We recently threw Murder at the Garden Party in a friend’s beautiful backyard and couldn’t wait to share the results! Murder at the Garden Party was designed to be used outdoors, giving our amazing hosts the chance to show off their gardens and get guests sleuthing within floral bouquets with cool green grass underfoot. Since I started writing this mystery, I have been itching to put it on live and make my vision a reality. I scoured antique stores for six months before the event (because that’s one of my favourite me-time activities) and scored some really unique finds! My vision included giant tissue paper flowers, mismatched tea cups and saucers, coloured glass, shining silver and real, blooming flowers of every colour! Take a peek to see how we threw Murder at the Garden Party, our newest summer murder mystery party game!
Mystery:Murder at the Garden Party (10 suspect version) Timing: Friday night, start time 6:00 pm, optional fire and wine afterwards Menu: Cheese and Grapes, wine and lemonade for mingling, choice of raisin and plain scones and tea (one black tea and one herbal) with cream, jam and butter (brought in from a local English tea house), warmed in the oven. Music: Streaming jazz with Bluetooth speaker system (which also doubled as the way to play the mp3 Announcement of Murder and final Big Reveal).
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The initial set up – we rented 2 tables and the chairs from a local party rental shop for under $50 – so much easier than trying to collect tables and chairs from our houses, and it looks so much nicer!
Two of my favourite antique store finds – my antique tea pot (How Alice in Wonderland is this? It’s so pretty…) and the tea cup with the woman on it. The tea pot was literally BLACK when I bought it, but some tricks and a lot of elbow grease made it shine.
My second brilliant antique store find – a silver serving bowl – the handles on the side turn to open and close the lid. It was also black when I bought it, but when I started to remove the tarnish, I found the most gorgeous birds and flowers on the lid. If anyone knows the official name of this, please drop me a line!
I envisioned blooms everywhere you looked, and this antique candy bowl was the perfect spot to float these hydrangea blooms. It also added height to the table – visually I wanted elements of all heights – it was perfect!
The final table – I bought a number of colourful bouquets and two rose bushes. I cut the blooms and floated them for table decor, and left the pots near the investigation areas. After, I took one home for my garden, and left the other for my host’s garden as a thank-you gift! The mix of colourful flowers, mis-matched tea cups, coloured glass were left to shine against the back drop of my friend’s lace table cloth (hint – beneath it, we used a simple blue bed sheet – easy and it looked gorgeous!).
Another shot of the table, just before all the suspects arrived!
The final table, pre-guests!
A big part of my vision involved the giant flowers I made, and the hanging umbrellas. Let’s start with the umbrellas!
As the guests entered the yard under the foliage arch, this was their first sight of where they would be sleuthing to solve Murder at the Garden Party!
The white umbrellas were a huge part of my vision, and I was lucky enough to find them at the dollar store! White with stripes, plain white, transparent, blue, and even one with blue polka dots! I purchased eight, and we hung five from a wire ($3 at the local Habitat for Humanity Restore) and zip-tied them to keep them in place. The caged lights beneath were from Home Sense – the perfect-sized strand for $20. The extra umbrellas I placed on the grass around the yard and in our photo area and they looked perfect (although when the wind came up, I did chase them around a bit!)
Host Nikki created a sign on canvas welcoming guests to the fictional “Belladonna Manor” from the mystery. Guests were greeted with the sign and my giant flowers as they entered her yard.
As a number of the guests knew each other from previous parties Nikki has thrown, we allotted 30 minutes of arrival/mingling time before we were to start the mystery. The guests were all right on time though (some even early!) and started sleuthing even before the mystery began! These sleuths were excited to get started, and even those who had never met before were laughing together in no time. Nikki set out lemonade (and some white wine to add to the lemonade if people so chose) and cheese and grapes to sip before we amassed around the table.
Nikki and I served scones and tea, with the aid of Lisbeth (whose character was Annie Pawlson, the “hired help” for the party in the mystery). We used the time around the table to listen to the Announcement of Murder, then have each suspect introduce themselves to the others using their suspect description in their Suspect Guide. We chose to listen to the Announcement of Murder a second time once we had been introduced to all the suspects.
With our bellies full of scones and tea, we left the table to conduct our investigations.
This group were very good eavesdroppers, and often the one-on-one investigations turned into group investigations, then people broke off here and there. We put a time limit on the investigation to create a really cool sense of urgency in the sleuthing. As we called everyone back to the table to cast their accusations, someone said something to someone else and everyone got up from the table and ran back over – we simply had to give them an extra 10 minutes to chase that lead!
Annie Pawlson and Daphne Christie question each other – no one knows who the killer is – even the killer!
As everyone finished up their investigations, I set up the table for dessert and accusations, placing one accusation form (included in the Host Materials) on each plate. Nikki and I both played a character (I was Celia Barnes) and I answered questions as I cleared the table and set it up for the Big Reveal and dessert – our hosts can (and should!) participate fully too!
A simple store-bought berry cake was the perfect way to finish our mystery, bringing everyone around the table once again for a fresh cup of tea and an indulgence as they wrote down their accusations and shared them with the group.
We write down the accusations before sharing with the group so that people can’t change their answers when they hear the other sleuths’ theories. Also, it’s fun. If you are offering prizes or awards, the accusation forms also double as ballots. The next step was playing the Big Reveal mp3 files (included with your package) and discovering which one of us was the killer!
Scattered chairs, remnants of the party and an abandoned hat – souvenirs of a very fun evening and a successful murder mystery party – a host’s true gift as laughter is heard from the fire area.
As twilight fell, some guests left and some stayed for a fire and some more wine. The darker it got, the more beautiful the set-up became as the lights amidst the umbrellas started to show their glow.
Nikki replaced some of the centrepieces with candles to create a beautiful nighttime glow
My white umbrellas turned colourful and absolutely glowed in the darkness.
Our Daphne Christie
Our gracious host Nikki, aka Naomi Marx, on day leave from the Godiva Point Mental Facility
The lovely Lori as Shantelle Freebush
Doretta Green, poking her nose into everyone’s business in style!
Lisbeth as Annie Pawlson – Lisbeth was on vacation in Canada from Denmark and got to become a sleuth and murder suspect while she was here!
Detective Sabine de Ravenel is never seen without her spy-cam!
Botanist Carolina Spalding had lots to share about the secret garden at Belladonna Manor!
Naomi Marx, enjoying a day out from the nut house with her attendant, Maryanne Boles
Our Mini-Sleuths – Nikki’s kids couldn’t help but join the fun. It’s a “Clean” mystery, so there was no problem having them hang around, and they were sleuthing even more intensely than we were! I accused them in the end – haha
With the killer revealed and the mystery wrapped up, it was time for some photo fun! We had set up a section of the yard with the giant flowers and umbrellas for some photo shots! This is me as Celia Barnes…. (I age very slowly and have a great anti-aging regime – haha)
A great shot of all the sleuths and suspects
I had such a great time planning and decorating for our Garden Party Murder Mystery Party. We would love to hear your ideas and see how you bring this mystery to life in your own space with your guests and sleuths!