As you might imagine, I like to write. For my 17th birthday, I decided to write my own murder mystery party by creating all the different characters, clues, and ultimately, the premise of the murder. I then sent out packets and prepared for the day. The party itself went well and was a lot of fun, but I was sad I couldn’t really ‘participate’ – since I wrote everything, I knew who the killer was and therefore didn’t get the experience of using the clues to solve the case. So, I went online to do a bit of googling and came across boxed murder mystery party sets by How to Host a Murder (I usually order from Amazon). I’ve now played two of these (and have two more on deck to be played), so I feel I can say with confidence that these games are legit and a great time. I don’t have many photos from the first one (How to Host a Murder: 1969 Hippie Party), so hopefully you find this post a little more informative.
- Choose your guest list. I’ve had one friends party and one family party thus far and both have gone well. It was important for me to think about who would actually get into costume and character to make the evening fun. It’s okay if some of the participants aren’t completely all out for it – you just need them to be willing to dress up and play their roles. If you have an SO, you’ll need to invite 6 guests. I’ve done a mix of all couples and couples + singles. Both of the games I’ve played haven’t had couple alignments in the characters, so it doesn’t matter if you have couples or not, BUT you will likely need 4 guys and 4 gals, unless someone is willing to cross dress (which is always good for photos). Also, one super critical factor in putting together your guest list is reliability. If someone doesn’t show for the party, you won’t be able to play (unless you have someone play two roles). Pick people that you can count on to show up. Finally – plan a date that works for your guests to make things easy. The hubs and I will pick out a few dates that work for us and then shop them around to our selected friends. Once we find a date that works for everyone, we lock it in asap.
- Pick your game. I like to go on Amazon and browse all my options, which includes reading as much as possible about each game (through both the product description and product information). There are a variety of different time periods and themes – I would encourage you to think about your guest list when picking the period/theme. You’ll want to make sure it’s something you think they will get excited for so they are more likely to put effort into their costumes and the game play. Once you receive your game, be sure check for all pieces (usually 1 host guide, set of clues, set of name tags, cassette tape or cd, invitations and envelopes, map of the crime scene, 8 character booklets) and then read the host guide. This will walk you through how the game is played and will even give you suggestions for food. The invitations will give you a description of each character and costume suggestions so you can assign each guest a role that fits him or her and also make sure they have ideas for what to wear.
- Plan your food. While the menu suggestions in the host guide are very helpful and usually pretty decent options, I like to do some research and craft my own menu from scratch. In planning my menu, I’ll think about any dietary restrictions of my group (we have a friend who is no dairy, for example) and also my time period / theme. For this party, I did a lot of research on Mediterranean cuisine. Generally, this type of cuisine can include influences from a couple of countries – Italy, Greece, Croatia and sometimes even France. For an appetizer, we decided to go with a charcuterie board, which came out absolutely amazing. My sister put this together and she did a fantastic job. We used two wooden cutting boards to give them a rustic feel. The boards included a selection of sliced and spreadable cheese, grapes, olives, sliced salami, rolled prosciutto, tomatoes and peppers. We also included little ‘bread crackers’ to pair with the meats and cheeses. Our second appetizer was Bruschetta which was super easy to prepare and was a hit. For the main, we went with a Mediterranean Chicken and Pasta Bake, which make food prep super easy because we just had to pull it out of the oven at the right time. My other sister made this and it was delicious! We also paired this with a sliced Italian loaf (are you sensing a theme with bread…). For dessert, we served Homemade Cream Puffs and chocolate dipped strawberries dusted with edible gold. My sisters and I all like to cook, so we went homemade for everything. You could easily buy the cream puffs and charcuterie tray, or even get takeout from somewhere if you don’t like to cook.
- Set the mood. Since this mystery is set on a yacht, I thought it might be fun to set up the outside of the house as a gangway for my guests to walk down to ‘board the ship.’ I did this by grabbing a few logs from my backyard that were each about 3ft tall and then wrapped some sisal rope around them and draped it between. I made a very simple white sign that I placed in my front window with the name of the ship (The Gilded Vessel) to further set the stage. As you can see from the above photo, I went all out on my table setting to make it feel luxurious, like dinner on a yacht. I used recycled glass bottles filled with water to create a more fancy experience (filled these up from my fridge!). I also used cloth napkins and place mats, along with silver chargers to complete the look. All in all, I probably spent about $30 on the cloth and decor for the table, which isn’t bad considering I’ve reused all the pieces multiple times (you may recognize the table setting from my Globe Trotter Bridal Shower). I would encourage you to look on Amazon, at local discount or dollar stores, or even at thrift stores for your table setting components. You never know what you’ll find and if you buy simple pieces, there’s a good chance you won’t just use them once. The last component to my decor was the huge bar I placed in the middle of my living room. My husband’s grandfather recently gave this to us and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. However, it has come in handy for many parties I’ve had thus far, so I’m glad I kept it / didn’t refuse to accept it. I set the bar with the components for making cocktails, but also used an extra silver tray to stack champagne glasses on for my guests to have a toast to commence the party. These glasses were a snag from my local thrift store at $0.50/glass. What I love about them is that they also help set the mood for the time period since they are more old school looking than the normal flutes you see nowadays. If you have non-drinkers at your party, you can easily sub in sparkling grape juice.
- Prepare for the game. If you don’t do anything else, you must do this step. Pull out all the materials from the game box and set them up for easy game play. From left to right, I’ve laid out all 8 character booklets, a copy of the invitation (for character description referencing), the crime scene map, name tags and the clues for each round. I also decided to purchase mini notebooks and pens from the Dollar Tree for everyone to use to note any information revealed throughout the game that might help them with solving the murder. This ensures my guests don’t write in the character booklet so I can resell or share the game with a friend so it’s used more than once. (If you happen to have a game and want to swap, leave me a comment to let me know!)
- Make a playlist. I did a little bit of research on music from the time period to build a playlist that would help set the ambiance for the evening. I pay for a Spotify Premium account (which I LOVE, since I don’t regularly buy new music), so I was able to find a lot of songs and build a playlist that I could bluetooth through a speaker for easy listening and control. You can look me up on Spotify by n.neiger.
- Plan your costume. This is a critical step you can’t forget – if you expect your guests to come in costume, you better be ready too! Use pinterest and google to find the appropriate period clothing. Also, definitely use the costume suggestion provided in the invitation. I found almost everything in either a thrift store, my closet, or on Amazon.