How To Plan a Naming Ceremony

Planning a Non Religious Christening For Our Twins

If you don’t hold any religious beliefs, a naming ceremony is the perfect way to celebrate the birth of your baby. Or to welcome an adopted child into the family. As my husband and I are not religious, we would have felt hypocritical to have our sons Christened in a church. So a non religious Christening is what we chose.

A naming day ceremony is the perfect, secular way to mark a child’s arrival in a significant way. A naming day — or non religious Christening — is as significant as a baptism or Christening, whilst holding a little more gravitas than a party.

Is a Naming Ceremony the Same As a Christening?

Naming ceremonies — unlike Christenings — can be held wherever you like; at home, in the park, a garden, village hall etc.

As I mentioned in my previous post about the twins’ naming day celebration we had chosen to host the day at our friend’s home.

Staverton Hall has a gorgeous double-length drawing room, which was perfect for the ceremony. Then we held the reception in a marquee in the garden.

You do not need to conduct a non religious naming ceremony on a licensed premises. Plus they can be performed, simply, by a family member. Or if you want to go down a more formal route, which we did, you can contact The British Humanist Association or the AOIC – The Association of Independent Civil Celebrants.

We chose the latter and I contacted three local celebrants in our area to find out about what they had to offer.

You do not need to conduct a non religious naming ceremony on a licensed premises.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
A naming ceremony is the perfect, secular way to mark a child's arrival in a significant way. A naming day — or non religious Christening — is as significant as a baptism or Christening, whilst holding a little more gravitas than a party.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

How Much Does a Naming Ceremony Cost?

As you could get a family member to perform your ceremony, and you can hold them anywhere — even at home — the naming ceremony could cost nothing at all!

But we wanted our twin’s naming day to be a day to really remember, so we wanted an official humanist celebrant to perform the ceremony.

There was quite a disparity in the prices I was quoted! Almost £100 from the cheapest to the most expensive. But in the end, we didn’t go with the most cost-effective option. Instead, we chose the person who offered the best package for us and the one we felt most comfortable with.

Our celebrant for the twin’s naming ceremony came to the house for a face-to-face meeting. The other two didn’t offer this service but chose to conduct their dealings with us via phone and email.

The fact that we would get to meet our chosen celebrant before the naming day was fairly important to Mr D and me. This is why we finally decided on Peter Wyllie.

We discussed the kind of non-religious naming ceremony we wanted, the tone and format of the day, whether we wanted readings or music, etc…

Our celebrant for the twin's naming ceremony came to the house for a face-to-face meeting; the other two didn't offer this service but chose to conduct their dealings with us via phone and email.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

What Happens at a Naming Ceremony?

Ultimately, as a naming ceremony is non-religious, it can be tailored to suit you and your family. You can choose the format, whether you want it to be more formal/informal etc. My husband and I expressed the importance of the actual ceremony to our celebrant. Although we wanted a happy, informal day, it was vital to Dickie and me that the ceremony itself conveyed the importance of why we were doing it.

To almost have the same solemnity of our marriage vows.

Having the ceremony separate from the reception certainly gave more of a sense of occasion. We were able to seat the adults with children sitting on laps or the floor, which made it feel a little more informal.

Peter, the celebrant, was a born entertainer and conducted the naming ceremony with ease. Explaining to our guests what the relevance of the day meant. He said that: ‘In almost all cultures, in every country, humans hold ceremonies to mark the more important stages of life.’

He went on to say that we, as parents, will dedicate our lives to the upbringing of our boys through a series of promises. Making these promises in front of our friends and family will help us keep them.

Celebrant, Peter Wylie, conducting the twins' naming ceremony.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

Do You Have Godparents at a Naming Ceremony?

Again, this is up to you.

As we don’t hold any religious beliefs, we opted to choose ‘guideparents’ rather than godparents. But essentially, it’s the same role — just without the religious connotations.

You might consider not having any at all, but instead, your celebrant could announce that everyone present at the ceremony is part of your child’s support network.

But, for us, the naming ceremony gave us a real opportunity to officially appoint the boy’s guide parents and other significant adults. The people we trust to will look out for the boys and guide them on their journey through life.

Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

How Long Does a Naming Ceremony Last?

Our naming ceremony was pretty short — 15-20 minutes in total.

The content was personal and meaningful. There was no fire and brimstone. No lengthy sermon about something unrelated, which invariably happens in a church-based Christening. Strangely enough, most of our guests had never been to a secular ceremony, of this kind before, and everyone thought it was beautiful. And much more personal than a religious Christening.

Peter welcomed the guests and explained what the naming ceremony was about.

Then we moved on to the candle lighting.

The twins naming ceremony gave us a real opportunity to officially appoint the boy's guide parents and other significant adults.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

Candle Lighting

This was a lovely part of the ceremony.

Upon making our vows to the twins, their dad and I — plus the boys’ grandparents and guideparents — were given a tea-light. Then we lit each one from a double wicked naming day candle that represented the two babies.

The grandparents and guide parents also made promises to the babies.

The 12 tea lights were then placed around the candle in a beautiful circle of light. The candle lighting ceremony is often used in naming ceremonies as a gesture of unity. Symbolising that those present will always surround the child(ren) in a circle of love.

It was lovely to make these vows to these two precious little boys, surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Candle lighting at the twins naming day ceremony.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

Readings

When Mr D and I got married, we had a couple of readings. One of which was a passage on ‘Marriage’ from ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran.

It seemed fitting that one of the boys’ guidefathers —who had read at our wedding— did the same at the babies’ naming ceremony.

He and his wife read another passage from ‘The Prophet’; this time on children.

Guide parents reading from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran at the twins naming ceremony.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His      arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Why Choose a Baby Naming Ceremony?

If you do not hold any religious beliefs, a baby naming day ceremony is the perfect alternative to a Christening.

You can choose the venue, music, and readings, basically tailoring the tone of the day to suit you and your family.

The only limit — cost aside — is your imagination!

If you do not hold any religious beliefs, a baby naming day is the perfect alternative to a Christening.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

This article was originally published on December 30 2014.

Caro Davies editor of The Listed Home
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Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.

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8 thoughts on “How To Plan a Naming Ceremony”

  1. I had a naming ceremony for my oldest. We hired a piano bar, I stuck photos up around the walls, we had music, poetry, readings, promises etc. I even made little order of service booklets. We used a friend who does public speaking on a day basis, as our celebrant, and musician friends played music. It was all very professional and nice. I videoed the whole thing too. It’s lovely to look back on.

    We decided a few years later to have a christening too, when I was more comfortable with it. The naming ceremony was much more personal and unique. X

    • Thanks so much for commenting Emma — it’s lovely to hear about what you did for your naming ceremony! I so agree with you — having attended many Christenings, there are only a couple that stand out in my mind as being beautiful and unique. Most are either tacked onto the back of a regular Sunday service or are group Christenings for more than one child; usually from different families.

      A naming ceremony means that you really get to tailor the tone, wording and format to suit your family. It made me really proud to hear so many of our guests commenting that it was one of the most beautiful ‘Christenings’ they’d ever been to!! :)

  2. Fascinating to hear about a secular ceremony. We had a Christening for our twins despite not being particularly religious, and in my blog post about it – http://www.theparentsocial.com/planning-a-christening/ – I said that one of the reasons we did was that I didn’t think a baby naming ceremony carried as much gravitas (for want of a better word). This is because all of the baby naming ‘ceremonies’ I have ever been to have not actually been a ceremony at all, just a gathering at a house with no celebrant.

    Very interesting read! #MultipleMadness

    • Thanks Francesca! I do know exactly what you mean! Essentially our boy’s naming day held the same gravitas as a secular wedding. We were married in a civil ceremony and it seemed the perfect thing to do, for us to have the same kind of format, for the twins. I couldn’t have brought myself to have a religious Christening, just for the sake of it. It just wouldn’t have felt right!!

      It’s a shame that secular Christenings are not more widely advertised. I know lots of people, who we have since spoken to about ours, who wish they’d done the same for their children but weren’t aware that it was an option. Thanks so much for your comment! X

  3. I can’t believe I missed this post first time round, I remember seeing your photo on twitter and these ones are just as gorgeous! It sounds perfect, I would love to do it with all three of my boys as we are not religious but we just can’t afford it, it would be such a lovely way to celebrate. They are so beautiful and I’m glad you got to do it how you wanted xx #multiplemadness

    • It was such a lovely day Hayley — I feel so grateful that we were able to celebrate their birth. There are lots of inexpensive ways to do it too; village hall (that way you don’t have to hire chairs, as they already have them!) and make your own buffet lunch. Or hold a naming day in your favourite spot — maybe in a park or down by the river with a picnic lunch! You could have an actual Celebrant conduct the ceremony for you or even a member of your family. It needn’t be super-expensive! Thanks so much for your lovely comments xx

  4. Sounds like it was such a beautiful ceremony and you have some fab photos to help remind you of the day.
    Although neither of us are particularly religious we christened our twins because 13 years ago naming ceremonies weren’t really ‘a thing’ and we wanted to celebrate them. So of course our other three children were christened too. Thanks for linking up #multiplemadness

    • Thanks so much Katie. I’ve spoken to quite a few people who did the same as you — Christened their children in a church because they didn’t realise there was another option. Civil wedding ceremonies are more popular than religious ceremonies these days, so I find it really strange that the secular ‘Christenings’ aren’t as well documented or widely known about. Thanks for hosting the #multiplemadness!

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