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.
Dig into that holiday box
Dig into those holiday decorations. For example white twinkle lights look great around your yard during an evening barbecue.
Put the kiddies to work
Invite them to help decorate by filling balloons with crinkled paper and confetti. Have the kids pop the balloons for festive explosions of color.
Get guests excited about your bash with a fun, totally personalized Evite or Pingg blast. It's free, easy and takes the hassle out of the RSVP process for both you and your guests.
Get out the games
When it comes to entertaining your guests on a budget, nothing is hotter for summer 2009 than games. After all, nothing says summer like fun, low-maintenance backyard sports. Rally both kids and kids at heart out on the lawn for some old school fun with an obstacle course and relay races. Maybe it's a wheelbarrow race, a three-legged race, hula-hoop contest or an egg and spoon race - all are classic favorites that require little or no equipment (and the equipment you do need, you could easily borrow from family and friends). Feeling the heat? Infuse water into your obstacle course by having your guests jump over sprinklers, do a water balloon toss - you get the idea.
Don't forget the music
Plug in your iPod with outdoor speakers or encourage your musical friends to bring along their own instrument for a mini jam session. Or you could turn the music into a game by getting your guests involved with a round of "All American Karaoke" (think Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi), or good ol' "Rock Band."
Pick out festive paper plates to add pop to your table spread. They'll only set you back a few bucks, but the best part is: zero post party clean-up.
The summer edition of The Nest magazine is on stands now.
is updated daily.