We asked some top Celebrant’s to tell us all about their thoughts on Naming ceremonies.
They just LOVE them and have revealed some of their favourite (and exciting!) moments from ceremonies they’ve had the pleasure of officiating…
First up, Yorkshire based Celebrant Deborah Page from True to You Celebrancy.
Tell us a bit about your favourite Naming ceremony and why it was your top choice.
My favourite ceremony has to be the one held for a couple who were quite nervous about having a naming ceremony. Neither parent identified with a religion. We had a few meetings so that they had the opportunity to ask questions. I spent a lot of time talking them through what a celebrant could do, getting the right balance of gravitas to respect the formal ceremony, with lightheartedness and humour to reflect their personalities. They chose 8, yes 8, guide parents.
I turned up on the day totally unprepared for well over 200 guests! The room had been decorated and looked stunning. There was a palpable buzz in the air. Lots of young children. My immediate reaction was “good grief. How on earth am I going to manage the ‘audience’ here?’. I announced the start of the formalities and we held the actual ceremony. All the guide parents received a big cheer and a round of applause as they read their individual promises to the baby.
The parents were quite emotional reading out their promises to their daughter. We were then all trumped as her older sister, only 3 1/2 herself, did a reading. The room erupted when she finished. We ended with a toast to baby. Why is it my favourite? The love. There was so much energy and love in the room. What a lucky young girl. She will do just fine in life.
Have you had any unusual requests?
I was asked if it was OK to have the family pet dog at one ceremony. He came and was wearing a bow tie! They say ‘never work with animals and children’, but I have been very lucky and even the dog was well behaved, if a little perplexed by it all. The beauty of a celebrant led ceremony is that it really can be anything you want.
What has been the best reading or song used in one of your Naming Ceremonies?
My personal favourite is Dr Seuss “Oh the places you’ll go”. For me, it has the right blend of informality and meaningfulness. It summarises all those hopes and aspirations that we hold for our children. It describes in a beautiful, yet witty way, the way that life will take them to some wonderful and strange places as they journey from start to finish. As a celebrant, I find his writing style lends itself to being performed out loud, it is utterly engaging.
At a recent ceremony I was was also captured by this reading sourced by the mother of the baby, to be read by her older sister who was only 3 1/2! She absolutely rocked it and stood me, her parents and Guideparents up good and proper.
Has the child always been well-behaved?!
Yes! Several very chilled babies luckily. Some of the children in the ‘audience’ have been a little spritely. One was found hidden under a table having secreted a rather large piece of Trinidadian rum cake to eat. He was certainly a bit tipsy!
What are some top tips for parents organizing a ceremony?
1. Send a formal invitation to your guests. Make a distinction between the start of the ‘formal’ ceremony and any subsequent party.
2. Remember that a naming ceremony is just as valid as a traditional Christening. It is NOT second best.
3. Don’t feel obliged to add any content in the ceremony that you are not comfortable with. It is your day, just like your wedding. It should reflect you.
4. Think carefully about who you want as guideparents. Make them feel special. Tell them what the qualities are that made you chose them. These can be very special personal attributes, it can can also be funny aspects of their personalities.
5. Ask anybody you want to be actively involved in the ceremony what they feel comfortable doing. They don’t want to be surprised or shocked to arrive and be given something to read out if they are not feeling confident enough to do that.
6. Bring a memory book so that guests can write inspirational messages to your baby.
7. Most celebrants send a first draft of the ceremony. Don’t be shy if you want to make changes. We welcome them. Getting the ceremony just right for you is most important.
8. Dress up! Celebrate. This is an important day and one that should bring you fond memories in years to come.
Why do you think parents should have a Naming Ceremony for their child?
Like weddings, there are many misunderstandings about Christenings and naming ceremonies. There is no legal requirement to have either. They are a cultural, religious or symbolic ceremony. In my experience, many parents think that a formal Christening or nothing is their only choice. If you do not identify with a particular religion, a naming ceremony is the perfect way to celebrate the birth of your child and formally introduce them to your family and friends.
It creates a space to formally recognise those people that you have chosen to have a special role in your child’s life. Particularly helpful if your chosen guide parents are also not religious and would not wish to stand up in a church to make promises that are not true to them and their beliefs.
A naming ceremony can be anything you want it to be. The content can be written with your celebrant to reflect the core beliefs and values that are important you. These are the things that you will, as parents, hand down to your child. Unlike a church christening, a naming ceremony can be held anywhere you would want it to be held. You can have a symbolic ritual such as lighting a candle, choose readings that are personal to you and involve as many people as you wish in the ceremony.
Naming ceremonies may also be right for parents who hail from different religions. They can be the perfect way to make reference to both religions without committing to one place of worship and religious ceremony. They are also a great way to formally welcome and introduce an adopted child. I have worked with a young man who had a naming ceremony to celebrate the completion of his gender transitioning.
Photographer Credits: Amber Varghese Photography