entertain guests and want to make it special. With Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving fast approaching, that time is coming sooner than you might realize.

Some of these ideas are (sorta) practical. When you’re hosting a nice dinner, you often need a cake stand, a gravy boat, serving platters, and coffee accompaniments. Or this might be the time to take out the fine china or holiday-themed tablecloth. Dishes and linens reserved for rare events make everything feel more festive.

But because not everyone has mega cash to drop even on their special-occasion items, we made sure to include options for every budget.

Related Reading: Food52 Is Offering Free Shipping Now Through Nov. 28

Serving Bowls

Gold-Dipped Serving Bowls, $115 each on Food52

Food52 gold accent serving bowls


These handmade stoneware bowls exclusively for Food52 are seriously stunning (as are their little siblings, Fisheye Brooklyn’s gold-dipped ceramic pinch bowls). Available in an ombre navy, cream, or deep merlot glaze, all with little sun spots of metallic gold on their free-form horizons, these larger serving bowls are perfect for salad, sides, or seasonal fruit—anything to keep them in full view all the time, because they’re way too pretty to store out of sight.Buy Now

Dowan Porcelain Angled Serving Bowls, 2 for $28.99 on Amazon

angled serving bowls


Coming in at a way lower price point yet still looking mighty elegant, these clean white bowls boast dramatic angles that make them right at home on a table dressed up for a party. And the simplicity of their shape, color, and finish means they match with nearly any other pieces you want to press into service.Buy Now

Kato French Oak Melamine Serving Bowl, $15.99 at Wayfair

wood grain melamine serving bowl


Also affordable but still impressive, this wood grain serving bowl is actually made from melamine (so it’s super durable and dishwasher safe). The weathered driftwood gray is lovely, but a similar wood-look melamine bowl is also available in a more bark-like brown.Buy Now

Godinger Dublin Crystal Serving Bowls, 3 for $70 at Macy’s

Dublin cyrstal serving bowls


If you like a classic cut-crystal sparkle for special occasions, this trio of non-leaded crystal bowls would be right at home on your holiday buffet. They nest for storage and show off whatever’s in them, so the brighter your salads, the better. The little one is just the thing for your ruby-red cranberry sauce.Buy Now

Wolford Hammered Aluminum Petal Serving Bowl, $21.99 at Wayfair

hammered silver serving bowl


Still want a bit more bling? This hammered silver serving bowl will shimmer beautifully in candlelight (real flames or LED flickers). It works for salads too, but also makes a great mini cooler (or maxi ice bucket) for bottles of wine, bubbly, or beer at a party.Buy Now

Serving Platters

White Embossed Leaf Fiore Serving Platter, $29.99 at World Market

leaf embossed serving platter

World Market

Moving on to flatter platters, this understated charmer is handmade in Italy from whitewashed clay and embossed with a fern leaf pattern. The organic rim gives it further wabi sabi appeal, and it’s roughly 12.5 inches wide by 16 inches long, so large enough to hold anything from roasted veggies to a modest turkey.Buy Now

Pearl Stoneware Serve Platter, $37.46 at Sur la Table (normally $50)

Pearl serving platter Sur la Table

Sur la Table

Simpler without being plain, featuring a raised-dot border and gently distressed edges, this Pearl platter can add a touch of vintage-inspired elegance to your special occasion. If you’re a fan, there’s matching Pearl dinnerware as well. To make this pretty collection even more practical, the line has been upgraded to durable, chip-resistant stoneware that’s dishwasher and microwave safe.Buy Now

Lenox Garden Grove Oval Platter, $315 at Macy’s

Lenox Garden Grove platter


This refined gold-rimmed platter with delicate blue floral patterns (and more gold touches within the cobalt leaves) is a beautiful balance of modern and traditional design. Definitely an investment piece, but if you fall in love with it, there’s matching dinnerware to dress your entire table (or at least put on your wedding registry).Buy Now

Looks Like White Handmade Crinkle Edge Platter, $105-$130 on Food52

handmade serving platter crinkle edge


This platter is at once basic and anything but. The lines are clean yet also organic (that ruffly water-ripple edge is enchanting); the color is a calm white, but the unglazed surface isn’t too prissy-pristine. Even better, the hand-crafted nature of the dish makes it one-of-a-kind, but the durable stoneware construction means it can still go into the microwave and dishwasher. It comes in medium and large sizes depending on your needs.Buy Now


Wedgwood Arris 5-Piece Place Setting, $247 at Macy’s

Wedgwood Arris 5-Piece Place Setting


These plates are the epitome of elegance. The gold-tone rims and geometric honeycomb-esque borders frame a classic white bone china surface. They’re also dishwasher safe, though hand washing is always best for the over-cautious (ahem). This set includes a dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, teacup, and saucer, but you can also shop for other configurations and single pieces.Buy Now

Noritake Crestwood Platinum 50-Piece Service for 8, $600 at Macy’s

Noritake Crestwood dinnerware


If you like the look of this bright platinum edging and have room to store it, you can get a full set of dinnerware (valued at $1,446) for $600. It’s dishwasher safe yet delicate, and includes dinner plates, salad plates, bread plates, soup bowls, cups, and saucers (8 of each of the above), plus a medium serving platter and a vegetable dish.Buy Now

Alora Glam 16-Piece Dinnerware Set, $47.99 at Wayfair (normally $75)

metallic melamine dinnerware


Can’t decide between gold and silver—or shell out quite that much for new tableware? This 16-piece, shatter-proof melamine set with service for four is sprinkled around the edges with what looks like bits of festive gold and silver confetti (and it’s 36 percent off right now).Buy Now

Baum Bros. Stoneware 6-Piece Marina Dinnerware Set, $69.99 at Target

blue stoneware dinnerware


If you want to bring more color to your table, this speckled blue stoneware set is pretty enough for company but not so precious you can’t use it literally all the time. The watercolor effect on the edges means these work just as well for modern/artsy aesthetics (we’re thinking paired with satin-finish metallic gold flatware) as they would for those who like a rustic country look—it just depends on how you set the stage.Buy Now

Lenox Trianna Salaria 4-Piece Place Setting, $100 at Macy’s

Lenox dinnerware


These simple yet striking porcelain plates show a compelling balance of traditionally simple design and more modern finishes. The gold rims and sleek shapes are classic and the hazy abstract pattern almost hints at marble, but isn’t as old-fashioned as that—on the round plates in particular, it more recalls the surface of the moon. These are also dishwasher safe and can be used in microwaves that put out fewer than 1,000 watts.Buy Now

Gold Fluted Chargers, 4 for $11.96 at World Market

World Market

If you have fairly plain plates, a fantastically easy way to dress them up without investing in all new dinnerware is to sit them on top of pretty chargers (it’s also the “done” thing in circles who care about proper table setting). These large, lacquer chargers with a gleaming gold finish are popular for a range of party themes, from anniversaries to New Year’s Eve. They’re generously sized and easy to clean, and make even the most boring plate look amazing. They also come in silver if that’s more your style.Buy Now

Dessert Plates & Stands

Gold and Marble Pedestal Stand, $29.99-$39.99 at World Market

marble and gold dessert stand

World Market

This festive and functional stand has a marble surface and a metallic gold base. It comes in two sizes, but if you have a lot of holiday desserts to display, you might want to get both. You could also use them for a fancy cheese board.Buy Now

Godinger Dublin Crystal 4-in-1 Cake Stand, $100 at Macy’s

Godinger Dublin Crystal 4-in-1 Cake Stand


This classically elegant cut crystal stand is more versatile than you might think—the convertible design means you can set it up in four different configurations, for serving much more than cakes. Turn the dome over and it serves as a footed punch bowl, or can be used to serve salad. Or flip the plate portion and it becomes a chip-and-dip tray with six compartments around a central bowl.Buy Now

Michael Aram Pomegranate Pastry Dish with Dome, $295 at Macy’s

fancy cake stand with glass dome


Even more of an investment, yes, but this is really almost as much of an art piece as a dessert stand. Its motif represents renewal and it has 24-karat gold leaf touches—and honestly, it looks like something an enchanted rose might be kept in as easily as a cake.Buy Now

The Pioneer Woman Blossom Jubilee 3-Tier Serving Tray, $24.11 at Walmart

Pioneer Woman desser stand


Back down to earth for a moment—this three-tiered dessert stand is pretty enough to use all year; the floral patterns work well in summer, but the bright red will blend seamlessly with any traditional holiday color scheme too.Buy Now


Mason Cash Gravy Boats, 2 for $45 on Food52

Mason Cash forest gravy boats


These sturdy gravy boats are embossed with a whimsical forest-inspired pattern (trees, leaves, foxes, owls, and rabbits) but their cream color means they can coordinate with almost any other tableware. And since they come in a pair, you can put one at each end of the table! (Or you can opt for a gravy boat and matching serving bowl combo for $70.)Buy Now

Better Homes & Gardens White Porcelain Cream and Sugar Set, $9.87 at Walmart

cream and sugar set


If you’re serving coffee, it’s nice to set out cream and sugar in little jugs rather than just the grocery store cartons they came in. This sleek white set is affordable enough to buy even if you don’t host that often, and it includes the wooden base as well.Buy Now

Izon Mirror 2-Piece Gold Serving Utensil Set, $11.99 at Target

metallic gold serving utensils


Large serving utensils are often utilitarian plastic or metal afterthoughts—and they get the job done, sure, but when you want a bit more finesse, this metallic gold serving spoon and fork set shine (literally).Buy Now

Table Runners and Table Cloths

Linen Chambray Table Runner, $65 on Food52

linen chambray table runner


This simple linen runner comes in variegated shades of gray, pink, dark blue, and a denim-like shade. It’s machine washable and gets softer every cycle.Buy Now

Natural Macrame Table Runner, $39.99 at World Market

macrame table runner

World Market

Macrame may conjure the ’70s, but this neutral runner made from 100 percent cotton adds a nice bit of texture and softness to any table, either on its own or over a solid color tablecloth.Buy Now

Stonewashed Medallion Persian Jute Table Runner, $24.99

patterned jute table runner

World Market

If you prefer a pattern, this antiqued Persian-inspired print in shades of cream, gray, orange, lavender, and pink is a pretty choice. The edges are finished with a self-fringe and it’s made of 100 percent jute (it’s spot clean only). The vibe is floral and festive, but not so delicate or summery that you can’t use it all fall and winter too.Buy Now

Sticky Toffee Cotton Woven Table Runner with Fringe, $14.99 at Walmart

red and white table runner


Or go for a more seasonally inspired color scheme with this red and white diamond-patterned runner with solid stripes down the center and knotted fringe trimming the ends. It comes in other colors too; the blue and white would work well for a festive Hanukkah table.Buy Now

Fall Plaid Table Runner, $25 at Sur la Table

plaid table runner

Sur la Table

For fall and winter, this plaid table runner lends a cozy, rustic vibe to your dining area. It’s machine washable, so no worries about gravy spills need apply.Buy Now

Natural Linen Tablecloth, $29.99-$129.95

neutral tablecloth

Sur la Table

If you want full coverage, this natural linen tablecloth is nice and neutral and can work with a range of decor; add a runner over top for a bit more pizzazz and dimension, or keep it simple. It also comes in three sizes to fit your needs.Buy Now

Holly Jacquard Tableloth, $98.80-$279.95

holly jacquard tablecloth

Williams Sonoma

Or go full festive with this vintage-inspired holly berry tablecloth. The jacquard is woven from cotton and linen at a “venerable Russian mill” and has an understated luster that will only get better with time. And yes, you can machine wash it too.

Cloth Napkins

Linen Napkins, 4 for $39.95 at Sur la Table

Sur la Table

Linen napkins instantly class up a table, and these are perfectly simple (and soft), but come in an array of lovely colors, from classic cream and pale blush or dove gray to saturated shades of autumn leaf orange, gold, and crimson, as well as green and blue.Buy Now

Gray Marble Print Napkins, 4 for $23.96 at World Market

marble napkins

World Market

If the rest of your table is fairly subdued and you want to bring a bit more interest in via the details, these swirly marble-print napkins are a neat touch. They’re made of 100 percent cotton and can be machine washed.Buy Now

Nutcracker Embroidered Napkins, 4 for $15.99 at World Market

World Market

Just cute and Christmassy enough without being tacky, these soft, 100-percent cotton napkins are embroidered with richly colored nutcracker designs on an elegant ivory background. The napkins come bundled and tied for easy gifting too.Buy Now

This post was written by Amy Sower in 2016 and updated by Jen Wheeler.

Header image courtesy of Food52

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