Murder Mystery Dinner - friends, food & fun!

reading time: 4 min

I'm so happy to tell you that I've finally got around to doing number 74 of my Day Zero Project last Saturday - "Host a mystery dinner party", and it was so much fun! And food! And friends!

But first off: What is a mystery dinner and how do you host it?

A mystery dinner is a party game paired with a dinner theatre, in which the play is a murder mystery, and the diners are invited to solve the mystery as they eat and play. I would estimate that the typical murder mystery could be completed within 2 to 3 hours, although if you linger over cocktails and appetizers or dessert, the night can go on as long as you wish.

1. Purchase a Murder Mystery Package & Choose a Theme

The way most mystery dinners usually work is that the host of the party purchases a kit - in my case, we got this for a friend's birthday as a present. The kit includes a story about a murder that occurs either during the course of the dinner or before the party even begins.

We got our kit from a German website called Krimi Total, but Night Of Mystery seems to be a great English alternative!

One of the guests/actors is the murderer and has to cover up his or her crime. There are a specific number of characters in the story to match the size of your group, with background information that only the performer of that character is allowed to see, costume instructions and a package of clues and rumours that are handed out by the Inspector/game master over the course of the game. Oh, and of course there's food!

There are endless possible scenarios and themes for a mystery dinner: high society, hippie, vampires, pirates, 20s, fantasy, Wild West, school, Mafia, Middle Ages, prom, wedding reception, 80s high school reunion, Ancient Rome, Halloween party, Hollywood, Christmas party, 40s Film Noir, Fairy Tale... 

2. Choose the Right Guests

This may sound silly, but it is very important to choose the "right" people to invite to your murder mystery party. People that are willing to go all out, get into character, and not worry about being a little silly. Ideally, they should also know each other so that they will feel more comfortable. In my case, I should note that our group pretty much consisted of nerds ;) We are all good friends, and some of our group even do regular pen-and-paper role-playing games, so I knew they would really enjoy the role playing.

Oh, and in case you're wondering: One of us read the character list and descriptions and then assigned them to our group members, loosely based on their personalities. I think this made the night much more fun because everyone really embraced the persona of who they were supposed to be that night, but of course you could just randomly pick the roles for the guests

3. Find The Perfect Outfit

In our case, the story took place in the Roaring Twenties in Prague, so all of us had to dress up in a 20s look, and oh my gosh, it was sooo much fun! The 20s theme is actually great since everybody has at least something in their closet that would be fitting for a costume. Just think "Great Gatsby" or "Midnight in Paris"

Here's my costume for the role of the virtuous daughter Viola who attends the best boarding school for young ladies in Prague and wears simple, elegant clothes:

My look included a thrifted black beaded dress, a pearl necklace, pearl earrings, a DIY feather headband, dark green shimmery eye shadow (i never wear eye shadow), and black Mary Janes. Oh and of course a super simple but fancy looking up-do! All you need is a headband and hair :) 

My hair is quite thick, so if you have very sleek, thin hair, it's best to gently rub some baby powder or dry shampoo into the roots at the crown of your head to add some volume and texture to it. Comb your hair back with your fingers as if you were going to put it into a ponytail. Then place your headband onto your head. Now simply take one section of hair, starting at the front near your ears, pull it back and tuck it into the headband, hiding the end of your strand and also hiding the headband at the same time. Continue with the rest of the hair, and you're done!

It does take a bit of practise - this was also my first time doing it and it took me two or three tries to get all my hair in place and looking tidy -, but eventually you will get the hang of it! I also secured the up-do with a couple of bobby pins after tucking everything in. Easy and elegant!

Now I was definitely not the only one in our group who put effort into their costume. Here are some impressions of our mystery dinner:

I am still pretty impressed by how great we looked, especially considering that none of us bought any special costumes. We just used what we had at home - dresses, feathers, top hats, tailcoats, ties, hats, two-piece suits, waistcoats, jewellery, glasses, and even a pillow stuffed under my friend's shirt to fake a pot belly, lol. I wish I'd had an ivory cigarette holder à la Audrey Hepburn, but oh well.

4. Find the Matching Menu
The food is a key element of a mystery dinner, so make sure the dinner fits the occasion. Since we went for a 20s theme, I immediately thought of fancy French dishes such as Mousse au Chocolate, quiche, and champaign. Since the entire dressing up, purchasing the game kit and planning the menu is already quite a bit of work, make things easier by assigning everyone a different food or drink to bring!  

We divided the dinner menu between our 8 party guests, and I was - once again - responsible for the dessert. As an appetizer we had a lovely vegan salad with date dressing, followed by the main course: a vegan quiche and a non-vegan quiche. After that we had some yummy vegan and non-vegan dumplings, and to crown it all: my vegan coconut Mousse au Chocolat with dark chocolate shavings and strawberries on top. Everything was homemade of course! To go along with our menu, we had iced tea, red wine, white wine and a bit of champaign.

The recipes for my Mousse au Chocolat as well as for my homemade Iced Tea are on my blog now :)

I recommend basing the number of courses for your meal on the number of scenes in your murder mystery. You'll have that information when you receive your kit. That way the mystery can be played out in between each of your courses as we did, and discussed while you eat each course. However, some of these kits are designed for cocktail parties and the guests are expected to walk around and interact throughout the evening.

You could also play around with names, and label each dish fitting the theme, such as: Death by Chocolate Cake, Mystery Soup, Killer Cupcakes, Murderous Meatloaf, Sinful Salad, Blackmailed Beans, Victim's Veggie Platter, or fitting drinks such as Bloody Mary and Red Death.

5. Don't Forget the Decor

Now last but not least, the decoration. For a 20s party, the key elements are silver, glitter, feathers, anything vintage, pearls, roses, and lots of candles. We were lucky enough to have a friend with a gorgeously decorated flat (just look how photogenic everything is!), with a fancy table runner, wine glasses, candle jars, beautiful dishes and even a wine decanter. And my crystal carafe with ice tea went very well with the rest of the tableware. It was perfect!

Another helpful prop is name tags for each role - the kit does come with these, however I would suggest making your own because I didn't like the style of the ones in the kit because they were basically advertisement for the company... And an idea for next time: I love the idea of doing "mug shots" as people come through the door!

Oh, and don't forget about a matching music playlist such as this one for the 1920s.

All in all, we got together at 4 p.m., started playing at 6 p.m. and were done between 10 and 11 p.m. Definitely a night to remember!

We had so much fun that night that we are currently ogling at doing another mystery dinner with a fantasy theme some time soon - I'm planning my outfit for an elf character in my head already ;)

The night ended with a wild Charleston dance party, and a dinner table filled with quiche crumbs, empty wine bottles and an oversized top hat on my head :) A success, I would say!


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