So, you’ve picked your mystery, you have your theme, but what now?
Well, basically you can make as much or as little effort as you like. However, from experience, the more effort you make to get your guests into the mood, the better the event runs.
This extra effort can start way back at the invitation stage. Most murder mystery kits come with printed or printable invitations, but why not do something that little bit different?
Make your own invitations in an appropriate shape e.g. a lip stick with removable lid which reveals in the invitation information written on what would have been the lipstick.
Not that crafty? Then why not simply print or hand write your invitations and stick on themed items e.g. newspaper cuttings, shaped confetti.
Why not send a bloodstained letter? It is a murder mystery after all!
Or (if you are so inclined), why not create a short film or record a tape – just let your imagination run wild!
From the host’s point of view the easier the menu the better as you will want to enjoy the evening as well. However, take some time to find a menu appropriate to your theme. If your guests are happy to help, why not have them bring dessert, or drinks? It all helps to reduce stress on the day.
And don’t forget, you don’t have to conduct the mystery during a meal. Why not run it during a wine tasting, or a barbecue?
The easiest gimmick to use at a murder mystery is to write out a menu themed to the night, and change all the names of the courses to something like “Dispatchio soup”.
Location, location, location
Where you hold the murder mystery sets the stage for the party. Although you could go and hire a medieval castle, or book into a train for a mystery event it is by no means an essential! Often a few minor alterations in your home can add some simple ambience to help get your guests in the mood.
Firstly think about which room you plan to hold the mystery in. Why not swap your dining room for the night and eat somewhere different in the house, e.g. a spare bedroom, or the garden?
Think about whether you should try rearranging your dining room furniture in keeping with the mystery, e.g. for a train event you might like to sit your guests at two tables with an aisle in between. For another you might want to remove the table and chairs altogether and sit on the floor. If your guests come to your house regularly even just moving the table so that it sits the other way around marks out your event as unusual.
Think about belongings that are normally in the room you use. Are they right for the theme you have selected? You might want to remove things which are out of place, e.g. for a mediaeval mystery you might want to remove or cover up the clock – they didn’t have them in those days!
Windows – most rooms have windows, but do you want to change your outlook? Why not cover them up and use an appropriate poster or picture instead? For example, for a ship themed mystery you might want to cover up your windows and make your own portholes with seascapes.
And don’t forget, this theming can start before your guests even get to your dining room. You might want to put a sign on your front door, or even create your own portcullis. Believe me, it’s all been done before!
Some simple additions to the room used for the dinner party could make all the difference to the ambience.
Firstly look around your own house and try and find things in keeping with the theme which you can arrange around the room. Secondly ask around your friends, you might find some other items to jazz things up a little. Thirdly, go shopping - but don’t buy anything too expensive, or that you will never need again. You may want to buy some themed gifts to give away as prizes at the end of the night, and you could arrange these around the room to help with the ambience until the prize giving takes place.
And don’t forget there has been a murder in the house! You might want to set up the crime scene in one of your rooms (advice for how to do that is here), or at least draw around an outline on the floor.
Try and obtain some ambient music which you can play in the background during the event. Pick music which is themed to the mystery, or if preferred find some soundtracks of ambient noise and play them!
It is always a nice touch to set out place markers. We did a blog post not so long ago on making the most of these, so click here to read that!
Some guests might like to keep track of clues presented and may like access to a notepad and pen. You might want to keep a stack of these on the table.
If your game has booklets (ours do but not every murder mystery company is the same) then why not theme the booklets and make your own covers.
You might want to make use of a few ice breakers during your event, though from experience, the mystery is usually sufficient to get people talking!
Try and find puzzles or ice breakers in keeping with your theme. For example, if on board a ship, why not get them to play quoits? For an art gallery, why not have them play Pictionary? If at a theatre, then what about a round of charades?
Other activities you might want to consider are wine tastings, or nosings. (These could be conducted instead of a meal.) You could get each guest to bring a bottle of red or white wine worth no more than a certain amount, and then together judge the quality and rank them according to your guests’ tastes. Or, perhaps everyone could bring a miniature of a different malt whisky and do the same! Though be warned this is a good method of getting tipsy fast, and no-one might care who did the murder by the end – though you’d be sure to have a good night!
The end of the night
And what about at the end of the night? Everyone has made their guesses and the murder has drawn to a close. Should it stop there? Why not give out prizes for the correct guessers? Not sure what to give out for prizes? How about these:
- Useful items like fuses, light bulbs, boxes of matches etc, all gift wrapped of course.
- Stationary items, like the ever useful post-it notes
- Sweets you haven’t eaten since childhood.
- Cheap toys – we never really grow up, you’ll probably find a yo yo will keep your guests amused for hours!
And don’t forget goodie bags! Kids never really grow up, and most of your guests, however mature, will probably love a party bag to take home! Why not find something in keeping with your theme and give out a small memento of the evening.