Hosting a Murder Mystery Dinner Party

What to Expect in the Murder Mystery Party Kit

murder mystery dinner party

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

It's great to create new memories with old friends and hosting a murder mystery dinner party is a wonderful way to bring everyone together. There are some key factors in planning a satisfying get-together—even if it's a murder mystery party for your teen—and tips for getting all your guests involved.

What Is a Murder Mystery Dinner?

Often described as a live-action version of the game Clue!, this is a themed dinner, with a mysterious murder at the center of the story. Attendees must work together to figure out "who done it."

The Party Kit

Prior to the party, the host purchases a murder mystery party kit. The kit includes a story about a murder, which usually occurs either during the course of the dinner or before the party begins. The guests are cast as characters and together (or separately) solve the mystery. There are a specific number of characters in the story to match the size of your group, with background information, costume instructions, and a package of clues for each one. The more outrageously your guests dress up, the greater the potential for an entertaining evening.

Included in the kit may be invitations to the party, a guide to running the mystery (with party tips) for the host, and even prizes for the person who guesses the murderer. You must insist that your guests RSVP for this party since all characters must be played. You wouldn't want the murderer to be a no-show. Murder mystery kits can be purchased off-the-shelf or custom designed for your group; they can be found online or in some party stores.

The Activities

When you send out your invitations to the party, you will include the character description, costume suggestions, and background for the story to your guests. Over the course of the evening, everyone will receive additional clues. These clues may be about their own character or the murder. They will need to reveal the clues to the rest of the guests. With some kits, the host knows who the murderer is. In others, no one knows a thing until it is revealed during the party.

The typical murder mystery could be completed within 2.5 hours, although if you linger over cocktails and appetizers or dessert and coffee the night can go on as long as you wish.

Dining Table Set for Dinner Party
C. Lyttle / Getty Images

The Keys to a Successful Murder Mystery

In order for a dinner party like this to be successful, your guests need to be willing to be "on stage" a bit. Anyone who is shy in front of groups might feel that participating is difficult, especially if you're hosting it for a large group. Being comfortable with one another may help the quieter members of the group feel relaxed enough to play a part.

Planning the Menu and Decorations

Base the number of courses for your meal on the number of scenes in your murder mystery. That information will be included in your kit and allows the mystery to be played out in between each of your courses and discussed while you eat. Some kits are designed for cocktail parties and the guests are expected to walk around and interact throughout the evening. You'll need the specific requirements for your kit when you purchase it. If you have a definite idea of how you would like your dinner to run, ask around to find the mystery that suits your plan.

Many of these plots take place in a specific country or time period. That makes decorating and menu planning for the dinner fairly simple if you stick to the theme. For example, some of the common plots are set in Paris, the Old West, and Rome. If your mystery does not come with a built-in theme, it could be fun to prepare a "deadly" menu to add a little extra excitement. Try including a corpse reviver cocktail and barbecue beef ribs, and finish the evening with the death by chocolate cake or a death by chocolate dessert cocktail.