If you’re ready to up your game when throwing your next dinner party, how about hosting a murder mystery? These interactive games that unfold over the course of dinner and drinks are a fun alternative to idle chit chat and other table games.
If you have a group of friends who love to dress up and get into character then your group will love an evening of thrills and chills while solving a mystery together. A lot of the allure of the evening comes from having a unified theme and careful planning. Make sure to start planning your party at least a few weeks in advance.
Here are our top tips on hosting the perfect murder mystery dinner.
Step One: Choose Your Theme & Pick Your Game
There’s an endless number of themes to choose from when it comes to murder mystery games, so keep the interests of your guests in mind and let your imagination run wild. If you don’t want to have to invent your own characters and scrips from scratch there are a lot of pre-made game kits to choose from. The kits will come with all the basics you need to run the game, including character lists, instructions, and suggestions.
Some popular themes right now are:
- Roaring 1920’s: Mobster themes and The Great Gatsby
- Zombie, Vampire (Supernatural)
- Cruise Ship
- Haunted Mansion
- Harry Potter
- The 50’s - Sock Hop
- The Wild West
- Tropical Themes
- Christmas Capers
Step Two: Make Your Guest List
Image: Monster Mansion Halloween murder mystery party game
When it comes to planning your guest list, keep in mind the type of party this is going to be. People who are extroverted that love to play up a character will have the most fun. Introverted pals don’t need to be excluded though, they can be assigned roles that don’t require being center stage. Make sure your most dramatic friends get the lead roles.
If you have more guests than characters you can make some people bystanders or audience members who can still participate by dressing in the theme and mingling with the other characters. Anyone can help solve the mystery.
Create invitations that match the theme of the party. You can use paper or e-mail invitations and some invitations might even come with your party kit. If they don’t or you have other ideas in mind, let your imagination soar. Make sure there is an easy way to RSVP. You’ll have to closely track RSVPs to make sure you have enough people for the party.
Step Three: Assign Characters
Image: Mystery at Toadwart School Murder Mystery Party Game
You can assign roles in advance and send out character information with the invitation or you can wait for people to RSVP and then assign roles.
You can match people’s personalities to their roles or choose them at random for an extra surprise. When you assign a role make sure to include costume suggestions because costumes really make or break the illusion of the theme. Make sure characters know their roles and costume suggests in advance. This is part of the reason you need to plan your party a few weeks in advance.
Step Four: Let’s Talk About Food
Monsters and Ghouls murder mystery dinner party food
Planning and managing a murder mystery while also cooking all the food yourself might be hard to pull off. If you have the budget you can have the party catered. You could also assign the cooking to your spouse or another family member or friend to help you.
Some parties are crafted so that they mostly take place during the cocktail hour before dinner while other mysteries unfold over the course of a fancy meal. Either way, your menu should also reflect the theme of the evening. If it’s a gangster theme you could sever pasta, for a western maybe some BBQ. You can really get creative with a Harry Potter-inspired menu.
You can also make up one or two themed cocktails for the evening with fun names. Food and drink are an important part of hosting a memorable evening.
Step Five: Murder Mystery Party Decorations
Image: From Monte Carlo with Murder Mystery Party Game
Get your living room and dining room ready for hosting a thematic murder mystery dinner by sticking close to your theme. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on decorations, the table setting can be the focal point. You can also provide props that might be useful for certain characters throughout the night or that are necessary for the game.
Speaking of props, since everyone went to the trouble to get all dressed up, why not provide a photo-taking station with a fun backdrop? This will give your guests a way to enjoy their memories for years to come and you can have everyone share photos with a unified hashtag on social media. Try using your name plus the theme for creating a unique hashtag such as; #JonesCasinoMysteryParty or #Smith2020MurderMystery
You can also set up game related scenes such as the crime scene! You can use dolls, dummies and makeshift props to look like your victim. Another great photo opportunity for guests!
Step Six: Playing The Game
Image: Mystery at Toadwart School Murder Mystery Party Game
Your costumed guests are encouraged to stay in character throughout the party, mingle with other guests, and slowly reveal their clues and secrets. The host will help by reading rules, and managing the game, helping it to move forward. The host will often be the one to announce certain events such as the victim being found!
Players work together, sharing information, to try to solve the murder mystery. In many newer games, there are often sub-plots and some characters have their own hidden agendas.
Step Seven: Murder Mystery Wrap Up And Prizes
Image: Dead man's chest murder mystery dinner party
Once the party is over, you can wrap up the game with guests sharing their character bios and secrets to the group. This allows everyone to get a clear picture of what was going on around them that they may have missed. You can also choose to have prizes for the person that figured out the mystery first as well as prizes for the best performance or best costume. You can pick up affordable prizes at dollar stores and awards or ribbons from carnival supply stores.
To host the best Murder Mystery party, see our Murder Mystery Game Kits for friends and family. Our murder mystery kits include fun characters; video story plots other resources that make hosting more fun. For murder mystery dinner party ideas, check out our blog with event ideas and resources to host a murder mystery party.