How to Host a Murder Mystery Party

I turned 30 this month and decided instead of traveling (thanks to COVID19) I would host a small gathering with my closest local friends. It was a fun way to see all my friends and definitely broke the ice between some of my friends that were just meeting each other for the first time.

Pick Your Theme

I chose a package from Red Herring Games, but then modified the artwork to create and entire theme out of it. The original package I chose because I liked the characters and felt they would fit in with a summer birthday theme. I picked “Murder in the Dark” which was set in a Beverly Hills suburban community. I tweaked the aesthetics to really lean into the Beverly Hills theme.

(Left to right, clockwise) Poster for our apartment door, Invitations, Name Tags, Character booklet covers.

2. Send Out Invitations

You should send your invitations out at least one month before the party. I mailed mine about six weeks before because I wanted to allow enough time for RSVP’s. When you purchase the package you are purchasing a specific number of people, so you need to know exactly who will be playing what character. In my case, the package allowed for 12 characters plus an “inspector”. Two weeks before the party I had sent everyone a description of their character.

Note that sending the characters ahead of time is not necessary for game play. The instructions I’d been given said to tell each player who their character was when they arrived. It also mentioned to have props for the players to pick out to embrace their characters, but there were too many characters for me purchase props for each one (fireman, pilot, limo driver, ect). I told people in advance just in case they wanted to dress like their characters.

I also took a look through the descriptions of the characters so I could match guests up to the most appropriate characters. In the kit I picked there was a lot of flirting amongst characters, so I linked couples in real life to couples in the game.

Pick a Menu

The ideal menu includes an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. The game runs smoothly when you plan the scenes around each course. Sometimes during, or sometimes after. You can gauge how quickly you want to progress on the night. Since there will be a lot happening throughout the night, if you can prepare any food in advance, I would highly recommend this.

Decorate

I wanted my theme to have pink, gold, white and accented with tropical fauna. I bought this set of tropical leaf decorations from Etsy. The set come with some flat pieces, which are a floppy fabric material and some more rigid leaves that come with a stem. The flat pieces made the backdrop and the base of the tables. The pieces with the stems fit nicely in the centerpieces.

I bought a few different sized white balloons from Party City for the cloud garland and made this by wrapping the balloons around a piece of ribbon. There are some tutorials on YouTube that I loosely followed. I also had a mini version of this garland in the kitchen and a couple outside by the door to notify guests where the house was.

The twinkle lights I borrowed from a friend, but you can find similar ones here for the centerpiece and here for the curtain. The pink table runners are folded sheets of wrapping paper.

I purchased fresh pink lily’s and ferns from my local Produce Junction to spread throughout the house.

On Game Day

It works best when everyone is in the same room, dinner party style. That way when the scenes begin each person has a chance to ask necessary questions to other players while everyone else can listen in.

In COVID-19 times, we were well distanced so this part was a little confusing at the start. It is important though, that after the inspector reads their script, the other players follow their script in the order that it says in each character booklets. The booklets will let the first player know that they are to start reading first. Then, each player after that will know who to follow.

Pay attention to all the little details and try to imagine the scene. With a lot of players (we had 12) it will be easy to lose track of who was where at what time, ect. but still try! At the end of the game, you will have to guess who you think the killer is so adding up all the clues will give you a good foundation to make a case.

I made everyone a name tag, so that everyone would be able to tell who they were talking to. I bought these mini pink clothespins so they could easily be attached to clothing.

Timing

We had three food courses and recited a scene before or during each course. Between scenes we were able to mingle and have a normal party. To get through the whole game takes about three hours. I started the party at 6PM and everyone left by 10PM, which included 30-45 minutes for everyone to arrive and get settled in.

All the girls got a pair of earrings as party favors, while the guys got little water guns.

At the end of the night everyone guesses who they think the murderer is. In hindsight, there should be a prize for whomever is able to guess correctly. For us, it was just bragging rights.

It really is a fun way to DIY your own activity, especially when there are so few businesses in the entertainment industry able to operate (COVID-19). Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips for hosting a murder mystery party!

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