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The china question: Should I use it for dinner parties?

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The question

In the six years we've been married, my husband and I have used the china we got for our wedding just twice, and both times were when his grandmother came for dinner. I want to use it for dinner parties with our friends, but my husband says it's too formal and will make us look like bourgeois snobs. What should we do?

The answer

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Use it! Nice china's a beautiful thing, and if you ask me, it's far more snobbish to keep it locked away for "important" guests than to pull it out for dinner with your friends. The trick is in how you lay the rest of your table: Use the china, and nice silverware if you've got it, but be sure to balance all that high against some low to keep the aesthetic light.

Try vintage milk bottles for chilled water, and simple, stem-less crystal wineglasses instead of the goopy Waterford ones. Extra points if you've got more than one pattern, or if you use your china to serve homemade burgers. The effect is like wearing tatty jeans with a bespoke blazer: It's elegant and comfortable. That's what every dinner party should aspire to be.

Follow food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith on Twitter: @cnutsmith. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail

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