Fairytale Mystery Dinner

by Amy on April 21, 2014

Fairytale Mystery Dinner | Let's Explore

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I am so excited to finally share Natalie’s 11th birthday party with you! I told the girls about a dinner I once went to as a kid – a mystery dinner – where everything on the menu was in code so you didn’t know what you were ordering until the food came. As I recall, eating spaghetti with our fingers was involved!

Of course, this sounded ridiculously funny to the girls, and Natalie decided that a mystery dinner would be a perfect way to celebrate her birthday. I have our menu to share, plus a bunch of tips for making things run smoothly. It was a super-fun party!

I kept the decorations very simple – a few giant tissue paper pom poms hanging over the table, a variety of fairytale silhouettes made from colored construction paper, red roses, and a (possibly poisonous) red apple.

Fairytale party decorations

Each place setting was set with a giant paper doily, a plate with the guest’s name written in Sharpie along one edge, a napkin, and a menu. A few red roses and candlesticks (the battery-operated kind) decorated the center of the table.

Fairytale dinner table

I saw this cute once upon a time silhouette lamp at Chica and Jo. I printed the text on card stock and taped it inside the lamp shade.

Once upon a time lamp

Let’s get to the big event of this party – the mystery dinner! I remember doing a meal like this when I was a kid, with Girl Scouts I think. Every food you will serve (along with things like utensils, napkins, ice, etc.), has a secret code name. The guests will choose items for each course of the meal, without knowing exactly what they are ordering. As you can imagine, this can get pretty silly!

Here is our fairytale-themed mystery menu:

Fairytale Mystery Dinner Menu

You can choose to do any number of courses and menu items. We had three courses, with five items per course.

This kind of meal can be really crazy and messy, or not so much, depending on the foods you choose. I kept ours pretty tame, since most of the foods could easily be eaten with their fingers. I also chose to give them napkins, instead of making those part of the menu. Here is the key to our menu:

1. Pirate Treasure – fruit salad

2. Peter Rabbit – baby carrots

3. The True Princess – crispy pea snacks

4. Magic Wand – fork

5. Jack Frost – ice

6. The Three Bears – three gummy bears

7. Fairy Dust – parmesan cheese

8. Pinocchio’s Nose – straw

9. Under the Sea – Goldfish crackers

10. Snow White – applesauce

11. Three Little Pigs – three cocktail hotdogs

12. Mirror, Mirror – spoon

13. Witch’s Potion – apple cider

14. Dragon Scale – slice of pizza

15. Rumplestiltskin’s Gold – potato chips

The kids filled in their menus, using each item only once. Then, I taped the menus to the wall next to our serving area so we could refer to them throughout the meal. Be sure they put their names on their menus!

Mystery dinner menu

I didn’t get any photos of the serving area set-up, but I lined up all the items on my kitchen counters with a sticky note number next to each one. This made it easy to quickly fill each person’s plate. The applesauce was already in little cups, and the apple cider was poured into cups ahead of time.

Fill the plates, one course at a time, and serve. At the end of the course, take everything away. This means if you ordered a spoon for the first course, you won’t have it to use for the rest of the meal. The only exception we made was to let them keep their drinks once they received them.

The kids had SO much fun with this dinner! They giggled through the whole thing and had a blast figuring out the secret code names. Many kids ended up using straws to eat with, or having ice on their plates because they didn’t have drinks yet.

A few more tips:

  • Make sure the plates have the guests’ names on them, so you can return the same plate to the same person each time.
  • Set-up the table away from your serving area so the kids can’t see the food. We had the kids eat in the living room.
  • Have some paper towels on hand for wiping especially messy or wet plates (from melting ice!) between courses. A heavier-duty, coated plate works really well.
  • Enlist a couple adults to help you fill the plates. I think we had four people filling plates for 10 kids, which helped cut down on the waiting time at the dinner table.
  • Keep the portions small – the kids may not like all the food items, so this cuts down on waste. Our menu was pretty kid-friendly, so this wasn’t much of a problem.
  • Let the kids know that after the three courses, they can have seconds on anything they want. Many of the kids ate more pizza and fruit at the end of the meal.
  • Have someone take pictures for you! I was so busy going back and forth between the kitchen and the living room, that I only have a few blurry pictures of the kids eating.

The mystery dinner was the main activity of the party and took up most of our party time. We did have a simple craft project set-up, turning plain, wooden hand mirrors into beautiful magical mirrors with watercolors and stick-on gems. I set out regular and glitter watercolors, small jars of water, and paint brushes. A paper towel under each mirror kept everything fairly tidy.

Decorating mini wooden hand mirrors

We painted our mirrors before dinner and left them to dry. (Watercolors dry nice and quickly!) After dinner, while the adults were cleaning up the dinner table, the kids added some bling to their mirrors with stick-on gems. Beautiful! We had boys and girls of a variety of ages, and they all enjoyed making their mirrors.

Wooden hand mirror craft

Our guests took home their magical mirrors, along with a pack of glow sticks and a star wand. The wands are made with cookie cutters and paper straws. First, I poked a hole through the top of each straw, threaded a piece of baker’s twine through, and tied it around the cookie cutter. The cookie cutters still wanted to slide around or flop over, so I attached the cookie cutter to the straw with a tiny dab of hot glue.

Fairytale party favors

Natalie chose doughnuts for her dessert, instead of cake – so easy! I stacked the doughnuts up on a plate and added a few fairytale-themed silhouettes and a glittery 11 candle. The silhouettes are just black construction paper shapes taped to bamboo cocktail picks. Cute and simple!

Fairytale doughnut dessert

My girls are still talking about this mystery dinner party. In fact, I think Delaney wants to have one this summer for her 10th birthday – with a cowgirl theme! You certainly don’t need to wait for a birthday to plan a mystery dinner, though. This would be such a fun summer activity for your kids and their friends.

–> If you would like to use our fairytale menu, I am happy to share. Download our Fairytale Mystery Dinner Menu and print double-sided on card stock. Enjoy!

Would your kids enjoy a mystery dinner? Are you brave enough to serve something messy, like spaghetti or soup or ice cream?

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