A modern guide to baby naming ceremonies
Planning a little get-together to wet the baby's head? Lucy Tallon explores the options
You've had the baby. You've written the thank-you cards. You even got five hours of unbroken sleep last night. And now you're expected to organise an event?! And no ordinary do, but one steeped in tradition. Where do you start? What are the rules? And the shortcuts?
Having done this twice in two years, for my boys Logan and Felix, here are my tips on how to celebrate your baby's arrival without breaking the bank or driving yourself to distraction.
With military timing...
Think carefully about how things will fit in with your baby's routine (although he's bound to wake at 5am that morning and be insatiably hungry all day). It may sound obvious, but don't schedule key moments for when he would normally be asleep, or feeding.
...Something's gotta give
Having said that, don't worry too much if you have to cut a nap a little short, or feed in an unfamiliar place. Babies are adaptable, and you'll have lots of helpers on hand to induce an emergency power nap.
Include readings that mean something to you, or ask the grandparents for suggestions. Talk to whoever leads the service, so they can include tales about your tot's arrival.
...But be prepared
If you want everyone to join in, beware of unwittingly choosing songs or hymns that turn out to have eight million verses, like we did at Felix's christening (For All the Saints, since you ask). And make sure they're not pitched too high...
The humanist option...
If you're not religious, or simply want to let your little one make their own choices later in life, you can get a celebrant from the British Humanist Association. They will lead a service of about 20 minutes, that's not in the least bit hippy dippy, I promise, just really down to earth and all about your family. I attended one recently where a lovely woman reminded us about the difficulties that had been involved in conceiving baby Zach – we all cried and reflected on how wonderful it was that he had arrived.
...Or religious compromise
Don't worry if you and your partner have different religious backgrounds. These days preachers from many faiths will agree to bless the baby in a regular service, rather than undertake the full ritual. It'll still feel like a special day, but you won't have made a commitment you're uncomfortable with.
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.
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...