China Girl

Flora Danica from Royal Copenhagen - the Queen Bee of Services

Much more fun than planning a wedding - in my opinion - is picking out china and crystal for one's registry. There's no room for fleeting flights of fancy here - these are patterns to be collected and enjoyed over decades.

My mother Jennifer, a potter herself, enthusiastically agreed to lend her expert eye in this very serious undertaking - armed with a fresh pack of Camels and comfortable shoes, she was ready to take on the Big City.

First stop: Michael C. Fina. Their extensive selection of lines, from Bernardaud to Mottahedeh, makes this ground zero for all brides.

One thing I learned immediately - throw that list made from looking at the website away. I thought for sure Mottahedeh's Tobacco Leaf was for me until I saw it in person.

Alas, the quality of the painting didn't measure up - at least, not after having seen the antique version it's replicating.

The subterranean level of the store is like a candy story of color and pattern. For the first time, I really experienced the connection between textiles - already an obsession - and ceramics. Would it be too dramatic to call it a porcelain epiphany? No, I don't think it would.

Darley Abbey by Royal Crown Derby - loved the haunting blue-green, but how good will it look when the gilt starts rubbing off....

Constance from Bernardaud - one of Bernardaud's best-sellers and comes with lots of different serving pieces. Neoclassical with whimsical acorn garlands - definitely a contender.

Roseraie, also by Bernardaud - I don't know why, but I fell in love with this one. Hmmm...

So many delicious patterns, but only one could be crowned mine. Or could it? How about another pattern for the dessert service, suggested Mom. This changed the whole game.

While going over our research at the tasty east side Mexican joint, Zarela's, Zarela herself came over, and after a random anecdote about Robert Palmer, advised, "Make sure food will look good on it." Oh, right!

The one line chez Fina did not carry, to my chagrin, was the Hungarian factory Herend. After a quick Camel, Mom was ready to fight the crowds up Fifth to Saks where we admired the hand-painted bugs, the molded basket-weave rim and green branch handles of Rothschild Bird.

I was charmed even before I heard the back story of the pattern: it was first made for the Baroness de Rothschild in 1860 and was inspired by the Baroness having lost her pearls in the garden which were found later by the gardener in the beaks of frolicking birds perched in the trees.

A tip to other brides or anyone who has decided to make a lifelong commitment to porcelain - look at the serving pieces as well as the dinner plates. After looking at the coffee pots and tureens of Roseraie, I bade a sorrowful farewell.

Another thing to keep in mind - generally the more decorated the plate, the more expensive it is. I was smitten by the over-the-top Traditional Imari by Royal Crown Derby....

but found the price tag equally dramatic. As I don't want to live in fear of breaking plates and I hope to be able to complete the service before I'm 100, a service that is more reasonably priced than not is a consideration.

The solution? Having my cake and eating it too - on Traditional Imari, while the rest of the dinner is served on Rothschild Bird.

Now, what did or would you pick out?