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What Is a Mystery Dinner?

By Mary Ellen Popolo
Updated May 16, 2024
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A mystery dinner is a role playing game where guests try to solve a mystery over the course of dinner. They can be played in homes as well as in restaurants and dinner theaters. There are many types of mysteries available for solving, but one of the most popular is the murder mystery. Mysteries are available in different themes and can be played by just a few guests or a large group. High school reunions, birthday parties, bridal showers, and charity dinners are a just a few events that might have a mystery dinner theme.

Inviting guests to a mystery dinner is a fun way to get friends or relatives together, share a meal and solve the crime in question. Guests are usually advised of the mystery theme when they receive their invitation so that they can dress the part, if desired. Often, some of the invited guests are asked to help act out the mystery by playing specific characters. Before the day of the dinner, selected guests are given an overview of the person they are going to portray along with basic details regarding the mystery so that they can dress the part and come prepared to play their character. Guests who do not play a part in the mystery gather clues and try to solve the mystery.

Restaurants and theaters can also host a mystery dinner. Typically, the venue sells tickets for admission, including dinner. In contrast to home mystery parties, in a theater or restaurant, patrons do not portray the characters in the mystery. Instead, the establishment uses their own staff, or hired actors, to play the needed parts. Diners gather clues and try to solve the mystery on their own, in groups or teams. Bed and breakfast establishments are another venue that sometimes host mystery parties with guests staying overnight to solve the crime along with the other guests.

Murder mysteries may be the most popular type of mystery, but there are other types of mysteries available to solve. For instance, an evening's caper can focus on a missing item or a missing person, rather than a murder. Everything needed to plan a mystery dinner can be purchased as a game. Downloadable versions are available online, and boxed sets can be purchased in department and party supply stores. Games include instructions for assigning characters along with with character descriptions, information on setting up the crime scene, and a guide to helping party goers solve the mystery.

A mystery dinner can be played by as few as six or as many as 100 guests at one time, depending on the mystery chosen. They can be geared toward different age groups as well, such as children, teenagers, or adults. Some mystery kits come with a theme for setting the stage for the mystery. For instance, for a "Death on the High Seas" mystery, the location of the dinner would be decorated like a cruise ship and guests would be asked to dress in cruise attire to enhance the evening's entertainment.

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