Being a Godparent at a Naming Ceremony - What you need to know

by Jennifer Cram, Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (28/09/2019)
Categories:  | Naming Ceremonies |
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Naming Ceremony table with roses and scrolls
                  tied with Naming Day ribbonCongratulations! It is a great honour your friends have done you, because being asked to be a godparent (aka as mentor, supporting adult, guideparent, or guardian) is a significant responsibility and signals that they really trust you to look out for their child.

Many first-time godparents are hazy about what their role is and what is expected of them during the Naming Ceremony, or even what a Naming Ceremony is.

Hopefully, this post will answer all of your questions and maybe a few you haven't thought of. But if it doesn't, feel free to give me a heads-up! The most important thing is to be authentic to yourself. There is no right and wrong beyond doing what comes from the heart and is authentic to you, to the child and to the family.

What is a Naming Ceremony?


Naming ceremonies are sometimes called secular christenings, but their roots lie much further back in the past, when a child was not accepted into the community until the father had acknowledged the child by naming it. Today, naming ceremonies celebrate the gift of a “good name” and the honour and identity we bestow upon babies when we acknowledge their coming into the world, and make public their heritage and their parentage. An important feature of a naming ceremony is that it is a formal mechanism to appoint godparents (defined in modern dictionaries as someone who acts as a godparent or is a sponsor or protector), and to express the commitment of parents, godparents, and others who surround the child to nurture, nourish, and support the child.

The ceremony itself performs a very important social function, but your appointment as godparents is neither legal nor binding (but then, neither is a christening). It does not replace the parents' legal obligation to register the child's birth with Births, Deaths, and Marriages in the state where the child was born, and appointment of godparents does not make them legal guardians of the child.

While a naming ceremony is usually secular, it can include some religious content. A naming ceremony may also be held before or after a religious christening or baptism to joyfully welcome the child into the family and into the world, and honour other significant adults, such as grandparents, who will have important roles in the nurturing and supporting the child, but who are not generally acknowledged during a religious christening.

What is the Role of a Godparent?


The first obligation of the godparent is to support the parents of the godchild in nurturing the child and acting as a positive role model for the child. It is a socially and emotionally significant role. Godparents contribute to the child's development by encouraging integrity, honesty, fairness, and values to guide the child through life’s journey.

Your friends will have chosen you because they are confident that you
  • can be trusted to maintain a long-term relationship with the child
  • will help guide and teach the child alongside the parents
  • are patient with children
  • can relate to the child in question, and
  • will be an exemplary and positive role model
So your role will be all of the above.

Accepting the role of godparent does not mean that you have to take full responsibility for the child in the unfortunate event that the parents are no longer able to do so because of death or other circumstance. The role of godparent has no legal standing, however, should the parents also choose to appoint you as the child’s guardian, this should be discussed with you and with the parents legal advisor, and will need to be documented in the parents’ Wills.

How is being a Godparent at a Naming different from being a Godparent at a Christening?


A Christian baptism/christening symbolises the moment the child becomes a member of a particular denomination, and parents and godparents pledge themselves to bring up the child in a godly and upright way. A naming ceremony, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship between parents and child, on parenting, on a declaration of commitment or intent towards the child, and on welcoming the child into both family and and community. At a naming ceremony godparents are witnesses to the naming of the child. You will sign the Naming Certificate as a witness. You will also make promises about supporting the parents and nurturing, encouraging, and generally just being there for the child when needed.

What will you be expected to do in the ceremony?


At some point during the ceremony you will be invited to move to the front to stand with the parents and the child. The role and responsibilities of the Godparents will be explained, you will be asked whether you accept this responsibility . You will also be invited to make promises to the child’s parents to support them in your role as godparent, as well as promises to the child. And you may be invited to participate in a ritual if the parents have chosen to include one. This may involve lighting candles or some other symbolic action.

Do you have to give the child a gift?


The main gift a godparent gives is the gift of self. While acknowledging birthdays and other significant days, including the naming day is nice, the greatest gifts that a godparent can give a child are love, time and attention, and your continuous presence as a positive role model. During the ceremony, you can give a symbolic gift, and of course, you can always give the baby a significant gift to mark the occasion (and every significant occasion from then on!). Or you could offer to bring the cake.  Traditionally, the parents provide a celebratory cake which is cut at the party after the ceremony. But this would be a very nice gift for the godparents to bring. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable for a godparent to give the naming ceremony as a gift. I provide attractive gift certificates for this purpose.

Is there a dress code?


What you (or for that matter) anyone else attending a naming ceremony wears relates to the formality of the occasion. As most naming ceremonies are held at home, either indoors or in the garden,  or in parks, dress tends to be casual/smart casual. Of course, the baby can be dressed formally in a Christening gown or party clothes irrespective of what the guests are wearing.

Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk
                    soon about how you can have the best ceremony ever
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