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15 Halloween Etiquette Rules You Didn’t Know You Had to Follow

The ghouls might be gruesome, but your manners shouldn't be.

Young kids trick or treating during HalloweenRawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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.


Halloween in the officeZelma Brezinska/Shutterstock

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.

halloweenLook Studio/Shutterstock

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. The history of these Halloween traditions will give you the chills.

Pregnant woman with large pumpkin. Healthy concept. Close upDasha Petrenko/Shutterstock

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.

Geta sandal as one of the most popular japanese classic shoe under white background in studioZulAzri Zainal/Shutterstock

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. Find out the most popular Halloween costume the year you were born. 

Smiling blonde woman in halloween make up posing with carved pumpkin and looking away over gray backgroundDean Drobot/Shutterstock

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.

Halloween decorations of tombstones and hands reaching out of the ground in front of houseSvineyard/Shutterstock

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.

Little children trick or treating on HalloweenRawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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.

Two smiling little sisters dressed in costumes of black cats. Two children laugh fun. Children's holiday.Vitalinka/Shutterstock

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.

cropped view of child in witch costume of witch holding bowl full of halloween sweets, isolated on blackLightField Studios/Shutterstock

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.

young beautiful sexy gothic girl in sunglasses changed into a witch for halloween, holds in her hands a magic wandnelen/Shutterstock

Be part of your teen’s costume planning


Parents should stick to their values on Halloween when it comes to their kids’ offensive or revealing outfit choices. “If it’s something you would not let [your child] wear any other time of the year, I would not allow that on Halloween,” says Farley. But you also don’t want to wait until your teen is dressed and ready to leave before finding out they have to switch the costume they’ve been working on, he says. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, chat with your kids about what they’ll be wearing and offer to help them put their costume together. That way, neither of you will be surprised. For ideas, check out these 17 clever last-minute Halloween costumes.

Halloween outdoor decoration in the garden with decorated by fake skull in evening light, bones hands for old American or English trick-or-treat Halloween tradition, Halloween background conceptAnn in the uk/Shutterstock

Skip the haunted house


Homemade haunted houses are a fun tradition, but they also pose a risk. “When taking strangers into your home, you don’t know what could possibly happen to you or to them,” says Farley. If you don’t want to give up your annual scare-fest, keep your creepiest decorations outside or host a child-free party with a designated haunted room, he suggests.

Halloween background of mixed candies, orange and black themeJeniFoto/Shutterstock

Be mindful of allergies


Ideally, you should include all trick-or-treaters by handing out candies that kids with nut allergies can still enjoy, says Gottsman. If you do want to hand out Snickers and Peanut M&Ms, she suggests having a second basket with treats that won’t trigger any allergies. Be mindful not just of nuts, but other common allergies like gluten and milk. Learn some facts you didn’t know about Halloween candy.

Little kids at a Halloween partyRawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Make sure everyone is invited


Plenty of people choose not to celebrate Halloween, whether for religious or personal reasons. Of course, you should never tease anyone or pressure them into festivities they’re not comfortable with, but you also shouldn’t make assumptions about where they draw the line. Extend an invitation to your Halloween party, but stress that you understand if they choose not to attend, says Gottsman. “You just want them to know they are included,” she says. Even when Halloween is over, these are 50 etiquette rules you should always practice.