What is a Charger Plate? Uses, Materials, Etiquette, & More

You might be wondering: what is a charger plate? What is a charger plate used for? And what is the purpose of charger plates? Here we’ll tell you all you need to know about charger plates, design ideas, and more.

Charger plates are also called service plates, underplates, or chop plates. They are used as a base under dinner plates in full-course dinner parties at formal events such as weddings, banquets, and other catered events. 

Since they are larger than common dinner plates and have a variety of materials (metal, wood, glass, plastic, and pearl), they are not served with the food but are already placed on the table even before the guests arrive and are seated. After the full course, the charger plates are then removed when serving the dessert. 

Origin and History

Textured gold charger plate

Charger plates originated around 1275-1325 and were derived from an old English and Scottish text charge our which is referred to as "any means for carrying heavy items". It has been in use since the 19th century, and it also signifies a larger platter or a large shallow dish for liquids such as soup bowls and salad plates. They are commonly bigger than most common dinner plates. 

Different Types of Materials

Decorative charger plates often come in different materials. They are mostly metal, wood, plastic, pearl, glass charger plates, and more. Furthermore, they come with substances that can be toxic when eaten so they are more for decor than utility.

It is ornamental and has coatings and paints that are not safe for food. However, it is still in use and demand. So far since its invention, there have been no reports of emergency incidents due to charger plates.

Charges also come in different colors and styles. Wood, glass, acrylic, and pearl charger plates may be hand-made. They are carved according to the standard shapes used and varnished and decorated for a finished look.

Try to experiment with colors for different wedding themes. Consider using silver charger plates for anniversaries and gold charger plates for weddings. Given the different variety, colors, and styles, they will always vary depending on the theme to which design you will choose.

Gold Charger Plates

Reef Acrylic Plastic Charger Plate - Gold

Classic and classy, gold charger plates are perfect for fancy dinners or special occasions. They add a touch of glam and go well with almost any color scheme. But be warned, they can steal the show!

If you’ve got other sparkly decorations, gold chargers might be a bit much. The perfect combination when using gold charger plates is to use white plates and plain-looking table linens.

Glass Charger Plates

Beaded Glass Charger Plate - Gold Trim

These are super fancy-looking and work well for elegant dinners. They come in clear, white with gold trims, or frosted glass, among others. You can even find some with fun patterns etched on them.

They’re a good choice if you want to see the tablecloth underneath peek through a little bit. But they can also be a bit slippery, so be careful with those mashed potatoes!

For plain glass plates, they are great to add a simple charm to your tables. Like the one pictured above, the gold trims can subtly add class to your decoration while still showing a simple preparation.

Alpine Glass Charger Plates

Waved Scalloped Acrylic 13" Charger Plate - Gold & Ivory

Just like normal glass plates, these alpine glass plates can add more charm and character to your table because of their unique design.

They are perfect for an artistic wedding celebration where every detail counts. The intricate details on the plate can add so much to the overall look of your wedding or party.

Acrylic Charger Plates

Alpine Glass Charger Plate - Silver trim

These guys look almost exactly like glass charger plates, but they’re not as likely to shatter if you accidentally bump them. They’re also usually a little bit lighter, so they’re easier to carry around if you’re setting a big table. Plus, they come in a ton of colors, so you can match them to your party theme.

If you’re a one-man team that needs to think less about carrying heavy stuff, this might be the perfect option for you.

Wood Charger Plate

Although they’re not common, wood chargers are a great choice for a more rustic or natural look. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and some even have a little bit of bark left on the edge!

These chargers are perfect for outdoor parties or summer get-togethers. Just keep in mind that they can get scratched up a little bit easier than other types of charger plates.

What are Charger Plates Used for?

For high-end dinner parties and celebrations, charger plates are often used as the base of the main course dishes. These are often used to elevate the design of the tablescape, a very small detail that has a huge impact on the overall decor.

Apart from the design aspect, charger plates also have very practical purposes. Charger plates are often used to:

  • Avoid spilling food over the tablecloth when eating;
  • Support the heat from the hot bowl and main dinner course when served;
  • Serve as a base for floral, menu, and cloth napkins for decor;
  • Serve as an elegant presentation of the whole set. 

Differentiating Chargers from Placemats

Charger plates and placemats serve a similar purpose: to protect table linens while also adding aesthetic appeal. Both protect against spills and stains while enhancing the aesthetics of your table setup. 

However, the main difference is in their usage. Charger plates are normally removed after dinner service and used as an elegant base for the dinner plate during the meal. Placemats, on the other hand, stay in place throughout the meal, supporting the dinner plate, utensils, and glassware.

Charger plates are often larger than dinner plates and are made of a variety of materials such as glass, metal, or plastic, with designs and colors to choose from. Meanwhile, table placemats are made from materials such as cotton, vinyl, or bamboo, and are available in a variety of textures and colors to fit any event.

Shop our fringed-edge woven placemats to add beauty and sophistication to your next occasion.

Matching Charger Plates

Does every charger plate need to match? Yes, as this will create a consistent style. Consistency is key in design. Ensuring that the table decor is presentable for a luxe vibe.

Go even further and find charger plates that will match the decor of your tablecloth linens or other elements of your wedding decor.

How to Choose Charger Plates?

First, make sure to choose a charger plate that will go well with the theme of the event or match your overall concept. This will give you the perfect match to help you achieve your look and add contrast between the elements of your dinner table decor. 

Choose a specific color that will coordinate with the color of the table and dinner plates. For example, if you use white dinner plates and tablecloths, gold charger plates or charger plates with intricate decor will complement them beautifully. 

Check the color wheel for better color coordination, so you won't have a hard time choosing the best color palette for the event.

How to Prepare Your Charger Plates?

setting up the table

For dining etiquette regarding the use of charger plates, they should be set when the guests arrive at the place. Most hosts leave the plate out throughout the main course and then remove it before serving the dessert as part of the design and decor.

To guide you, here are the steps to follow in preparing for setting your charger plates:

  • Set your tablecloth. Evenly place your tablecloth and mats if you plan to use them.
  • Pick a design for your charger plates. Depending on the host's choice of design, style, and color, choose the right charger plates based on your theme.
  • Set the charger plates. Place the charger plate for each chair at the table. Place them over the placemats. Allow at least 2 feet between charger plates and 1 inch away from the table's edge or corner.
  • Set your dinner plate. Place the dinner plate in the center of each charger plate. You can also place a bowl over the dinner plate if you are also serving salad or soup; make sure to center it as well. For decor, use table linen napkins, put them in a napkin ring to add an extra look to the presentation, and don't forget to place them on each plate. After that, set out all the needed serving dishes and utensils.
  • Serve the food. After serving the food, wait for them to finish eating before you remove the charger plates when serving the dessert. When taking the charger plate, the dinner plate should be still on it.

It has always been common to only use charger plates at formal events. Did you know you can also use them at fun parties? You can use them for birthday parties and even for themed parties for kids.

Because there are many choices of colors and styles to choose from, it is an easy and fun way to add texture and depth to your decorations. You can also prepare them for awesome outdoor parties!

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