What’s in a name?

A modern-day christening can take many forms.

By Donna Fleming

When it comes to christenings, you won’t get any grander than Prince George’s next week. The three-month-old son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will be christened at St James’ Palace, in what is expected to be a very traditional ceremony. But your baby’s special day doesn’t have to be elaborate, or religious either. Go for a service that is tailored to your family and beliefs.

Why do it?

If you’re Christian, a christening marks the beginning of bringing up your child in the Christian faith. It involves you and their godparents making promises about raising them as Christians, and they will be welcomed into the Christian church. Others opt for a non-religious service, sometimes known as a naming ceremony, to welcome their baby to their world. They want some kind of ritual to acknowledge their child and their commitment to bringing them up, and to appoint people who will play a part in their child’s development.

At what age?

There are no hard and fast rules about when a christening or naming ceremony is held, although some churches may stipulate an age your child should be. Many parents try to arrange it in the first six months of their child’s life, or else before they turn one. Organising the ceremony and a get-together afterwards can seem daunting when you’ve got a small baby and you’re sleep-deprived, and many parents put it off. It is not unusual to have several children from the same family christened when they are older. One thing that may have a bearing is whether the child will wear a family gown that has been passed down through the generations. Make sure it fits!

Make a plan

If you are opting for a traditional Christian service, your minister will guide you on what is involved, such as readings that can be given, and vows the parents and godparents will be asked to make about their own faith, and how they will raise the baby in the church. The little one will be baptized with water from the font. In alternative ceremonies, there are still promises made about the baby’s welfare and non-religious poems or readings.

Top tips:

• Have a guest book for everyone at the christening or naming ceremony to sign and leave a message with their best wishes for the baby.

• If the thought of catering a reception after the service is overwhelming, hold a picnic or pot-luck lunch – ask guests to bring a plate instead of a gift.

• If you’re holding a naming ceremony at home, maybe plant a tree as a symbolic gesture.

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