15 Halloween Etiquette Rules You Didn’t Know You Had to Follow
The ghouls might be gruesome, but your manners shouldn’t be.
If you don’t know what a costume is, don’t guess
There’s one thing you don’t want to say about a child’s DIY costume: accidentally guessing their costume wrong. Any child probably thinks their costume is obvious, so hearing someone misinterpret it after working hard to put it together can be crushing, says etiquette expert “Mister Manners” Thomas P. Farley. Instead, ask the child to tell you about their costume.
Skip the gruesome decorations at the office
Even if you think bloody, ghoulish decorations are good-natured fun, your coworkers might not want to look at those morbid items all day. Stick with autumnal decorations like pumpkins and fall foliage instead, recommends Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. These are the 12 etiquette rules you should follow at all office parties.
Use costumes to your advantage at work
Employees in a stuffy office shouldn’t show up at work in an outrageous costume, but you might be missing an opportunity if you aren’t festive in a more laid-back workplace. “If you do have an office where people aren’t so buttoned-up, I would not be the spoil-sport who shows up in business casual,” says Farley. Getting decked out can show you’re a team player who fits in with company culture, he says. If costumes are a no-no in your company, leave a candy bowl by your desk for a sweet surprise.
Don’t assume everyone shares your sense of humor
A punny costume is always a hit, but never make a joke costume at someone else’s expense. And keep in mind that “offensive” isn’t limited to racial stereotypes or sacrilegious getups. Gottsman has had a client whose coworker dressed up with a “pregnancy belly,” even though another peer had recently experienced a miscarriage. “If you have to ask yourself if it’s offensive, you probably should not wear it,” she says. Instead, try one of these 15 funny Halloween costumes guaranteed to get a laugh.
Keep in mind that culture isn’t a costume
One particularly touchy type of costume: cultural appropriation. No matter how costume-like another culture’s outfits seem to you, wearing them as a Halloween costume demeans those traditions, says Sharon Schweitzer, modern manners expert and cross-cultural business consultant. “In many cultures, each stitch, sandal, makeup application, or earring has significant meanings cultivated for distinct and important purposes,” she says. “Portraying this in any manner that lessens that initial significance can be dehumanizing.” Dressing as a public figure is generally OK, but calling a kimono or fake dreadlocks a costume crosses into the offensive.
Remember that in this day and age, nothing is private
Before you choose a costume, ask yourself if you’d want your boss or grandma to see you in it, even if they won’t be at the party. “If you’re going to be photographed (and you will) and the pictures end up on social media (and they will), is there anything that will come back to haunt you?” says Farley. It might be safest to stay away from anything revealing or outlandish.
Headstone decorations shouldn’t touch a nerve
Fake tombstones are a classic Halloween decoration, but using real names on a headstone could be upsetting, even if it’s tied into the news or celebrity gossip, says Gottsman. Stick with the traditional “R.I.P.” or use a funny epitaph like “Do Not Disturb.” Here are 30 cheap DIY Halloween decorations you can make.
Teach your kids a lesson
In manners, that is. Trick-or-treating is exciting and fun, but your kids will also be interacting with tons of adults. Halloween is a great opportunity to teach young children to be gracious (just one piece of candy!), say “thank you,” and chat with adults before running off, says Farley. Make sure you and your kids know these Halloween safety tips for a safe night of trick-or-treating, too.
Let kids talk about their costumes
Don’t just give out candy and shut the door. Especially if a child has a homemade costume, acknowledge that hard work. “Children hope to be recognized for who they are dressed up as and recognized for the effort they put in,” says Farley. If the parents helped make the costume, they’ll appreciate the compliment too. Get inspired with these cheap Halloween costumes for kids that anyone can DIY.
Keep it quiet
Halloween is all about spooks and shrieks, but there’s a time and a place—and the office isn’t it. “The loud candy bowl that screams at you when you reach in for a treat will get old very quickly,” says Gottsman. Cut out the distractions by using a regular bowl and taking the batteries out of any desk decorations that make noise.