Murder Mystery Dinner Party

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Need new, fresh ideas for your next dinner party?

Last year I decided to spice things up for hubby’s birthday. And thus started the spiraling out of control of invitations, menus, entertainment, guest lists – not to mention all the hours spend on Pinterest!

“Why?” do you ask me. The answer? “Because I can!” It’s that simple. 

I LOVE entertaining. Every year I try to do something special for his birthday, because you know, if you leave it to him, it will be a ‘braai’ with his friends, finish and klaar! But this is my one excuse (for September any way), to go all out.

We watched a movie called ‘The Mystery Cruise’ and an idea was born.

First step was to figure out how it works – we’ve never done this before, after all. Hours was spend trying to find a script. This is what I’ve learned:

You can spend A LOT of money buying a script with all the clue cards and props included, OR with a bit of creative internet serving you can find a free script and adapt it for your crowd. And that’s what I did.

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Second step, now that I finally had a script, was to invite people who are fun. It is NO use planning all of this, and your guests don’t play along. You also need to ensure that you do not invite droppers – you know the type – they cancel on short notice, and now you are a few players short.

We had to find four new guests on VERY short notice – lesson learnt!!!!

Now that you have your guest list, the third step starts – making an invitation. Depending on where you live and where your guests live, you can post it, hand deliver, or go for e-invitations. I opted for e-invites.

Hi there!

You are officially invited to Fanie’s birthday party.

When? 21st September (it’s a Saturday)

What time? 6pm

Where? Address goes here …

Theme? Murder mystery – everyone who attend will receive their character info soon.

RSVP before the 1st of September please – there’s lots of planning involved in this.

Spouses/partners are also invited. Unfortunately it will be adults only.

As you can see, I did not go for an elaborate invite – all my energy went into inventing characters, making decor, deciding on the menu and costumes. This was the first invite, the second one went out as soon as I knew who were actually coming.

The time is 1920…
The event is a corporate year end function…

The dress code is semi formal…

Here are the characters…

Choose one – once someone has chosen, that character, he/she is not available for anyone else to choose – so stake your claim on the group.
First come first serve …

A week before the party, everyone got their final reminders

A&C Inc – Annual Company Christmas Event – circa 1920
Esteemed employees of Agatha & Christie’s – Cosmetics and Cleaning Supplies Inc, It is our greatest pleasure in inviting you to our annual office Christmas party.
Join us in celebrating a most fruitful year in our glorious company with profits abounding! We have some exciting announcements of future plans for our business and everyone in it.
You will all receive your character extended bios and triggers Saturday evening. A few important points:
– please do not reveal anything to any of your fellow players before Saturday – especially your husband/wife
– CLUES will be distributed on the night (the ones that you will have to give if someone TRIGGERS you)
– QUIRKS are things you do, and will be doing through the game, they are important, don’t overlook them.
– don’t hesitate to reach out if something isn’t clear
– get into your character, think like them, breathe like them, dance like them, we cannot wait to see you all kitted out at the office party!

HR lady, Tiffany

The fourth step actually goes straight after you know how many guests you will have and that is creating your characters. I worked off a script I found for free on the internet, I just adapted it for our group and tastes.

I went to the trouble of making character cards and sending that out to everyone, so that they could choose which character they wanted to be.

This is six of our characters. I also made a ‘murder board’ with all of these on there, so that people could refer back to it during the evening if they needed to.


All our guests had to dress the part, and they rose to the occasion!!! Remember this was a 1920’s themed party.

The hard work started now. Step five was the decor. I wanted to transform our living room to look like a 1920’s club. I made two chandeliers to hang from the ceiling out of foil curtains. I also spend some money on ostrich feathers and of course lots of pearls.

Of course this was still in the planning phase – all the decorating happened the day before the party. Even the two chandeliers.

I even found 1920’s music to play in the background.

Step six was deciding on a menu.

There were lots of debates about the pro’s and con’s of buffet vs sit-down. In the end we decided that a buffet would give the characters more freedom to mingle and try and get information from each other – the goal was after all to be the first to identify the murderer. 

I did all the catering myself – in hindsight ordering platters might have been easier and cheaper … But hindsight is a wonderful thing and I am a bit ocd – and prefer to do it myself.

The final step was to put everything together on the day and have a party. And what a party we had.

No alcohol. And we proved that you don’t need alcohol to have fun!!!

Everyone had a blast trying to outsmart each other. The food was great (if I must say it myself), the atmosphere amazing and the guests a lot of sports!

What would I do differently? Well, maybe just simplify the plot a bit for first timers – people were not quite sure what to do at the beginning. Also make sure everyone understand their triggers and quirks.

If this is something you would like to do – feel free to ask me for the script I used, I will pass it on – free of charge.


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