Make your holiday party outshine the rest

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HOUSTON, Texas - It doesn't take too many holiday parties for you to realize they all start to look alike after a while. Same food, same decorations, same everything, but Elizabeth Swift Copeland says here in Houston, it doesn't have to be that way. Her catering business, Swift + Company, has been snazzing up parties, big and small, for 28 years.

She can take your shindig from stale to standout with just a few basic changes. "One of the great things about living in Houston," she explains, "is you can entertain outdoors all year long, even during the holidays.  And one of the keys to that is great outdoor lighting." Whether it's hanging strings of lights in trees or something as simple as setting out groups of votives, lighting creates the ambiance of your party. That's why she calls it the most important part of creating an event space.

She also recommends avoiding the usual Christmastime poinsettias and going with something unexpected like magnolia leaves, tulips, amaryllis and ilex berries to create a bouquet that sets your party apart. And when it comes to food, she says skip the tenderloin everyone else serves and try paella or a seafood dish like crab cakes. "Seafood is always good in Houston," Copeland says, "and people will eat it up!"

For more ways to make your holiday bash a smash, check out this month's issue of Houstonia.