Not having a Christian service doesn't mean you can't have godparents; in secular services they're often called supporting adults or mentors. When choosing them, focus on the positive role they'll play in your child's life – be it moral guidance, regular babysitting or twice-yearly cheques – and whether their other half will help them remember birthdays!

...And what's in it for them

Don't forget to thank them with a little something on the day, even if it's just a card saying why you admire them and how glad you are they're part of your child's upbringing. Otherwise it's a very one-way street.

Catering commandments...

Do. Not. Cook. Even if it's only for ten people. You won't get to talk to anyone. This is your chance to feel like your old self, to have fun. If you're flush, have it catered. If not, ask everyone to bring a dish, but fork out for someone to wash up. I promise it's worth it.

...And casting the crew

Give people jobs – they want to help. Someone will be longing to show off their baking skills by making you a cake. Assign kids to pass round the crisps. Put grandpa in charge of opening bottles
(as if he needs asking).

Location, location, location...

There's no law that says you can't have a ceremony in your garden, and a bonus of having a lay preacher or humanist celebrant is that they can come to you. Having it at home is cheaper, more personal and more convenient. However, there is just one rule to remember: if you plan to be outside, it will rain.

...Whatever the weather

Whether you plan to be in a temple, church or village hall, remember that big buildings often have their own micro-climates. You don't want a dramatically shivering mother-in-law to upstage the star of the show. If it's hot, a nice stiff order of service sheet makes an excellent fan.

 Plan for the other children...

If the older ones, especially toddlers, are happy, then everyone will be happy. Stickerbooks are a quiet and absorbing activity during the service. Afterwards, lay on something to keep them busy. We've had success spending £100 on a bouncy castle, or you could give £10 to the local toddler group to borrow their toys.

...And then relax

Don't forget that this is, by definition, a child-friendly occasion and many of your friends and family will be parents too. So, unlike a wedding, it doesn't matter if they chatter in the service – and if they do, whoever's in charge will probably find a way of embracing the diversion.

Your wardrobe crisis...

To disguise baby weight, try The White Company or Ghost for nice drapey, bias-cut things. Beware of heels when out of practice – I bent down by the altar to pick something up, while holding Felix, in front of everyone. I very nearly couldn't get up.

...And your baby's

It doesn't matter what the baby wears, so long as you don't put them in it until the very last moment. Make sure it's something that doesn't get rucked up easily, as most photos will be of them held in someone's arms.

Present and correct...

Guests shouldn't feel obliged to bring gifts. If in doubt, they can't go wrong with books, which are inexpensive and personal (especially if they write their name inside, ensuring they'll always be remembered when it's read).

...And properly thanked

Use smart postcards for your thank-you letters – less to write. Keep notes of who gave what, set aside an afternoon and write them! Or they'll hang around until you have your next baby...

 

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