A caterer and mother of five, Elizabeth Moore shares her secrets for memorable entertaining.

By Joan Drammeh
November 20, 2007
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn; styling by Brian Carter

Say It with Snail Mail
Catering is second nature to Elizabeth, so it doesn't take her long to plan a party. But that doesn't mean she takes shortcuts. Even for last-minute events, Elizabeth always mails invitations. Instead of calling people on the phone, send out homemade party invitations or head to a local printer that can get the job done fast. The extra effort makes even the most casual soiree seem polished.

Decorate Simply
Party planning can be stressful enough, so don't add complex decorations to the agenda. "I never know what the tree will look like until it gets up," Elizabeth says. "I just let the children decorate it each year." The effect is casual and simple, and it brings the family together.

Entertain the Kids
For your next fete, don't overlook the smaller guests. The most memorable party Elizabeth ever threw provided entertainment for all ages. While 50 children enjoyed decorating gingerbread houses in the basement, Elizabeth hosted their parents upstairs. "We had so many kids down there!" she says in disbelief. "But thankfully there were babysitters helping the kids build and decorate the gingerbread creations. Meanwhile, the adults were having a terrific time with Christmas music, socializing, drinks, and food."

Send Sparky to the Spa
If you don't want your dog to do the entertaining, you might want to get him out of the house―especially if he's a barker or doesn't like crowds. Consider leaving him with a dog sitter or pampering him at a pet spa next time you're planning an important event at your home.

Pull Out the Silver
For smaller parties with family and close friends, dust off your best dinnerware and dazzle your guests. "We always like to use our formal dining room, get the silver and china out, and dress up the table with fruit and nut centerpieces," Elizabeth says.

Serve Small Snacks
For large events such as a cocktail party, opt for healthy and colorful finger foods (anything requiring utensils makes it challenging to eat and mingle simultaneously). Be sure to spread out the hors d'oeuvres platters so guests don't crowd one area.