The Pros & Cons of the Family Costume

family costume family costume

Not to brag, but I’ve put together some pret-ty good Halloween costumes in my life. The most epic, however, was the year my husband and I decided to dress up as Family Guy’s Peter and Lois Griffin and outfit our then 10-month-old son as the show’s villainous big-headed baby, Stewie. Hunting down all the clothes and accessories was fun (if a bit pricey) and everyone knew who we were supposed to be right away. We were so committed to the look that I dyed my hair an intense red and my husband even shaved off his signature beard (marking the first time I’d seen his bare face IRL).

This year, our son is almost three and we’re planning another family costume: the Where the Wild Things Are crew. We figured if we’re going to take the book’s protagonist Max trick-or-treating anyway, why not get in on the fun and be Wild Things? Plus: the pics.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of a family Halloween costume. But it’s not all fun and games. Okay, it’s mostly fun and games, but it still takes planning and money and everyone being all in. And even when everyone is all in, this endeavor is not without its challenges. So before you commit to a family costume, you may want to take stock.

PRO: Nobody can back out.

Even in the best of times, life is busy. Between… well…. *everything* there’s always some fire to put out or bodily fluid to clean up. The truth is, there are all kinds of (totally legitimate) things that can pull us away from family time. But not on Halloween when a when a group costume is on the line! Goldilocks can’t go trick-or-treating with only two bears, and a washing machine and toddler-size laundry soap are nothing without a grown man dressed as a dryer!

CON: Nobody can back out.

When I say nobody can back out, that includes you, Mama. Yep, even if it’s 37 degrees and everyone in the house is on their last pair of clean underwear and you have a big presentation in the morning, you’re just going to have to suck it up. Once you’ve committed to the family costume, there’s no turning back.

PRO: It’s easier for people to guess your costumes.

Is a joke even funny if you have to explain it? Is a costume any good if no one knows who you’re supposed to be? Without Wayne, Garth might be mistaken for Kurt Cobain. And without the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood is a just a sad, super-timely handmaid. Having to explain your costume all night is lame, but when the whole family is in on it, you get to strut around with all the context you need.

CON: Oh, Wait! Without your whole group, no one knows who/what the eff you are.

Context. Is. Everything. On our night out as the Griffins, my husband and I went out after trick-or-treating, and we quickly realized that without Stewie, our Peter and Lois just looked like a bunch of poorly-dressed weirdos. I was really self- conscious about it, until finally our server guessed correctly. (And yes, she got a really big tip.)

CON: It can get pricey.

Why buy pre-made costumes when you can DIY for three times the price and nine times the trouble, amirite? Scraping together a costume — whether it’s for yourself, your kids, or both — always seems like a smart financial move. That is until you (and yes, Mama, it will be YOU doing all the planning and buying) get down to the wire and realize your only option for big-and-tall emerald green pants is going to cost you $50 plus another $40 for express shipping. And by that point you’re already in way too deep to change course.

PRO: The pictures (and memories) are priceless.

The family that looks ridiculous together sticks together, right? (Right!) No matter what hoops you had to jump through to get there — and there are always hoops — the bonding and memories are worth it. Plus, when you pull off a good family costume, you really do win Halloween. (Even if you have to wait six weeks for your husband’s beard to grow back.)

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Emily Farris lives in Kansas City, MO with her burly husband, toddler son, and two rowdy rescue mutts. She's written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and The Cut. When not busy cleaning up somebody's pee, she's posting about drinks and home decor on Instagram @thatemilyfarris.