Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Q + A: Grace Tsao-Wu of Tabula Tua

Tabula Tua is one of my favorite shops for tabletop and home accessories. Owner, Grace Tsao-Wu, stocks the store with gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pieces from artisans all over the world. Grace was kind enough to share her expert advice on creating a personalized wedding registry. If you have been looking for a really unique place to register - Tabula Tua may just be the answer to your prayers. They stock everything from fine china (Meissen - swoon!) to everyday glassware. Don't live in the Chicago area? Don't fret! Tabula Tua has a seamless online registry option.

Do you have any general rules of thumb for a bride and groom when they are compiling their registry?
* Before you register, really think about the way you live, your style and how you entertain. It is important to build a registry around your entertaining style. You should be open to choosing both dinnerware for everyday, as well as more formal china.

* I always encourage couples to register for gifts at every price point. Include several gifts under $50 and $75, which are appropriate for shower and engagement party gifts. Don’t be afraid to register for investment pieces. You would be surprised at the number of gift givers who want to buy something that will be in your family forever.

I always suggest that the bride and groom register for at least one life lasting item, like fine china, silver or crystal, as many people enjoy and want to give them something very special that will last forever and can be passed down.
That is a great piece of advice. Fine china, silver, and crystal are timeless. If you have inherited a great set of china or silver, don’t shy away from it. If you find the pieces to be dated, remember the heirloom set of china you inherited from your great grandmother can be updated with a fresh charger, dessert plates, or new linens.

How many place settings should couples register for?
Think about how many people you might have over at once and then add 2. Most people register for 12 place settings, but I recommend adding 2 additional settings to account for breakage. I also recommend registering for extra chargers or buffet plates. 12 place settings might be all you need for most of your entertaining, but sometimes it’s great to have extra plates for the Thanksgiving buffet. Also register for an altogether different set of dessert/coffee service. It’s really nice to clear the table and bring out something new and fun for dessert. The dessert plates can double up as salad or hors d’oeuvres plates.

When is an appropriate time for a bride and groom to register?
Most couples register just a few weeks after getting engaged. Guests will want to bring gifts to engagement celebrations, so having a few items for them to choose from is a great (and convenient) option. I always recommend couples definitely register anywhere from 4 to 6 months before their wedding date. This will give guests ample time to purchase gifts, especially if you have any showers or parties planned.

You opened Tabula Tua over 15 years ago, so I am sure you've seen more than your share of wedding registries. Are there any new trends you are noticing?
One trend I see is that people are no longer just using fine china for special occasions, but rather for everyday entertaining. Contrary to popular belief, fine china is actually more durable than every day dinnerware or earthenware. Fine china patterns are more interesting than ever, and a lot of couples are mixing and matching different patterns to create their own style. Overall, it seems like couples are really starting to feel comfortable with their personal style and carrying that out in their registry. I am also noticing more couples registering for non-traditional registry items, like furniture, rugs, and even art. Sometimes a couple doesn’t need another crystal vase – they need a loveseat! Although these pieces are more expensive, don’t feel guilty about adding them to your registry. Oftentimes, guests will go in on a gift together.

What should a bride and groom look for in a wedding registry?
*First and foremost, find a store that reflects your style as a couple and one that will give you great personalized service. You might find that your local stores can better accommodate your unique requests. At Tabula Tua, we had a bride that fell in love with a Raynaud china pattern she saw in Paris. We didn’t have the pattern, but we were able to call Raynaud and have it ordered in just for her. A lot of bigger stores won’t handle those types of requests.

*If online registry is important, find out about the process. Find out how often your registry is updated and how long it will stay online. Some guests will want to purchase gifts up to a year after your wedding date. Online registry is a great option and it makes it so much easier for your guests to buy gifts at any time of the day or night!

*If receiving your entire set of china or flatware is important to you, you may want to look for a registry that allows you to exchange dollars spent on one gift towards other items. At Tabula Tua, couples can choose to receive notifications that a gift has been purchased for them, instead of having the actual gift shipped. That way, if their china registry ends up incomplete, they can use dollars spent on another gift towards another place setting.

*Many stores are now offering registry completion programs that give the bride and groom a discount toward anything purchased on their registry after the wedding date.

If you were going to register again today, what would be at the top of your list?
First, I would register for more accessory utensils, like a beautiful hand-etched carving set, condiment spoons, or even rice paddles. That way, I never have to grab regular place setting pieces to put out for service or on the buffet. I would also get specialty serving pieces, like a fish platter, soup tureen, or dessert stand. Everyone has lots of big serving bowls and platters, but it’s those specialty items I find I need when I entertain.

Any advice for overwhelmed brides just starting the registry process?
After really thinking about your entertaining style is, take into account what you already own. Why register for a blender when you’ve got two in the pantry that sit there idle? Once you’ve narrowed down your needs and wants, seek out stores that have a selection and style you love. Remember that your registry is not set in stone – choose a couple things you love and build upon that. Most of all, choose a store where you can get one-on-one personal guidance. Chances are, your bridal consultant has helped many brides in your shoes.

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