Some of the elements to consider in a baby naming ceremony:
Focus and style
Decide what is going to be the main focus of the ceremony. Is it about naming and welcoming your baby into the family and the community? Or is it more about commitments to be made by parents and godparents? Or is it about connecting with nature and spirituality?
You also need to think about whether you want a structured ceremony or a more jovial, easygoing gathering. This may influence the kind of décor as well. Do you want lots of flowers and ribbons? Or would you prefer balloons? If it’s being held in the evening, will you have fireworks at the end of the ceremony?
Choose a meaningful place. This can be because it’s peaceful, beautiful, has good associations for you or simply because it’s home! If you’re going to hold your celebration in a public space such as the local park, make sure that you have permission (if necessary) and that you won’t be disturbed by the pub football team practice session. If it’s a woodland glade or a beach, you’ll need to make provision for bad weather. Will you have some kind of ‘font’ or centrepiece? If so, will you be able to use something already at the location or will you need to bring your own? If you are outside, will everyone be able to stand or will you need to supply chairs for elderly relatives or mums‐to‐be?
How the guests will be congregated depends on how you want to format the ceremony. If you are in a particular venue such as a hotel or castle, then your choices will be more limited, but if you are outside or at home your choices are greater. Perhaps they will all stand (or sit) facing you and the baby, perhaps they will gather round in a circle. Is there a particular direction you want to face in ‐ for instance, towards the east?
You can lead the ceremony yourself or get someone else to do it. Whichever you choose, make sure you match the tone of your ceremony. A very serious, sentimental celebrant will not fit well with a more jocular ceremony, and a complex ceremony will certainly need a celebrant to keep things flowing.
Supporting Adults or ‘godparents’
Although not strictly necessary, most namings include the ‘appointment’ of a form of non‐religious ‘god‐parent’. This person (or persons) can play many roles in the ceremony. They may take the part of the celebrant, or hold the baby throughout. Usually they will make a promise of some nature to the child.
These may be made by the parents, siblings, supporting adults, family or indeed the entire congregation. Rather like a wedding, they could be made either as a statement or as answers to questions posed by the celebrant. You could ask each person to write their own vows about what they are able to promise, as they’re more likely to remember to honour something they have written themselves.
Readings & Music
The best thing about doing your own naming ceremony is that, should you so wish, you can include both religious/spiritual and non‐religious music and readings. You might want to mix popular hymns such as ‘Morning Has Broken’ with your favourite chart toppers, or include Bible readings with secular works. The key here is to choose music and readings that you love or are important to you ‐ they don’t necessarily have to be specifically about birth or naming. They can also celebrate a love of life, nature, family, or just love itself.
Signifying the naming
You may want to have some kind of central act that symbolises the moment of naming for the baby. Think about the movie ‘The Lion King’ and the moment at which young Simba is lifted up in front of the gathered animals. This ‘significant action’ could be as simple as a round of applause, or more complex, such as all the guests reading out a ‘naming welcome’ to the child. These could run along such lines as ‘We have to come together today to meet (BABY’S NAME) and welcome him/her to the world’ or ‘Let this child be called (BABY’S NAME) and may he/she have a long and happy life with us and all family and friends’.
Other ideas to incorporate into your celebrations:
- Siblings come and take a turn at holding the child, each repeating a promise to look after him or her, or simply repeating the baby’s full name
- A tree is planted, possibly with a plaque to mark the moment
- Ask everyone to sign a book, commemorating the day with a special message for the child to read when he or she grows up
- A toast is made during the ceremony
- Ask guests to file past the baby, each touching or kissing him or her on the head. Or you could walk your baby round your circle of guests.
- The baby is passed from guest to guest and back to the front, each repeating his or her name, greeting him or her by saying “Hello” or perhaps making a small promise, such as ‘We’ll always look after you”.
- Each guest is given a single flower at the beginning of the ceremony, and at a certain point they each come up one by one and ‘give’ them to the baby.
- Throw the floor open to your guests to make ad hoc toasts to the baby’s health and happiness
- If friends and relatives want to make a financial gift to the baby, they may want to offer their gifts during the ceremony.
Who and how to invite, and to what
If there are grandparents they will want to come, and its always a good idea to check whether key guests ‐ such as the supporting adults ‐ will be available for the big day before confirming any bookings or ordering the invitations. Children are almost always honoured guests at Namings.
The baby is the star of the show at a Naming. If you have a traditional family gown then there is no particular reason, as long as it does not offend any close relatives sensibilities, why it should not be worn. However, you may want to put the baby in a completely different outfit altogether to emphasise the difference. The parents, godparents and guests should take their cue from the occasion and venue ‐ a more formal service will demand more formal wear, whereas more informal attire can be worn at a more relaxed church and service.