So you’re attending a christening soon, but what is the correct christening etiquette to follow? With our ever-changing multicultural world, religious traditions and ceremonies are not always common knowledge, and so we’re here to help with a handy guide to help get you through the occasion.
From what to expect on the day, to ideas of what to wear, this handy list of our top tips will guide you through the pitfalls and expectations of being at this lovely celebration. Our personalised baby books make great gifts for the occasion, but we’ll also give you the best tips on how to make the most of this special day.
If you’re the hosts, don’t scroll past, it might just be worth brushing up on your own etiquette as many of the tips below are for you too!
Advice for Parents
So you’ve decided to host a christening for your little one, whether you’re very religious, or are just looking to have your baby become part of the local community, this is a brilliant way of gathering your loved ones together to celebrate the arrival of this little one into the world.
The first thing you need to do is contact the head of your place of worship. Even within the same denominations, rules can vary massively from church to church as the choice of who is christened there is often up to the vicar or priest in charge. Some may request you attend church for a certain time both before and after the ceremony, while others are happy for you to be an unseen part of their community. Either way, be sure you’re happy and that the church is happy too before you decide on a date and start choosing godparents.
Invites and R.S.V.P.s
When sending out invites, as with every occasion, these should be done well in advance so that people can plan accordingly. If receiving an invite, your response should be given as soon as possible so that parents can do the following in advance of the christening:
- Contact their church to decide a suitable date
- Speak to church administrators and/or clergy to make sure the number of attendees can be accommodated
- Before sending the invites, parents hosting should let the church know how many people they intend to invite – RSVPs will help with confirming the exact number closer to the date
Know What You’re Invited To
You may find that the words baptism and christening are interchangeable within some Christian Denominations, whereas in others the terms are more strictly used. The term Christening is used for the naming ceremony as ‘christen’ means to ‘give a name’. Baptism is the ceremony where someone is accepted as a member of the church.
Often one ceremony results in the other, where a child is named and also accepted as a member of the church’s congregation, but if you’re worried about using the wrong term, the best thing to do is use the term on the host family uses. You can also ask a member of the church, who will be more than happy to help you.
Show Up On Time
Punctuality is key when attending a christening. Parents may have arranged reserved seating so the christening party can sit together, and so showing up early saves embarrassment of not knowing where you’re supposed to sit. Some baptisms take place during a church service, it is good baptism etiquette to respect this and a late guest would disrupt the worship of those already in attendance. You are not only a guest of the host parents, but a guest of the congregation.
What to Wear
What’s considered appropriate attire can vary widely from church to church. Many Catholic churches have a strict dress-code where women’s shoulders cannot be exposed, so bear this in mind when selecting what to wear. The best thing to do is to play it safe, a smart dress or blouse with a skirt or smart trousers will allow you to dress up without being inappropriate. If it’s cold or you’re worried about exposed shoulders a smart jacket or blazer will help. Men are a little easier as a shirt, tie and smart trousers will always be a classic look. If you’re part of the host family, or becoming a godfather or sponsor, a suit can also be worn. If taking your children with you, dress them smartly, and refrain from wearing trainers.
The baby (or child) of honour may be dressed in a traditional christening gown, which can often be an heirloom outfit which has been passed down through generations. Often this means an outfit change both before and after the service to keep this special outfit as pristine as possible.
Godparents and Sponsors
Parents will be tasked with making the choice of who they would like to serve as their proxy, should they be unable to provide religious support for their child. If that person has been christened or baptised within the church, they will become the child’s godmother or godfather. If that person has not been baptised themselves, they can still provide that support, and will be known as the child’s sponsor.
If you’re chosen to be a godparent or sponsor, it is a great sign of trust from the child’s parents and is a great honour. Regardless of your own religious beliefs, it means that they want you to be a part of their child’s life. Though godparents are traditionally spiritual guides, they are seen to be a form of aunt or uncle who form a special bond with the child.
Whether you’re from another denomination, religion, or are atheist, you have been chosen to celebrate an important day, and should show respect for the family’s choice. If you’re attending the christening of more than one child, it may be that a special service is arranged, or it may be the case that the christening takes place within a regularly scheduled service, either way you should be sure to show due regard to the church’s customs, even if they are unfamiliar to you.
Dressing appropriately and staying quiet throughout the ceremony are the main things you can do to show respect. Within the service there may be occasions where the congregation are requested to stand, sit or kneel and it is always respectful to follow suit. Church services often include hymns and songbooks will often be provided, so be sure to sing along when you can.
Make a Donation
It doesn’t have to be much, but most churches rely heavily on donations from their community to keep running. If you’ve some loose change kicking around that would only be wasted getting lost in the back of your couch, take it along and add it to the church’s donation box, or there may be a plate passed round during one of the hymns in the service.
Attend the Reception
As with most religious services, there is often a set itinerary for the event itself. This often means that the hosts will hold a reception following the ceremony itself. Sometimes there will be food, drinks and even a disco, but with such a young person at the centre of the celebration, you shouldn’t expect to be partying too late into the evening. This is the place for you to mingle with friends and family, as well as a time to give any gifts you may have brought.
Baptism Gift Ideas
Traditional gifts for a baptism are often religious themed, and something the child can treasure for many years to come. Crosses, candles and bibles can all be all given as traditional gifts as well as gifts which can be saved for the child’s future; such as glassware or money boxes. Silver, such as a decorative spoon, bracelet or photo frame can make a great gift, but if you’re looking for something a but more unique, our personalised nursery rhyme book makes the ideal gift as it includes the child’s name on each page as well as the opportunity to add your message for them on the opening page.
Whatever your religious beliefs, a baptism is a wonderful tradition which surrounds a baby with the love of friends and family alike. Regardless of your own culture and beliefs, there’s no better sentiment than that.