I am asked this question often. So I thought I’d clear things up and hopefully inspire a few people along the way.
What is a Baby Naming Ceremony?
A Baby Naming Ceremony is a non-religious celebration of the birth of a child and an opportunity to ‘officially’ welcome them to world. During the ceremony the parents of the child make statements expressing their commitment to the child and their hopes and dreams for the child’s future. Most ceremonies also include poems, readings, music and/or other symbolic rituals, such as planting a tree. Parents often choose important family members or friends to act as guardians to the child throughout his or her life and these people accept this role as part of the ceremony.
If it’s not a legal ceremony, why would I need a celebrant?
A Baby Naming Ceremony has no legal bearing, but many parents choose to use a Registered Celebrant to help with the planning of the ceremony, drawing on their experience, resources and ideas. While some people will conduct the ceremony themselves or have a trusted family member or friend officiate proceedings, many choose to use a professional celebrant so that they can sit back and enjoy the day.
At what age should we have a Baby Naming Ceremony?
There is no right age to perform a Baby Naming Ceremony. Some may like to hold it soon after the baby is born. Others prefer to wait until the child can take a more active role and is more aware of what’s going on. Many like to do the Naming Ceremony in conjunction with the child’s first birthday.
Fun or formal? Long or short?
Because a Baby Naming Ceremony has no legal bearing, there are no rules! Your ceremony can be anything you like. I encourage families to make it their own, incorporating personal stories and family traditions. It can be something as simple as 5-10 minutes before a backyard BBQ or something more formal or in a special location. However, I would recommend keeping the ceremony no longer than 30 minutes or at least make sure any sections that require the child to participate, even if it’s just a photo opportunity, to be at the beginning of the ceremony as their attention will wander and their patience will run out very quickly.
Can I incorporate religious elements?
Although a Baby Naming Ceremony is not religious, you could still include religious readings or poems if you wish. This is especially nice for inter-faith families. And even if you are having a religious naming ceremony such as a Christening, there is no reason why you can’t incorporate non-religious rituals at a gathering after the official ceremony.
We’d like to have godparents, but we’re not religious.
Many families still nominate ‘godparents’ even if they’re not religious as the name has become very commonly understood as simply meaning, alternate parents/gaurdians for a child. However, if you’re uneasy with using the name ‘godparents’ here are a few alternatives:
- guide parents
- good parents
I have even come across families calling them odd-parents!
For the purpose of this post I will use the name ‘godparents’ as it is the most commonly understood name for this role.
Baby Naming Basics
Basic elements of a Baby Naming Ceremony include:
- Parents state their love and commitment to the child and declare their hopes for the future.
- Explanation of why the child’s name was chosen, what it’s meaning is.
- Explanation of why godparents have been chosen.
- Godparents make a statement that they will be there for the child whenever they are needed.
- Parents/celebrant state why godparents have been chosen.
Music, poems and other readings are often also included in a ceremony. A Google search will give you many, many ideas and options for these. If you like a particular song, you can either play it as music (eg. background music while planting a tree) or take lyrics from the song to read them out. Feel free to change the wording of songs and poems to suit your situation. One of my personal favourites is ‘Oh the places you’ll go’ by Dr Seuss.
Ways to make your ceremony extra special
There are so many lovely rituals you can include in your ceremony to make it special and memorable for all involved. However, it’s easy to get carried away. Although there are hundreds of great ideas, it’s best to just pick one or two, otherwise your ceremony will become too long and complicated, and therefore not enjoyable. Not to mention, you need to remember a very small child is involved, and we know how unpredictable they can be.
Choose something that has relevance to you, suits your setting and doesn’t ask anything of your guests that they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing.
Here are some, but by no means all of the rituals you can incorporate into your ceremony:
- Plant a tree (symbolising new life, strength, protection and wisdom).
- Ask all guests to sign a book with their wishes for the child.
- Bury a Time Capsule. Include items of significance to the child or ask guests to bring or write something to include.
- Make an artwork or quilt (for the crafty family).
- Light a candle to represent the presence of a loved one who has passed (eg. grandparents)
- Guests to write a note to the child and either read them out as part of the ceremony or keep as a memento.
- Have a wishing tree where guests write a note and tie it to the tree. This idea would work well in conjunction with a tree planting (they could add notes after the tree has been planted in the official ceremony).
- Parents give the child a gift (necklace, bracelet, charm) which guests can ‘bless’ by passing it around before it is presented.
- Include other children in the ceremony by having them kiss the child, sing a song or read a poem.
- Create a board with photos of the child, their birth date, star sign + attributes, meaning of their name etc. This will create a nice talking point for your guests and a memento to keep for the child.
- Have a smash cake. Great fun for your child, great entertainment for your guests and a great photo opportunity for lasting memories.
- Make handprints and footprints of the child as a memento of the day.
- Instead of presents ask guests to bring one of their favourite children’s books to start a library for your child. Most people will write a message in the book which can be read by your child for years to come.
- Write a letter to your child which can be read out as part of the ceremony and kept as a memento.
- Release balloons (representing a celebration of life and hope for the future). Particularly fun for children.
The Celebrant’s role
I love working with families to create ceremonies that are truly unique to them, suit their personalities and are meaningful and memorable for all involved, including the guests.
My services include:
- Consultation with you and your child to get to know you and discover what type of ceremony you would like.
- Provide ceremony wording options which can be adapted to suit your child and family.
- Suggest readings, poems, music and rituals.
- Perform the ceremony in a professional and friendly manner.
- Present your child with a certificate to commemorate the day and provide a copy of the ceremony to keep as a memento.