It's become a “tradition” here at Classic Replacements to write about all the various customs and rituals in different religions and cultures which involve the breaking of plates or glasses (See our Greek wedding post). After all, we are in the replacement business and we want to make sure that nobody forgets this important tradition ;-). Although it's highly unlikely you will use Lenox Moonspun china or Portieux crystal, neither can you use Corelle-like china, they do claim to be unbreakable, don't they??
The Jewish custom of plate and glass breaking centers around marriage and appears to be practiced mostly by Jews of Ashkenazic descent. The first time a plate is broken is by the engagement, also know as the vort. The custom is for the mothers of the bride and groom to break the plate together. This symbolizes the seriousness of the new commitment and brings home the point that just like a broken plate cannot be repaired (but replaced :)), So too, a broken relationship is a loss forever (and not easily replaced). It is also an attempt to reduce the joyfulness of the occasion by serving as a reminder that the Temple has not been rebuilt yet. Care is taken that the plate is wrapped well in heavy cloth to avoid injury.
The mothers join forces once again by the wedding itself to break another plate, for the reasons mentioned above. Finally, the groom smashes a crystal goblet with his foot at the end of the actual marriage ceremony.
The broken pieces are then made into a necklace for the bride or given to unmarried singles with the blessing that they soon have a plate broken for them. So not all broken plates have a bad story behind them. Sometimes they are a symbol of the good in our lives. Even when the kiddies demolish an expensive piece of Wedgwood Florentine or Lenox Tuxedo, it can serve as a reminder of the good that children bring into our lives (when they're not breaking plates).