Summer is almost here, and you know what that means: Three months of (safe!) outdoor gatherings and barbecues. Or as I like to call it, “The Season of Breaking Stuff Outside.”

By the time September comes, you know someone is going to break a plate on the patio or bust a wine glass on the porch.

Sure you could use paper plates, but I like to cut back on waste when I can. Plus, there are times when you just want something a little classier than a bleached cardboard disk. So here’s a better idea: invest in cool, unbreakable dishes that not only help you serve in style, but take the worry out of outdoor entertaining.

Because nothing ruins a party like the sound of shattering dishes — and then all the jerks applauding it.

— Marsha, with Kate

Related: 11 brilliant food and drink summer party hacks for easy weekend entertaining.

This post has been updated for 2021

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Must-have unbreakable melamine plates for summer entertaining: Navy speckled plates at Target

These speckled navy and blue melamine plates at Target reminds me of a night sky, which makes these lovely for dinners al fresco this time of year. They look fancy with their gilt edge and gold drippings, but they’re safe enough for me to hand to a preschooler without worrying that they’ll break it.


Must-have unbreakable melamine dinnerware: Faux wood bowl at Crate & Barrel

You’re going to need something to serve that fabulous quinoa salad (or those Cool Ranch Doritos — we don’t judge) and this natural-looking faux bois bowl at Crate and Barrel will do nicely. Your guests will think you’re serving them food in a vintage, hand-carved wooden bowl instead of a classy, extremely-affordable BPA-free melamine one. Shhhh. (Also shown at very top — see how nicely they blend with colorful plates too?)


Must-have melamine dishes for outdoor entertaining: Shell-shaped melamine plates at Pottery Barn

Whether you live near the beach or are just dreaming of getting back there someday, these shell-shaped melamine plates at Pottery Barn will be a real conversation starter. If you’re afraid it will look totally random on a set table, don’t worry—it’s part of a very cool collection. And I think it’s perfect for your next lobster bake, or you can let it elevate the humble burger. Whatever you’re craving.


Related: Cool backyard lighting ideas, because it really is time to ditch the tiki torches

Must-have unbreakable melamine dinnerware for summer: Drip-reactive plates at Williams Sonoma

These drip reactive melamine dinner plates look so much like beautiful antique earthenware it’s hard to believe they’re made out of shatterproof, BPA-free melamine. They’re perfect for your dinner on the back porch, and you can throw them straight in the dishwasher when you’re done.

Must-have unbreakable melamine dinner plates: White minimalist plates at CB2

You can never go wrong with classic white dishes, which makes any kind of food at all look fabulous, from rainbow veggie skewers to grilled chicken, to gooey s’mores. These minimalist white plates at CB2 are modern with the squared-off round shapes, and will be the set you look forward to bringing out summer after summer. Or beyond. No one ever said anything about putting away the white dishes after Labor Day.


Must-have unbreakable melamine plates for summer: Picnic-inspired gingham plates at Target

For a campy, picnic-inspired dinner table, these gingham paper-plate style melamine plates at Target are a fun, inexpensive add to your collection. I can almost taste the potato salad, fall-apart ribs, and apple pie. Can’t you?


Note: All of the items here are described as “unbreakable,” meaning that they are extremely durable and will not shatter. However, they can always chip or crack if dropped at the right angle on a hard-enough surface.

We also suggest hand-washing Melamine, even if called dishwasher-safe, both for food safety reasons and because it will keep the dishes from breaking down over time and will last a whole lot longer!