I am a puzzlemaker, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone that I included a puzzle in my wedding reception. Two years later, I thought some documentation was in order, if only to help and inspire those who wish to embed something like this into their own event. If you’re working on a puzzle for your party, you have my permission to use or adapt any part of the mini puzzle hunt outlined in this post.
With the inherent stress and expense of planning a wedding, I decided to go with something low-key that would be simple to put together and relatively easy to solve within a limited time frame, with the goal just being to provide an additional source of entertainment for those who would enjoy it. Since only a small number of our guests were interested in puzzles, I wanted to make sure this aspect of the event didn’t interfere with anything else that was going on, so I made the trailhead look like a simple decoration to anyone who wasn’t paying attention, but still fairly obvious to those who have an eye for that sort of thing. The framing around the main “Welcome” blackboard was a message in Morse code: "Play discreetly. Start under the fairy’s drink."
This led players to a cocktail dispenser labeled “Fairy Juice,” and an envelope taped to one of the table legs underneath it.
The envelope said “TAKE ONE” and had several copies of a piece of paper with a clue. (This was the case for every envelope in the hunt to make sure players can each have their own copy.) The first two lines in the poem prompted players to look at the yellow labels of the drinks, which had the names of the drinks written in code on the back; again, a detail which eluded any guest that wasn’t specifically looking for it.
The code allowed players to translate the names below the clue and led them to a gold poster with an expansive family tree, where they were made to count how many times each name appeared. (The inspiration for this puzzle actually struck when I was creating the family tree. I noticed certain names repeating and it felt like fertile ground for a puzzle. I highly encourage incorporating bits of your own personal story into the hunt!)
Counting the names resulted in a series of six numbers, which appeared as table labels on small wooden branch pieces. Each branch had a set of letters taped to the bottom, several of which were nonsense, just so it wouldn’t be immediately obvious how to put them together if you didn’t solve the first part of the puzzle.
Putting together the letters from the six correct table numbers led to the hiding spot of the next envelope, which contained a floorplan. Luckily, the wedding venue we chose had a handy map on their website for me to use, to which I added four Xs, each representing a location for another envelope. I kept these places subtle as well; one was behind a door, another was stuck into the base molding in the corner of the entrance hall, etc.
Each of those four envelopes contained a piece of a jigsaw puzzle (cut from paper), which came together to make a simple but distinctive shape. It was hard to figure out where to hide the final prize (a cone full of chocolates--a bonus party favor) without attracting any attention, so I tried to use the geography of the venue to the best of my ability.
The shape I used for the puzzle ended up being the curly heart motif on the front of the fireplace gating, and the prizes were sitting inside, just an arm’s reach away. If someone was curious enough to look over that railing, they would have encountered quite the surprise, so this felt like a bit of a risk, but just covering the plate with a cloth was enough to ward away wandering eyes. By the end of the wedding, most people had no idea there was even a secret puzzle hunt going on, while those who played were able to enjoy the extra treats and the option of another activity besides dancing.
Naturally, one thing I was nervous about as a designer was not being able to playtest any aspect of this puzzle, given that it was location-based. While this will always be a concern, the key is to keep things simple and well-clued, and double check everything for errors before deployment.
I hope you found this post helpful for your own planning, and if you end up using any part of it, I would love to see and hear about your creation!