Deviations from continuum mechanics are always expected in nanoscale structures. We investigate the validity of the plate idealization of ultrathin graphene by gaining insight into the response of chemical bonds to bending deformations. In the monolayer, a bond orbital model reveals the breakdown of the plate phenomenology. In the multilayer, objective molecular dynamics simulations identify the validity margin and the role of discreteness in the plate idealization. Our result has implications for a broad class of phenomena where the monolayer easily curves, and for the design of mass and force detection devices.