Q: What is the difference between a christening and a thanksgiving service in the Church of England? A: This service was initiated in 1999 by the Church of England as…
Written by Paula Jones Last updated: June 6, 2006
Christening and naming ceremonies are essentially times when family and close friends get together. A party thrown to celebrate the occasion will probably have one of the widest age ranges — from the baby to grandparents and beyond.
Christenings and naming ceremonies tend to be regarded as the time when a child is officially named, the only difference being that one is a religious ceremony, the other non-religious. A Christening, or Baptism, is a religious service in which a child is introduced into the Church. Naming ceremonies, on the other hand, were created by the British Humanist Association as an opportunity for non-religious parents to welcome their child into the world and publicly say something about their intentions for the benefit of the family. For more information visit humanism.org.uk.
To a certain extent, the date will be determined by whether you want a religious or secular ceremony. Christening services tend to be held at the end of a regular Sunday service and the party tends to roll on afterwards into the afternoon and end early evening. A Naming ceremony, however, is more a service and party all rolled into one and can be held on any day of the week, at any time. Neither, however, needs to be held within any particular period of the birth — it’s quite common nowadays to see two or more children from the same family christened together.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about the number of people to invite. It can be a small affair with only close family members and godparents or, in the case of a naming ceremony, the adults you want to have a strong presence in your child’s future. Alternatively, you may want to have a larger gathering that includes neighbours and even work colleagues.
As the party tends to follow on after the church service, it makes sense for the venue to be nearby, ideally walking distance. If you can’t get (or don’t fancy) the church hall, there’s a lot to be said for choosing an informal venue such as your house or even a pub with a garden. Chances are there will be other children present, and a more a more casual setting means that they can run around and enjoy themselves, too.
These need to go out about a month beforehand to ensure that people are free. Family will often travel long distances to attend a Christening, so it’s worth including details of local B&B’s and hotels for those who may want to stay overnight.
If you’ve gone for the at-home option, a simple buffet or food that can be eaten on you knees is ideal. If the christening is being held in the summer, you could turn it into a barbecue. Remember to lay on soft drinks for the children and drivers.
While the adults may be happy to listen to some music playing in the background, the kids will quickly get bored. If possible, set up your TV and video in a separate room for them. If you know that a lot of kids will be present and you have a large garden, it may be worth booking something like a bouncy castle — it will keep them (and a few of the adults) occupied for hours.
You need to meet your local vicar as soon as possible to arrange for your baby’s baptism. Once the day has been confirmed, it’s a good idea to confirm any other bookings, such as the function room in the pub.
If you’re having a religious ceremony, you’ll need to check that the child’s godparents are free to attend. Equally, it’s worth checking all grandparents are free, together with close family members and friends.