Reminders on hiring caterers:

* Caterers should be willing to make any reasonable changes you ask for and do it in good grace. They should also return your phone calls within a reasonable length of time--and, though it seems too obvious to mention, they should speak your language. One woman found herself assigned a salesperson whose English was so poor she was unable to understand a request for dessert forks.

* They are not just for wedding breakfasts. In the no-job-is-too-small tradition, Bruce Ellis of Ridgewells says too many people associate caterers with large, important parties. Most are delighted to handle anything from a small dinner party to a single cheesecake. If you want to cook most of dinner but are a failure at dessert, you can call a caterer and have them send a tray of pastries.

* They should deliver the equipment just before the party and pick it up the day after. Few kitchens are large enough to cope with a prolonged visit from packing boxes full of china.

* Although Mom-and-Pop caterers may offer a better price than larger firms, they rarely have the same resources and you may discover that they are nowhere near as nimble in the face of disaster.