A Naming Ceremony is an event at which a person is officially assigned a name.  This is in addition  to registering a birth and is undertaken at a separate time.  Simply put, a Naming Ceremony is a symbolic celebration that requires no licences and has no legalities.

When does a naming ceremony take place?

When the naming ceremony is held can vary from shortly after the birth of a baby to several months or even years after. Many people have combined a ceremony, for example, with a child’s first birthday, but children of any age can have a naming ceremony.   Often parents who have a religious background or faith will choose to have a Christening Service for their child where the child is named. For parents who feel that this is not right for them there is the option of a naming ceremony.  Naming ceremonies are usually not held in a church and don’t usually include religious content.  It is a celebration of family and life.

Why have a naming ceremony?

In the UK, the introduction of Naming Ceremonies has been credited to Lord Young of Darlington who felt that these ceremonies would be important to families. In 1998 the introduction of Baby Naming Ceremonies was introduced by Jack Straw who was the Home Secretary at the time.  The Baby Naming Ceremonies were seen as a non-religious answer to the reduction in the number of Church Baptisms.  You may not want a traditional christening but want to acknowledge the importance of your new arrival in front of family and friends.   Commemorating the birth of a child is recognised as an important occasion and one which prompts our human need for ritual.

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What format does a naming ceremony take?

A Naming ceremony can take any format you wish from being a simple welcome to the world, a formal naming of your child, or a blessing for your baby and family.  You can also use the occasion to make certain promises and commitments to your child, and for the other important people in your child’s life to make their promises to them and give you and your child their support.  You can include lots of your friends and family in the ceremony itself and you may involve them by getting them to read poems or give readings.

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How long does a naming ceremony last?

A Naming Ceremony may last about 30 minutes and can be organised by the parents or held by a celebrant.  A Celebrant will have lots of ideas and suggestions for you and know how to include any special activities you want to include in your ceremony.  A Celebrant will also provide you with commemorative certificates for your child and supporting adults which gives a lovely feeling of the ceremony being official.

Where can you hold the ceremony?

You can hold your ceremony in any location – your home or garden, a local park, beach, the village hall, a hotel or hired venue – just make sure you have permission.

How much does a naming ceremony cost?

This depends on who will be leading the ceremony.  A fee for a celebrant may be around £200 – £250 and will include working with you to write the script, write the vows and craft the service, provide certificates and a copy of all the content of the ceremony.  After that it will depend on venue and catering costs for example.  A ceremony done in the garden or your home where you have a bring and share meal will obviously be much less expensive than hiring a venue and paying for the food and drink and entertainment for all your guests.  The choice is yours, the ceremony can be tailored to all budgets.

What to call naming day Godparents?

Traditionally Godparents were chosen to guide a child in their spiritual journey through life and take over custody of the child if anything happened to the parents.  Today we have mostly lost the responsibility to take over from the parents.  However, despite this, Godparents can have an important role today.

Many families today live miles apart and don’t always have the support network that families did in past generations, so it can be increasingly important to have close friends around you when your children are growing up who you know you can turn to for support and advice and maybe the occasional babysitting!  Using a formal naming ceremony, it can be lovely to honour and recognise those who mean the most to you, despite the ceremony having no legal or contractual requirements.

Alternatives that you could use for naming day Godparents for your child could be guideparents, mentor, or supporting adults.  Although at the end of the day it is more about the promises made for a lifelong and special relationship with the child than it is about an alternative name.

Some naming day ideas.

Your ceremony could involve readings, poems as well as symbolic rituals.  All messages to the child, poems and readings could be stored somewhere safe for the child to read in when they are older and they open up the messages, they know how loved they are.

Or you could get your guests to write a wish for your child which you can then put in a time capsule  for their 18th or 21st birthday, or put in a scrapbook of the day.  The guests could also read them out during the ceremony.  Each wish just needs to be a few words long such as:-

‘ I wish for (Name of child) a long and healthy life.’

‘ I wish for (Name of child) true friends and loving relationships.’

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Grandparents may have an important role in the ceremony, they could do a reading during the ceremony and you or the celebrant if they are leading your ceremony could speak about how much each of their grandparents means to the families and the child.

There are other rituals you could consider such as lighting candles where you make a wish for the child as you light each one, releasing balloons, planting a tree to watch the tree grow as your child grows.

You could conclude with the signing of the certificates and then move on to celebrations whether with cake or with fizz!  Remember there are no rules.

The choice is yours.

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Valerie Marshall, Independent Celebrant

Providing Wedding, Naming, Renewal of Vows and Funeral Ceremonies.