Backyard entertaining is all about enjoying the company of friends, neighbours or relatives in a relaxed outdoor setting, along with hot food and cold drinks. The ideal set-up should make it easier for you to multi-task: chatting with guests while serving drinks and cooking food.

1.  BBQ is the Cornerstone Appliance

Copyright photo

Image courtesy of Les Wilson

Your BBQ is the essential appliance for backyard entertaining and the rest of your set-up should be built around it. Be sure there’s enough counter space near it to put both raw and cooked meats, spices, marinades and cooking utensils.

There are many types of BBQs to choose from and the HomeStars BBQ Guide can help you choose the one that’s right for you.

2. Patio Furniture

Outdoor Furniture Hickory Dickory Decks, Dundas ON

Hickory Dickory Decks, Dundas ON

Generally speaking, smaller tables are more intimate – so we suggest a dining table for a maximum of six people, in a rectangular, oval or circular shape. If your party has more than six guests, encourage some to dine picnic style on their laps, or from a smaller and lower coffee table.

Chairs should nest into each other to save on storage space in the winter.  Go for a combination of four to six upright chairs placed at the dinner table plus a small couch and a few easy chairs placed around the perimeter of the deck or patio where additional guests can dine on their laps.

3.  An Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen by De Haas Landscape Design

De Haas Landscape Design, Vancouver BC

If you have plenty of space and money and you like to live large, why not create a complete outdoor kitchen? This enables you to stay outside and focus on your guests and the cooking, not shuttling everything between the indoor kitchen and the outdoor dining table and back again.

Outdoor Kitchen Landecks Landscaping, Flamborough, ON

Landecks Landscaping, Flamborough, ON

What goes into your outdoor kitchen really depends on your budget. Once you’ve picked your BBQ of choice, consider other types of complementary cooking appliances for your outdoor kitchen, such as a rotisserie attachment for your gas BBQ, a wood-fired pizza oven, a ceramic charcoal cooker or an electric smoker. Then you’ll need a small bar fridge, a stainless steel sink with water hookup and finally, lots of cupboard storage for your outdoor plates and glasses. (By the way, unbreakable doesn’t mean cheap plastic!  Most major retailers offer several types of durable outdoor glassware and dinnerware sets that look and feel like glass or china, but are virtually unbreakable.)

If you’re looking for inspiration to create the ultimate outdoor kitchen, check out our Pinterest page.

4. Backyard Entertaining After Dark

Overhead lighting

Courtesy of

As dusk approaches, whether your party is winding down or picking up, you’ll need to address two issues: light and mosquitos!

You should opt for a mix of bright and subtle lighting. While candlelight is romantic, it isn’t bright enough to illuminate food. To properly light your tabletop for eating after dark, the light should emanate from a height higher than a candle, so consider these options:

  • Overhead lights hung from a pergola or archway
  • Spotlights directed at the dining table that are attached to your home or a tree
  • A tabletop cordless lamp
Backyard lights CLI Electric, Toronto ON

CLI Electric, Toronto ON

To provide low-level light away from the dinner table consider an overhead string of patio lanterns or Christmas lights. At ground level, illuminate stairs and walkways for safety with LED stair lights and solar-powered garden lights.

Mosquito Alert!

Unfortunately, mosquitos are a fact of summer life in most parts of Canada and they are worst at dusk.  There are a few things you can do to extend your outdoor party into the evening.

  • Burn mosquito lamps or mosquito coils (ideally under the table to minimize odour.) Or try citronella candles, which are not as effective a repellant.
  • Offer mosquito lotion or spray to your guests (unscented, with or without Deet)
  • For guests who may wish to cover up their bare skin, offer them a light-coloured windbreaker or a light blanket.

Following these tips will help you become a pro at backyard entertaining and ensure your next outdoor party is a memorable one!

Posted by David Bounsall