After a gruelling day at the office, the last thing you want to do is come home and prepare an eight-course banquet for 12 people. But help is at hand. All you have to do is pick up the phone. PLANNING A DINNER PARTY can be a stressful affair, capable of reducing any domestic goddess to a nervous wreck - especially if they've just put in a hard day at the office. Aspiring hostesses previously put off by elbow fights in busy food markets or spending hours cleaning their grandmother's old crystal will be thrilled to know that - from delicious catering to floral arrangements - help is at hand for today's busy women. A memorable dinner calls for quality food and the city's five-star hotels offer some of the best catering services in town. The Mandarin Oriental (tel: 2522 0111) has been offering support to Hong Kong's elite since it first opened its doors in 1963. Menus include a basic three-course 'American-style' dinner (about HK$600 a head) to an eight-course Cantonese banquet with all the delicacies of an imperial feast such as shark's fin soup and winter melon filled with braised abalone (HK$10,000 for a table of 12). For a bigger party, you might opt for the International Buffet which brings together highlights from all corners of the globe. The InterContinental (tel: 2721 1211) offers a similar service, providing waiting staff and a chef to cook on site depending on the adequacy of your kitchen. Prices start from HK$1,000 a person, with a minimum charge of HK$20,000 per event. For an additional cost, both hotels can appoint an events manager to oversee the entire affair from start to finish. Those who only need parts of the meal provided should consider InterContinental executive chef Laurent Andre's gourmet takeaways, such as Christmas ham with all the trimmings (HK$220) and his signature black truffle turkey (HK$888), for the coming festive season. Home catering doesn't have to break the bank, especially for casual affairs. Companies such as Delicious (tel: 2530 5938) can come up with an inventive buffet menu for HK$80 to HK$250 a head, or they can send a chef along to prepare a barbeque meal. No dinner party would be complete without a few fragrant bouquets here and there. Haute florist The Wood (tel: 2311 9882), which has created arrangements for luxury boutiques such as Valentino and The Swank, will see your evening in full bloom for HK$20,000. Those on smaller budgets should consult Boris & Matthew (tel: 2854 2834), who can fulfil floral fantasies for any occasion, be it an intimate dinner for six or a full-scale wedding. If decorating your table with a couple of vases seems a bit amateur, lifestyle guru Louise Kou will run through spectacular table-dressing options in her 'home-accessorising' programme, which is available to shoppers who spend more than HK$38,000 at her Central homeware emporium, Kou (tel: 2530 2234). Her fabulous table designs, which have graced some of Hong Kong's smartest homes, will be sure to impress even your most jaded guests. For formal occasions, you might consider hiring a babysitter to keep children out of adults' hair. If you are wary about leaving your offspring with a teenager, then The Nanny Experts (tel: 2335 1127) is what you need. The company offers childcare services that range from referrals to babysitting at home while you entertain your guests, and charges from HK$150 to HK$250 an hour. Nobody wants to leave a party with only half a Manolo, so it might be an idea to keep canine family members away. Dog One Life ( www.dogonelife.com.hk ; 10.30am to 10.30pm) offers daycare for HK$100 for six hours and HK$150 for 12 hours. Pets are given attentive pampering and two hours of playtime a day. For you smokers out there; come January, when Hong Kong's public smoking ban comes into full force, your dining room might just be the place to be.