I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE planning murder mystery parties. We have now hosted eight murder mystery parties. There is a lot of planning and prep work that is involved – for all of the guests and especially for the hosts. Today, I am going to share with you 10 tips for planning a murder mystery party.
Here is a glimpse of some of our favorite murder mystery parties to date.
Murder at the Four Deuces
Cinco de Mayo Fiesta
Murder at Mardi Gras
Honkey Tonk Homicide
Murder High Reunion
Murder in Margaritaland
Oh, my goodness, do we have fun! Everyone, including myself, was a little skeptical when I first proposed the idea but we have a blast with these! It has been a learning experience along the way. To make things a bit easier for your, I have come up with 10 tips for planning a murder mystery party.
10 Tips for Planning a Murder Mystery Party
- Start planning early. – There are many steps involved in some of the parties. Don’t wait until a Wednesday and decided you want to try to pull off a party on a Saturday. This type of party requires planning for everyone. Settle on a date about 3-4 weeks out. This will give everyone proper time to prepare.
- Choose your participants carefully. – Gather your overall group of friends or family to see who would be open to participating in a murder mystery party. We have been surprised that some of our outgoing friends weren’t interested in participating in a murder mystery party because they were unwilling to step into character. You need to have an idea as to how many friends might be interested and how fun and loud those personalities are before you go about selecting your party. You can include less outgoing friends, but the game is more fun if you also have some loud personalities. Once we have a had a successful party with a certain group of friends, we tend to keep those same friends involved from that point forward. Important: you need to consider whether you will play a character or simply serve as host of the event. I have done it both ways. It is possible to play a character while hosting the party, but keep in mind you are going to know more information about the other characters (simply from handling all of the game paperwork) than is probably fair. If you do play a character, you probably should refrain from “guessing” the murderer at the end of the night. Also, you will have to be super organized about keeping the party running (drinks refilled, food put out and cleared away, etc.) while you are also playing the game.
- Select which game you want to use. – This can get overwhelming. There are several sites for in depth murder mystery parties which you order online for instant download. (You can also pay extra to some of these companies if you want them to print the game for you and ship it to you.) I usually go the instant download route. There are also some decent boxed games out there sold at places like Target. These games are more simplified and are a good starting place. Our first two parties were boxed games. My favorite two websites for instant download games are Night of Mystery and My Mystery Party. Both of these companies offer flexible game packages with the possibility to range from 6 characters all the way up to 50 (in some cases). So if you have more friends than the basic game offers (which is usually 8-12), you can buy the expansion pack so you can let all your interested friends have a role. These companies also offer teen versions (read: clean) versions of some of the adult games. There is often some adult humor or adult themes in the murder mystery games. There are also some all female versions, and some of the games (like Murder at the Four Deuces) are truly unpredictable with nonstop twists.
- Understand what is involved with each character before assigning roles to friends. – You would not want to put your most shy friend in the main character role. Match friends to character descriptions carefully. The more outgoing and outlandish the personalities in the main roles, the more fun your party will be. Also, some of the games come with some “optional” characters. Obviously, these optional characters are not going to be necessary for the game’s outcome. If you have some unreliable friends (unreliable friends…what?!) that you aren’t 100% certain will show up, assign those friends to those roles. That way, if something comes up and they can’t make the party, the game/party can still go on. You would NOT want to assign the main roles to friends you know tend to flake on commitments sometimes. Some games also have gender-neutral characters which makes it easy to fit in groups that may have more of one gender than the other.
- Notify your friends of their character assignments as soon as possible. – They need time to hunt down costumes. I try to do this at least three weeks in advance. The online games come with a bio sheet that includes the character description, costume suggestions, and “script” sheet for each person. The script sheet is not a word-by-word script. It basically tells the person how he/she should act and engage with certain other characters throughout the game. The person will still have to ad lib most of the night. I usually save each page as a separate PDF or document and email each individual person his/her sheet with some additional brief info about the character. The info is found in other parts of my game materials. No participant of the game should see any other character’s bio sheet.
- Look for decoration and menu inspiration. – Pinterest, Google, or the murdery mystery sites I listed above for decoration and menu ideas. Your game will come with some ideas for both but it is always good to search around for visuals to inspire you.
- Assign each attendee/couple a potluck item. – This runs much more smoothly if you assign each person a category. For instance, at our Murder in Margaritaland party, I assigned a tropical salad to one person, a tropical dessert to two other people, a Caribbean side dish to one person, etc. The person still has the freedom to choose exactly what he/she is bringing but sticks to a certain category.
- Allow yourself plenty of time for prep work. Even though I email the bio sheet and script to my friends, I like to prepare a folder for each one to have at the party. I print a copy of their bio sheets and scripts, copies of any clues I have been directed to distribute in my host instructions, name tag, and paper money. All of this goes into their folders. If you think you can cut up thousands of dollars in play money in just a few minutes before the party starts, think again. Things take time. Don’t wait to the last minute.
- Decorate big. – On the day of the party, decorate to your heart’s desire. The cheesier, the better!
- Consider prizes. – not necessary, consider purchasing some small prizes for best costume, best actor/actress, and the person who guesses the “murderer.”
And there you have it…my 10 tips for planning a murder mystery party. I really hope you decide to host a party and have a super grand time!
For a closer look at one of our murder mystery games, be sure to check out my post on the Murder High Reunion.