Friday 6 February 2015

Christening etiquette and expectations for new parents

A child's christening, often called a baptism, is an important milestone. It is during this ceremony that a child is welcomed into the Christian community and parents are presented with an opportunity to commit to raising their child in the faith. The rite of passage should be navigated with care, but many parents may approach the event with a bit of confusion. Between selecting godparents and other important etiquette, new parents need to learn a thing or two before setting up this important event in their child's life.

Who to Invite 

The christening ceremony is typically held at a church, often as a part of a mass. In other cases, however, a baptism may take place privately at the church. It's common to invite grandparents and other close family members to a christening, and the godparents should always be included. Godparents are typically a family member or close friend, and they should always be asked to accept the responsibility well before the baptism. If the baptism is a part of a regular mass, parents should always consult with the clergy before inviting a lot of people. If the ceremony is private, it's usually alright to invite a larger number of guests. Invitations should be sent out at least two weeks beforehand.


Babies wear white christening gowns that symbolize purity at their baptism, such as those found on Adults who attend should respect the importance of the event by wearing church-appropriate clothing, such as modest dresses, black slacks, and button-down shirts.

What Happens at the Ceremony? 

Each christening ceremony may differ slightly based on the denomination of the faith and the parents' preferences. In general, however, the ceremony will always include certain imperative elements. The parents will publicly commit to raising the child in the Christian faith, and the member of the clergy performing the ceremony will pray over the child, welcoming him to the church. The godparents will also be addressed and they too will commit to raising the child in the church. The clergy will sprinkle the baby with holy water, and a candle may also be lit.

Gift Etiquette 

Parents should be expected to receive gifts from friends and family. Gifts are often related to Christianity, such as a crucifix necklace or other religiously themed items. While most parents do not sign up for a proper registry, guests are likely to bring gifts, especially if a reception or party is held following the ceremony. Thank you cards should be sent to each person who brought or sent a gift celebrating this special event.

Christenings are not only an important religious milestone for a young child, but also a chance for parents to recommit to their own faith. Parents can make the baptism a small family affair, or open it up as a celebration with their entire congregation. In any case, new parents should plan the event before their child's first birthday, and adhere to the church's recommendations for baptism etiquette and ceremony traditions.

Steven Volz works as a family counselor and is a father of three young children. Whenever he gets the time, he likes to sit down and share his insights and experiences with others. You can find his articles on many of today's best websites and blogs. 

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