7 Simple Steps to Hosting a Mystery Dinner Party

Mystery dinners are fun for everyone – even the host! All it takes are some simple steps to successfully pull off this event. Here are seven easy steps to hosting a killer mystery dinner party!

First Step: Choose a Theme

There are so many fun themes out there to choose from! Keep in mind, the theme you choose will determine many of the details of your party: the food, music, attire, etc. Maybe you want to go “Murder in an Old Western Saloon” theme or “Missing Surfer at the Hawaiian Luau” theme. Or even, “Who Stole Betty Jean’s cast-iron skillet in the 1960s?” theme.

Be sure whichever theme you choose allows for enough players/characters. Decide whether you want everyone to be in character – or do you just want to all band together and solve the mystery Sherlock Holmes-style? Consider your audience and choose a theme that you think your guests will enjoy. 

Second Step: Design or Order a Party Pack

There are some great resources online for creating your own. You come up with the characters, the roles, the storyline, the clues, and the resolution. Then, you print and seal your clues – and guess what...there are even websites that allow you to complete these tasks while keeping yourself out of the loop so that, even as host, you can play the game too and be surprised at the ending. Amazon and Etsy both offer some great pre-made mystery dinner party kits to take all the guesswork out of this part of the preparation. You can download digital versions and print them yourself at home or at a print shop, or you can order everything already prepared to be shipped right to your home. 

Third Step: Create a Guest List and Send Invitations

Choose a date/time for your event and create and send invitations – either via physical mail or digital – to your guest list. Depending on what you decide to do for the second step (designing/ordering a party pack), invitations may already be included in your order so that could save you a ton of time. Be sure to specify in the invitation what attire your guests should wear and whether they are assigned a character or not. Sometimes it’s helpful for them to know in advance who they are “playing” so they can plan ahead. Plus, this gets the guests more excited to attend!

Step Four: Plan Your Decor

All of this step is dependent on what theme you choose. Going Western? Decorate with bandanas, boots, and hats. Stick some fake cacti around the room. Thinking tropical? Grass skirts around your tables, drink umbrellas, real pineapples, and inflatable flamingos are easy ways to make it feel like a vacation in a room. Maybe your theme is surrounding a book like Harry Potter or a television show like Unsolved Mysteries. Get creative and think outside the box when planning your decor. 

Step Five: Maximize Your Menu

Everyone knows the most important element of a party is the food, right? I think everyone plans their attendance based on the lure of some good party grub. Keeping that in mind, allow for a lot of quick and easy eats like finger foods. Maybe a taco bar, sandwiches, sliders, pigs in blankets, etc. Create a fun themed punch instead of the traditional cans of soda for an extra touch. Theme the food around your mystery and consider involving a menu item in one of the clues, or using it as a prop. 

Sixth Step: Provide Props and Costumes

A great way to convey value to your guests is offering to have extra costumes available so they aren’t having to go spend time or money finding something to wear. Having a few simple extra pieces available like hats, gloves, scarves, shirts, dresses, and robes, etc., can make a big difference for the person who either didn’t have time to plan, money to buy or just forgot to do it. Be sure to have props around too – fake knives, spectacles, “blood” samples, etc., all go a long way towards creating the mood and atmosphere and helping everyone feel fully immersed in the story.

Step Seven: Go Over the Rules

It’s a great idea to email or text the rules ahead of time so everyone is clear on what’s happening. Provide several printouts at your event so each guest has their own copy and set aside a few minutes to go over them before the party starts. This ensures everyone is on the same page as to what their role is, what the night will look like, who has what tasks, what’s allowed and what’s not, etc. Rules might include: “no sharing top secret info”, or “please DO share top secret info” – this depends on the type of event you’re having, whether it’s collaborative or competitive. “Stay in character at all times” or “character is allowed to be broken to ask a clarifying question.” “Gameplay is limited to these rooms of the house.” All of these are good rules to set aside beforehand. Allow a few minutes at the end of the rule-reading to encourage guests to ask questions. 

Murder mysteries are all the rage and a total blast for small or large groups of people! It just takes some simple planning to make sure everything runs smoothly and everyone has a great time. Get solving!