This service was initiated by the Church of England in 1999 as a response to a demand for a religious‐oriented but non‐committal ceremony. This service is not the same as Baptism (sometimes called Christening), which is the sacrament of initiation into membership of the Church, the Body of Christ.
Who is it for
It is designed for parents who see this as a preliminary to baptism, parents who do not wish their children to be baptised immediately, or others who do not want to baptise their child into the Church, but recognise that the birth is something for which they wish to offer thanks to God. It is perfect for people who do not attend Church regularly themselves, but still have a belief in God.
A register is kept of children who have had a thanksgiving service, which is separate from the baptismal register, and the child receives a certificate of the ceremony. Although no godparents are involved, there is still a role for supporting adults, who may make a similar commitment to the child and the family, but they do not have to commit to teaching the child Christianity in the same way as the godparents. During the ceremony itself, one of the supporting adults may present the baby to the minister and make a promise to care for the child. For more information, contact your parish vicar.
The service itself takes place in the church, but afterwards guests are customarily invited to the parents home or a nearby hotel for a meal, which is often a buffet or summer tea kind of affair. A marquee is a great way to extend your home to include more guests and entertainment.
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 ceremonies involving babies.
There is no reason why a baby should not wear a traditional Christening gown for this ceremony, although equally they could also just wear their best outfit. The parents, godparents and guests should take their cue from the occasion and venue ‐ a more formal service and church will demand more formal wear, whereas more informal attire can be worn at a more relaxed church and service.