It's comforting. It's budget-friendly. And, these days, it's trendy. From potlucks to sit-around-the-table dinner parties to game nights, people are embracing the concept of entertaining at home.
Krissy Tiglias is the home editor at The Nest, which is a lifestyles and home-related Web site, magazine and book series geared toward couples. When it comes to home entertaining, Tiglias said there's one cardinal rule: "Know your limits; know your budget." Once you've established that, you can move on to the fun stuff - the food, drinks, decor and entertainment. Here's what Tiglias had to say about that:
GUEST LIST/PARTY SIZE
Generally speaking, the No. 1 way to save money on a party is to cut down on the guest list. However, when it comes to entertaining at home for a handful of friends, it's not that simple. If you're already cooking for six, it won't cost that much more to double the recipes and entertain 10-12 friends.
Appetizers/munchies: Make it a competition
One of Tiglias' favorite ways to put a new spin on a "potluck" is to make it a competition. The Nest loves the idea of doing this for the appetizers. Make it a salsa competition or even a "guac-off." Set up the entries in a buffet format with each being numbered. Everyone can vote on their favorite. Just don't forget to honor the winner with an inexpensive price like a sombrero or even a guacamole pit spray painted gold. And unless it's a top-secret recipe passed down through the generations, suggest that everyone bring their recipe to share - talk about the perfect party favor.
Main course: Keep it simple with a DIY buffet
Serving one DIY main course keeps things simple. You could do a "create your own burger bar" or kick things up with a chalupa buffet. All you need to do is place shredded chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo in serving bowls, then arrange tostada shells on a platter. Encourage guests to pile up their chalupas - and come back for seconds.
Go retro - Kool-Aid with a kick
The Nest loves the idea of going for the always budget-friendly, and always nostalgic Kool-Aid! There are so many different varieties, you're sure to find a flavor and combo you like. Try: Blue Lemonade with Strawberry Kool-Aid, Blue Curacao, Vodka and water. You could even freeze it for a slushy treat on a hot day! Jazz the fun drinks up a notch by using colored sugar on the rims and a star cut from pineapple perfect for both cocktails and mocktails!
Or ask guests to BYOB (but also serve a signature cocktail)
Let's face it: Not everyone likes drinking the same stuff, but it's too pricey to have a top-shelf bar at your party. The solution: Ask guests to bring their favorite booze, and serve a signature cocktail like Peach Sangria or a Mango Mojito.
It's all about lighting
By adding just one eye-catching detail to your decor will make an impact without blowing your budget. We like the idea of hanging pretty paper lanterns around your deck or garden, or lining them up at the middle of your table for a colorful punch. Kick them up a notch by sticking a votive inside each one. And don't be afraid to break out even more candles. You can put them instead mason jars or old pickle and jelly jars. And don't worry about everything not matching - this is what makes the decor distinctive and memorable.