This post expands on Step 2 of my How to Host a Murder Mystery Party Guide by going into further detail about how to plan a murder mystery party. The assumption is that you've already chosen a game kit for you party and now it's time to prepare!

Let's take a closer look at how to plan a murder mystery party.

STEP 2: Plan Your Party

The more time and effort you put into planning your party, the more successful and memorable it will be!

Here are the steps to planning:

Read Your Script

The script is the set of instructions that came with your game kit which tells you exactly how the game should be run. It's important to know this document inside and out.

Read Your Entire Script

A good guidebook or party kit script will provide detailed information on every aspect of planning and executing your party, and you will find that a comprehensive understanding of the source material will make each of your responsibilities as Host or Hostess much simpler and more enjoyable. Take the time to read through your party in its entirety!

Ask Questions

A good murder mystery company should be happy to provide you with assistance and answer your questions.  If you find that something isn’t clear, or if you need advice on how to make something work better, contact the author of the mystery or the customer service department of the business that sold you the mystery; chances are they’ll be more than happy to help you make certain your party is a success!

Have a question? Contact me if you have any questions about hosting a murder mystery party. I'm happy to help!

Research Your Theme

If you are planning a party that is set in a particular historical era or geographical location, doing a little bit of research can make your party that much more authentic.  Use online resources to find out a little bit about how people talked during the era in which your party is set, what sort of clothes they wore, what food they ate and what sort of music they listened to.

Use your research in your menu, decor and conversation. Adding in a few small touches (like having a period-appropriate menu for a medieval mystery, or handing out a cheat sheet of '20s slang for a prohibition era party) will really make your party stand out!

Invite Your Guests

You will need a certain number of confirmed participants in order for your party to run properly, and your guests will need enough time to prepare themselves for the event.

Guest List

Make sure that you have enough people for the party you’ve chosen, and that you have some backup plans in place in case someone has to cancel.  It’s usually a good idea to confirm attendance with your prospective guests in advance, and then send them their formal invitation once you already know that they are interested in attending.

Invitations

Give your guests a few weeks notice. No one likes to feel rushed – try to get your invitations (and character sheets if applicable) out to your guests at least 2-4 weeks in advance of the party.  If you are issuing formal invitations and requesting RSVPs, set the RSVP date no later than two weeks in advance of the party.

Tell guests to keep their secrets. Make sure that your guests know that they shouldn’t share details about their characters with each other before the party.  Their characters’ information and secrets should be kept private from everyone (even spouses and partners).

Decorate Your Venue

Prepping the party venue can make all the difference between a mystery that is a smashing success and one that is only mediocre.  Layout your space in advance and make sure that you have all of the props, decorations and audio that you need.

Layout

Choose which room or rooms will be used. Many mystery parties involve multiple areas (for example, one room might need to serve as the captain’s quarters of an elaborate cruise ship, while another area might need to be the main deck or the galley.)  If your mystery involves multiple areas, decide in advance which rooms will correspond to which areas.  Consider printing signs to help guests know exactly where they are.

Reserve space for scavenger hunt. Some parties involve scavenger hunts or clue seeking missions.  If this is the case with your party, you should make sure to designate an area for the scavenger hunt in advance.

Props and Decorations

Props and decorations help set the scene. Again, small touches make all the difference when it comes to decorating your venue.  While no one will ever expect that you transform your home, office or apartment into a fully functional casino, a festive beach or a creepy mansion, a handful of props or decorations (like roulette wheel cutouts for a casino, tiki torches for a beach party or fake cobwebs and hanging bats for a haunted mansion) can really help convey the proper atmosphere and mood to your guests.

A good party kit should come with suggestions for decorations and props, and you can usually find a wide variety of appropriately themed and inexpensive decorations at party supply stores.

Game props. How to Host a Murder Mystery Party. #murdermysteryparty www.playingwithmurder.com
Game props for party
A fedora and cigarette for the gangster-themed game Don Carrasino and the Murdered Mobster
Nametags. How to Host a Murder Mystery Party. #murdermysteryparty www.playingwithmurder.com
Nametags so guests know other people's characters
Theme party decorations. How to Host a Murder Mystery Party. #murdermysteryparty www.playingwithmurder.com
Party decorations to set the scene.
This host created a water effect for the cruise ship-themed game Set Sail for Disaster

Audio

While some murder mystery companies will supply you with audio effects and music appropriate for your party, you can also add this touch on your own.  There are numerous free sound effects available online, and a little bit of research into period-appropriate music should allow you to create a customized playlist that is perfect for your party.  Don’t forget about background audio; the sound of a terrible thunderstorm or of waves crashing on a beach can easily create some terrific ambiance for your party!

Plan Your Menu

While not all murder mysteries are set up as dinner parties, many are.  If you are going to serve food, you should plan the menu around the party:

Hors D'oevres. How to Host a Murder Mystery Party. #murdermysteryparty www.playingwithmurder.com

Buffet and Hors d'oevres:

If your party is going to involve a lot of mingling between the guests, having a buffet, finger food or hors d’oevres will probably work best.

Plated dinner. How to Host a Murder Mystery Party. #murdermysteryparty www.playingwithmurder.com

Plated Meals:

If your party will be conducted as a seated affair, around a table, then you will probably do best with a plated meal.

Of course, if you want to have a plated meal as part of a mix and mingle style party, you can simply specify in advance that there will be a formal dinner served at a particular time.  It is up to you if you want to have your guests remain "in character" for the meal.

Themed menu. How to Host a Murder Mystery Party. #murdermysteryparty www.playingwithmurder.com
NYC-themed cake for the game Murder in Manhattan. Black frosting portrays skyline while red frosting indicates the party's murderous event.

Themed Menus:

Depending on your particular party, a themed menu may add to the atmosphere.  For example, a Mardi Gras themed murder mystery might feature Cajun food and typical Louisiana fare, while a mystery set in a medieval castle might include a large roast, stew and chunks of bread.  Many mystery party scripts will include menu suggestions, so be sure to check!


Continue to Step 3: Throw Your Party for an in-depth look at how to throw your party.