Being a big fan of Downton Abbey, it was important to find a script that takes place in a manor house in England. That gave me the opportunity to use my fine china and silver (remember, I wanted a fancy sit-down dinner, al fresco). Finding a story that has the required number of characters, setting, and era took a bit of time looking around. Finally having decided to use "The Mysterious Affair at Stirling Hall", by Shot In The Dark Mysteries, I sent out the invites and made sure that all of the guests are able to attend. There is nothing worse than having a party where one absent guest throws off the whole game. Once everyone confirmed, we ordered the game (you can pick the version depending on the number of your guests), and emailed attendees their roles. As you can see on the picture above, my friends all came dressed the part.
The centerpieces for the table had greens from
my yard and flowers from the florist.
Once all the game materials were sent out and prepared, planning for the actual dinner could start. Throwing a fancy dinner and mediating the game while cooking for fifteen is not my idea of a good time, so outsourcing the cooking seemed like an ideal solution. We emailed out links to Downton-era dishes (google Downton cooking or dinner party), and everyone picked an item to prepare and bring. We had a delicious dinner, with a lovely variety of English food.
The three centerpieces were arranged in crystal and silver bowls.
The weather cooperated perfectly: we had an (almost) full moon, clear skies and no wind. This was especially helpful since there were dozens of candles set up around the garden and on the table.
This is the front yard just as we started setting up. We put three 6-foot
tables in a row creating one long dining table to seat all fifteen of us.
The gold chargers came from Pier 1 Imports.
We put silver candlesticks and small votive holders as well as some glass hurricanes on the table, and lined the side of the garden with more glass hurricanes with white pillar candles. Here the table is almost ready, only the napkins and some small items (such as salt cellars) are missing.
You can see the hurricanes along the areca palms on the ground. My wonderful husband also hung twinkle lights on the fence and palms.
Here is the completed look, right before the guests arrived.
We enlisted our two older children to be the serving staff for the party, and they did great! As the guests were arriving, they announced each character, and gave them their name tag. We then took pictures of all the couples and then a few group shots.
Cheers to a fun evening everyone! Can you find me?
(Hint: I was the Dowager, aka the grandma)
Then the mystery started. We played the introduction (an audio file) on the computer, and everyone dove right into questioning one another. After about an hour of gathering information, it was time for dinner. We all sat down and the kids served us just like Mr. Carson and the footmen do it in Downton Abbey. They were so attentive, the guests were really impressed with them.
Christmas lights on the tree house and candles on the
table and lawn were the only source of illumination.
Conversation during dinner revolved around the plot. Everyone stayed in character. We had a great time calling each other by the characters names and slowly unraveling all the hidden information and scandal.
As the mystery wrapped up, and the voting finished, we all gathered around the computer once again to listen to the confession. Votes were counted and prizes distributed.
The evening wrapped up with more champagne and wine, while the downstairs staff helped me clean the dishes. We all had so much fun! I have a feeling that though this was our first murder mystery dinner ever, it will not be our last. If you want to host your own party, check out the fabulous scripts at Shot In The Dark Mysteries. You can customize their plots for your exact number of guests.
Want more murder mystery? Check out our Great Gatsby-Style murder mystery New Year's Eve party here.