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How Many Dinnerware Per Person (DO NOT Get THIS Wrong)

Hosting a dinner for guests can be one of the most stressful things. Simple mistakes like not having enough dinnerware can really ruin the whole night. There is nothing worse than having to mix and match dinnerware sets. When you are purchasing dinnerware, a common question that we get is

How many dinnerware per person?

The amount of dinnerware per person is always the total number of pieces in the dinnerware set divided by the number of dinner plates. If you ordered a sixteen piece set, and there are four dinner plates, then the amount of dishware per person is four. This works for any combination of dinnerware set, If you ordered a twelve piece set and there are two dinnerware plates, then the amount of dishware per person is six.

For a normal sized family dinner, you will want a 16 piece dinnerware set. For Cocktail events, an 18 piece dinnerware set will work, but make sure it has a high number of dinnerplates to serve many guests. Lastly, for special occasions, like holidays, you will want a dinnerware set that has a high number of dinnerware per person, meaning a low number of dinner plates. 

Dinnerware is a fantastic thing to have, especially if you’re serving guests regularly, or trying to impress those important guests the first time they’re coming over.

More information on how many dinnerware per person is below, with a breakdown table and a deep dive into the famous dinnerware sets.

Getting the dinner right: How many dinnerware per person?

Table breakdown – How many dinnerware per person?

Total Pieces in Set Number of Dinner Plates Dinnerware Per Person Event
16 4 4 Family Dinner
18 6 3 Cocktail Events
32 8 4 Bigger Family Dinner
30 6 5 Holiday Dinners

Family Dinner

For a family dinner, a 16 piece dinnerware set will be perfect.

Most dinners at our house end up being everyone just grabbing a plate and eating whatever they want, as we’re always in a rush.

My dinnerware doesn’t really get to shine here, but it still is nice to have when we do decide to make something nice.

Since it’s usually just one of us cooking, making more than an appetizer and an entrée is a little too much. This makes our 16 piece dinnerware set perfect, as there is really only a salad bowl and a dinner plate.

A 16-piece dinnerware set is the perfect amount for a family dinner.

Cocktail Events

If you’re going to be having a ton of people over for a Cocktail type event you will want a dinnerware set that provides you with as many plates as possible.

This make san 18-piece set with a high number of dinner plates the perfect choice.

If there are 6 dinnerplates in this set, you will be able to serve 6 guests!

I always keep an 18-piece dinnerware set on hand for these events, as they are usually a little more formal in dress, a beautiful 18-piece dinnerware set goes perfect for it. (We spent a little bit more on ours)

Holiday Dinner

For a holiday dinner, you want to get a dinnerware set that is almost the opposite of the type you’d buy for a Cocktail Event.

Since you probably will have many different dishes and desserts for the special dinner, you will need to make sure the dinnerware per person is actually very high.

This means you will not be able to serve a ton of people, but for the people you do serve, you will be able to serve them many dishes and desserts.

Our holiday dinners usually have 3-4 courses, with a dessert.

For this, a 30 piece set or a 32 piece set works best, but make sure when purchasing a dinnerware set for a holiday dinner that you emphasize a low number of dinner plates.

16 Piece Dinnerware Set

Most 16 piece dinnerware sets will include four main dish plates, usually four different dessert plates, four salad bowls and four mugs.

In this scenario, the amount of dinnerware per person is four, as each person will receive an appetizer of either soup or salad in their bowl. They will eat their main dish on their dinner plate while drinking their drinks from the mug. Lastly, for dessert, they will utilize the dessert plate.

This set-up is perfect for a family dinner! Since the average family size is 3.13 (Source) a 16 piece dinnerware set for four people will be perfect for most families.

For those who are interested in multiple entrees, or multiple appetizers – this dinnerware set will fall short.

18 Piece Dinnerware Set

18 piece dinnerware sets are actually really unique, as they will actually have less dinnerware per person than a 14 piece set.

This is just an industry standard, as an 18 piece dinnerware set will be meant for six people, but the amount of dinnerware per person is actually three.

Most 18 piece dinnerware sets will come with a soup or salad bowl, a small plate that is smaller than the dinner plate.

This plate can be used for either dessert or a small appetizer. We love to serve salad on our smaller plates.

This allows us to serve both soup and salad to our guests with our 18 piece dinnerware sets.

Finally, there will be the dinner plate.

An 18 piece dinnerware set is perfect for quick cookouts or communal dinners that aren’t focused on having many entrees.

While you are able to serve many guests with this set-up, you do miss out on having a mug. A coffee after dinner is one of my favorite things to serve guests, as the coffee will keep the conversation going.

Sadly, with our 18 piece sets, this just isn’t possible as they do not come with a mug.

impressive dinner party set up

Picking The Right Dinnerware Set

Dinnerware Purchases Based on Meal Size

One error that we see with people purchasing dinnerware sets is they do not work backwards from their ideal dinner party.

If you plan to serve six dishes, then when you are purchasing a dinnerware set – you should purchase a dinnerware set that has six dishes available for each guest.

Remember, a mug is usually counted in!

If you have five dishes, most of the time you’ll need to make sure that the amount of dishes per person is actually six, and not five.

This error has ruined so many of my friends dinner parties.

Think about it, you want to prepare a four or five course meal, but you only have the dinnerware to serve three.

If you run into this problem, you can mix and match your dinnerware. This works, but it goes against the main reason that you purchased the dinnerware set in the first place.

If you want a nice and beautiful dinnerware set, and paid the money for it to look nice. Why would you want to throw in a random piece of dinnerware from another set that ruins the cohesion. 

Not focusing on the amount of dinnerware per person is a huge error that people make when purchasing dinnerware.

More information on this is gone over in our buyers guide, where we review the 10 best dinnerware made in USA.


Dinnerware Purchases Based on The Event

Another error we see when people are purchasing a dinnerware set is not taking into account the true reason that they are purchasing this dinnerware set.

A close friend of mine recently purchased a beautiful 16 piece set, which works perfectly for a family of four.

The problem is she purchased this for Christmas Dinner.

Now, I don’t exactly know how your Christmas Dinners go, but having only a single plate and one bowl for Christmas Dinner in my house will not cut it.

She ended up having to mix her dinnerware…during Christmas!

Before you buy any dinnerware sets, you should really think about when you are going to be bringing this dinnerware out.

If you only want a beautiful dinnerware set to bring out once or twice a year for big dinner parties, do not purchase a minimal dinnerware set that is based around serving a small family.

Map out how many dinnerware per person in your ideal situation and work backwards from there.

Many people will purchase the dinnerware first and then plan out their meals.

This is not how dinnerware was intended to be used, and this mistake has altered your meal and dinner party.

Dinnerware is a tool, and can lead to really impressing your guests!

But to impress them, you have to make sure you’re using the right tool for the right problem.

Do not purchase a dinnerware set that is set up for three of four dinnerware’s per person, but you actually need six or seven.

dinnerware plate

Final Thoughts

Dinnerware can really impress your guests and leave a lasting impression, but without proper planning, things can start to go wrong.

Knowing how many dinnerware per person is crucial to having an incredible dinner party.

You do not want to be remembered as the host that served your guests with multiple different sets.

Sit down and really think about what you want to use this dinnerware for, once you have that mapped out, head over to our buying guide on the 10 best dinnerware made in USA and purchase a dinnerware that fits your expectations and meal plan.


What is the Best Material for everyday dinnerware?

The best material for everyday dinnerware is glass. Glass dinnerware will not chip or break, and will keep it’s color. These pieces of dinnerware are known for lasting a very long time.

Can Dinnerware be Recycled?

Dinnerware can be recycled depending on the type of material that it is made out of. However, The best way to recycle your dinnerware is to donate it to charity. Since dinnerware will maintain it’s shape and usage for generations, donating it and allowing someone else to enjoy it.

How many dinnerware sets should I buy

You should buy one dinnerware set for normal family dinners, and another dinner set of holidays. You will eventually need more, but buying just a standard 16 piece dinnerware set and 32 piece set in the beginning is crucial.

Stewart Kaplan
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