Chargers vs. Placemats: What’s the Difference?

Tabletop décor is an important part of any event or occasion. If you are serving a meal to your guests, they will benefit from a stunning, functional, and eye-catching tablescape that matches the event theme and elevates the atmosphere.When it comes to choosing the right decorations for your tables, think beyond the tablecloths, cutlery, glasses, centerpieces, and napkins. Adding placemats or chargers to your place setting can be just the thing you need to bring your event to the next level.

What Are Chargers?

Chargers—also called charger plates, show plates, under plates, chop plates, or service plates—are large, decorative plates that go underneath dinnerware as part of a formal table setting. 

These dishes are both beautiful and practical. Charger plates add visual interest, protect the table or tablecloth from spills, make it easy for servers or hosts to serve and clear away courses, and give you an opportunity to incorporate your event theme into every aspect of the tabletop décor.

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What Is the Difference Between Charger Plates and Placemats?

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Charger plates and placemats have a shared purpose: to protect and decorate. Not only do they help to keep table linens safe from spills, stains, oils, and food, but they also offer an additional chance to add color, patterns, and layers to your table setting. 

The difference between chargers and placemats is that chargers are typically removed from the table after dinner service and made of materials like glass, ceramics, or metal while placemats remain on the table becoming part of the event décor itself, coming in varieties like cotton, linen, wicker, or plastic.

When to Use Chargers or Placemats

If you are planning an event with a meal, you can use a placemat or charger plate to decorate your table. These items are especially common at formal events and occasions:

  • Weddings
  • Upscale dinner parties
  • Banquets
  • Conferences
  • Galas
  • Catered events

Events where multi-course meals are being served can always benefit from placemats or chargers.

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However, even a casual get-together can be elevated with the use of these items. In fact, no matter what event you are planning, charger plates or placemats are an important part of creating a memorable, well-designed tablescape that your guests will appreciate.

How to Use Charger Plates vs. Placemats

As an important part of your table setting, correctly using placemats or chargers is the key to creating an enticing eating experience for your guests.

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What to Do with Chargers

Chargers go on top of the tablecloth at each place setting. They are placed between the cutlery and below the beverage glasses. Napkins and printed name cards can be arranged in the middle of each charger plate.

When it’s time to serve guests, dishes are arranged directly on top of the charger. Soup bowls, salad plates, entrée dishes—each are put on the charger plate. Then, when it’s time to clear away the course, the charger plate remains behind. Finally, remove the chargers before dessert, which is generally not served on charger plates.

Since they can be so visually striking, chargers can also be used as décor. You can set floral centerpieces on top a charger plate in the middle of the table or use one as a dish to hold candles. They can also function as a tray to hold appetizers. But keep in mind that charger plates are not food-safe, so lay down a napkin or table linen before using them to serve hors d’oeuvres.

How to Display Placemats

Placemats are usually placed at each table setting on top of the table linen. Plates go directly in the center of the placemat, and cutlery goes on either side. Depending on the size of the cover, the drinking glass(s) can sit at the top of the placemat or on the tablecloth itself next to the upper edge of the placemat.

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Do You Use Placemats with Charger Plates?

In most cases, you would use either a placemat or charger—not both. Since they both serve similar functions, it makes sense to use one and not the other.

However, if you want to create more layers of visual interest in your tablescape, you could place a charger plate on top of a placemat. It’s all up to how you want your table to look as guests are sitting down, making conversation, and eating delicious food.

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How to Choose the Best Chargers or Placemats for Your Tablescape

There are virtually endless options when it comes to finding the right placemat or charger plate. Since they both come in a variety of sizes, shapes, materials, colors, and designs, you can choose whatever will work best with your overall tabletop décor. 

Keep these elements in mind as you search for chargers or placemats for your event.

Design

Charger plates and placemats are excellent opportunities to incorporate your event brand or theme into your tabletop décor. You can pick designs, colors, and patterns that match the rest of your decorations or work with your color scheme—the choice is yours.

An important thing to keep in mind, though, is that placemats or chargers won’t be the only things on the table. Consider how your glasses, dishes, cutlery, and linens will look next to them before moving forward.

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Size

Many different sizes are available. The first thing you need to do is measure your table and find out how many guests will be sitting around it. Then, you can determine how big or small your tableware needs to be.

Smaller chargers and placemats work better for crowded tables, while larger items give your guests more space.

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Shape

Traditionally, charger plates are large, round dishes, and placemats are rectangular coverings. However, alternative shapes are coming into popularity—triangle or square chargers and circular placemats are easier to find these days. It all depends on the mood you want to set for your guests.

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Material

Placemats come in a variety of fabrics, including natural cloths like linen and cotton as well as synthetic materials like polyester and rayon. Similarly, you can get chargers made of glass, wood, ceramics, acrylic, plastic, metal, or rattan. 

Before you select a material, think of your event theme. Are you planning to have a boho-themed wedding? Wooden chargers or linen placemats may be your best bet. Does your gala need to be upscale, elegant, and modern? Look for glass or ceramic charger plates to go with your elevated décor. 

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Temperature

You need to make sure your placemats or chargers can withstand the heat or cold of whatever dishes you are serving. There are even varieties of these items made from materials that naturally help keep food warm. (But remember, unless you have purchased a food-safe variety, never place food directly on a charger plate.)

Take Your Event to the Next Level with Lola Valentina’s Charger Plates 

At Lola Valentina, we are ready to help you decorate your event with unique table linens, runners, napkins, chargers, placemats, and more. You can shop our revolutionary design house to see our selection of original patterns, expansive colors, and tailored sizing, or you can work with our team of in-house designers to create a custom pattern. Visit our design bar to explore color and pattern combinations until you find just the right look for your event.

Are you ready to bring your event design to life with our luxury charger plates? Talk to a designer today to get started.

Design Team

Lola Valentina is an upscale tabletop decor company offering custom and collection-driven designs printed on decor placemats, table linens, runners, napkins and more.