Running out of plates, cups, or silverware can be a disaster for an event. It’s the fastest way way to turn a great event into a stressful one. How many you’ll need mostly depends on how many people will be attending but different events will have different requirements as well.
A good rule of thumb is to always order 20-30% more than whatever you think you’ll need just to be safe. Anything extra can always be saved for later events.
For ease of math we’ll use hypothetical parties with 100 guests.
If it’s a plated meal you’ll need 1 plate for the main course, a set of silverware, and a class for each person. You’ll also need a salad plate or bowl for soup or salad if you’re having that. Don’t forget dishes to serve dessert from! You may consider using plastic dessert dishes with the treat prepared and dished out in them ahead of time if you’re doing a plated meal.
So, assuming this you’ll want 120-130 dinner plates, soup or salad dishes, and dessert cups. Silverware is tricky. 130 sets will work fine for the dinner portion but make sure to order extra spoons for dessert! As for napkins, you want enough to give one out with each dish plus an extra. In this example you’d need 4 per person.
Planning gets more complicated when it’s more of a casual or buffet event. You’re probably going to have appetizers beforehand plus the main meal. On top of that you’ll still want to play for 20% extra.
The consensus is that you’ll want 2 smaller plates per person for appetizers and three dinner plates per person. If dessert is buffet style you’ll want two of those per person so you’re looking at about 480 small plates and 360 dinner plates. Plan for one napkin per plate and two full sets of silverware per person since people are less likely to reuse their silverware through the entire evening with buffet style meals.
For classes consider what you’ll be serving. If you’ll be having any type of wine you can usually do one wine class per person and 1-2 glasses for other beverages.
The good news is that disposable tableware is easy to buy in bulk so ordering extra won’t be a hassle and you can store whatever isn’t used for later! It’s always better to buy too much than to buy too little.