What Is A Charger Plate? Uses Etiquette

Charger Plate

Last Updated on July 23, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas

A charger plate is a decorative and larger-sized plate used as a base during formal dining to protect the tablecloth and add elegance. It remains on the table throughout the meal and is removed before dessert. Proper etiquette involves setting and clearing them without serving food directly on them.

What Is The Point Of Charger Plates?

What Is The Point Of Charger Plates

Besides charger plates being decorative pieces, they serve other practical purposes below:

Help Retain The Heat In Dinnerware

When the charger plates are placed underneath bowls and plates, the food remains warm longer as it helps in heat retention.

Serve As Placemats

Instead of using the traditional placemats that are somewhat outdated, use the charger plates as they serve the same purpose. It will hold spills and food that could mess up your tablecloths.

Enhances Food Presentation, Thus, Make It More Appetizing 

Good food presentation makes meals more appetizing. So, instead of serving food with white entrée plates only, which are too plain, charged plates make it presentable. 

Enhance Table Setting

Charger plates come in different styles and colors that elevate your dinner setup.  Using them during meals creates a great ambiance for your guests. 

Serve As Table Décor

You can use colorful charger plates as table décor during meals. Choose styles and colors that complement your dining room, tables, and other plates. 

How To Use Charger Plates

How To Use Charger Plates

If you are not familiar with charger plates, you will need to learn how to use them properly to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. 

Follow the instructions below to use the service plates correctly:

1. Choose Charger Plates Based On Your Dinner Theme

Choose charger plates that complement your table décor in terms of color, shape, size, and materials. For this to happen, you should consider the linens, location, silverware, flatware, beverage glasses, bowls, serving platters, centerpieces, fabric overlays, and floral arrangements and pick the service plates that match all. 

2. Set The Table

Place a charger plate one inch from the table’s edge in front of each guest’s seat setting. It should be set below the beverage glasses and between the flatware. Ensure there is enough elbow room for each guest by setting the chop plates at least two feet apart. 

3. Coordinate Table Accessories

Set napkins with napkin rings, menu, and name cards in the middle of the chop plates before your guests arrive. This impression will leave the guest in awe.

4. Serve Your Guest

Once the guests settle at the dinner table, it is time to serve them. Place the salad plates, soup bowls, and dinner entrées on top of the charger plate. Those serving foods should wipe or replace the charger plates between each course to keep them clean and leave the table neat. 

5. Clear The Table

Remove the charger plate after all guests have finished eating the main entrée. Take the charger plates with the dinner plates still on top. This ensures you clear the table without messing it up and leave it ready for serving desserts. 

N/B: The dessert plate should not be placed on chargers. Clear the table before serving dessert. 

How to Set a Table with Charger Plates

Step 1Choose Your Charger Plates
Step 2Set The Table
Step 3Position The Charger Plates
Step 4Place The Dinnerware
Step 5Arrange The Silverware
Step 6Add The Stemware
Step 7Arrange The Napkins And Name Cards
Step 8Decorate

Types of Charger Plates

Charger plates, often known as decorative plates or service plates, serve as elegant underplates for special dinnerware. These plates, usually larger than standard food plates, add an aesthetic touch to any formal dining setup, enhancing the overall table setting. Here are some most common types of charger plates:

  1. Glass Charger Plates
    • Clear Glass Charger Plates: These exceptionally versatile charger plates work well with any dinnerware color or design. They bring attention to the dinnerware, rather than standing out themselves.
    • Color-tinted Glass Charger Plates: Tinted glass charger plates can be matched to the color theme of the occasion. These plates can be found in a variety of shades and patterns.
    • Mosaic Glass Charger Plates: These plates showcase tiny glass pieces arranged to create an ornate, mosaic design. They are perfect for enhancing the elegance of formal events.
  2. Ceramic Charger Plates
    • Porcelain Charger Plates: Known for their delicate and sophisticated appearance, these plates are commonly used in high-end restaurants and formal home dinners.
    • Stoneware Charger Plates: Stoneware charger plates are a perfect blend of elegance and durability. They are a favorite for daily use as well as formal occasions.
  3. Metal Charger Plates
    • Stainless Steel Charger Plates: These plates offer a modern, sleek element to the table setting. They are also known for their durability.
    • Gold or Silver Charger Plates: These are often associated with luxurious dining settings. The metallic shine can effortlessly elevate the aesthetic of any event.
  4. Wood Charger Plates
    • Solid Wood Charger Plates: Preferred for rustic or farmhouse-style themes, these plates add a natural, warm tone to the table setup.
    • Bamboo Charger Plates: Bamboo plates are eco-friendly alternatives with a unique aesthetic appeal.

What To Look For When Buying Charge Plates

There are essential features that ensure you choose the plates that are right for you. These include:


Charger plates come in different shapes, so you can pick one that complements your dining table. The common ones are round and square, and you should go for one that you feel fits you.

Environmentally Friendliness

Go for environmentally friendly charger plates, i.e. made from sustainable materials. You should take every chance, including when shopping for charger plates, to positively impact the environment. 

Dishwasher Safe

Always prioritize dishwasher-safe charger plates to make your cleaning easy and faster. This ensures you do not feel the burden of replacing them in between each course.  


Charger plates come in a variety of colors, and you should opt for a color that complements the theme of your event. Otherwise, choose one that goes with the style of your dinner tables and other accessories. 

Charger Plate Etiquette 

Since the underplates are used in a formal setting, there are some formalities that you should follow when using them. Here are some etiquette rules to follow:

1. Set the table with charger plates early. The guest should find the charger plates already dressed when they arrive. 

2. Remove the charger plates ONLY when all the guests are done eating. Take away the charger plates with entrée plates still on top after all guests have finished eating. Do this before serving desserts. 

3. Properly place the charger plates on the table. Charger plates should be placed one inch from the edge of the table and two inches apart. 

4. Never let food be in contact with the charger plate. Some charger plates are not food safe and therefore should never be in contact with the food. And, as a matter of etiquette, even food-safe ones should not be used directly to serve food.

Additional Uses Of Charger Plates

Other than the intended use, charger places can be used to:

  • Create a colorful base by setting floral centerpieces on top of it
  • Hide some imperfection on your tablecloth or table by placing it strategically where there is a fault 
  • Hold table cloth firmly to make it easier to place other decorative pieces on the table
  • With a linen napkin or doily on top of the charger, you can use it as a tray or platter
  • Create an elegant centerpiece by grouping pillar candles on it.

What Are Charger Plates Made Of?

Considering the charger plates are not supposed to come to contact with food, they come in a variety of materials that include:

  1. Stainless steel
  2. Rattan
  3. Porcelain
  4. Plastic
  5. Melamine
  6. Glass
  7. Faux wood
  8. Chrome
  9. Acrylic 
  10. Metal
  11. Wood
  12. Leather 
  13. Mother of pearl

Why Are Charger Plates Not Food Safe?

Charger plates are not food safe simply because they are not meant to serve food directly. They are purposely used as decorative pieces in a formal setting and as placemats to hold spills and any food dropped off from the entrée plates.

Note: Some charger plates have been coated to make them food-safe. But, also check well to avoid contaminating your meals. 

Can Charger Plates Go In The Dishwasher?

There are charger plates that are dishwasher safe and those that are not. So, if you want plates that would be easier and faster to clean, buy ones that can go in the dishwasher. Manufacturers indicate the dishwasher symbol at the bottom of the plate to guide you accordingly. 

Do You Use Placemats With Chargers?

It is not necessary to use a placemat with chargers. The chargers serve as placemats as they protect the table or tablecloths against food stains while adding color and formality to the event. However, if you do not intend to leave the chargers throughout the meal, it would be advisable to use the placemats. 

Alternatives To Charger Plates 

Instead of a charger plate, you can use lace doilies, paper, or cake boards. Rustic charger plates such as wood slabs can also serve the purpose. Just ensure the option you choose matches the mood, décor, and style of your event. 

Why Are They Called Charger Plates?

The word charger came about around 1275-1325 from the Middle English charger. Chargeour meant a way of carrying heavy items, and since the under plates held the other dinnerware, they came to be known as chargers. Again, ‘carriage’, a Latin base, which means ‘to load’, contributed to the word charger. The antique silver specialist, AC Silver, noted that under plates carry a load, hence charger plates from Chargeour. 

Final Word

You must have noticed some plates placed under the entrée dishware in formal events such as weddings, banquets, and other catered events. Those plates are known as chargers. They serve as decorative pieces and importantly protect the table and tablecloths against food stains. With the chargers, the warm food in entrée plates will retain stay warm longer as they are known to be good in heat retention. So, always follow the right etiquette when using charger plates to add some touch and style to your events or parties.