| Naming Ceremonies |
Naming ceremonies are a popular
choice for families who want to celebrate their
child and formally welcome them into the family
without making a commitment to any particular
religion, and celebrate their gift to the child of a good name
Like any celebration, working your way through a
series of questions will help focus your minds on
what you want for and from the occasion, and will
also point you to what you need to do to make sure
that you pull off an experience that your friends
and loved ones will talk about for years.
Why do you want to have a
Your child's birth has been registered (it's the
law) and as part of the process their names have
been decided and documented and everyone already
know what they are called. So clearly, a naming
ceremony isn't about actually giving the child their
name. So, here's the question you need to ask
yourself - What do you hope that having a naming
ceremony will achieve? What are you hoping that your
people will learn from the ceremony that they didn't
know before? And most important, how do you want
everyone to feel?
Where do you want to hold
In Australia most naming ceremonies are held in
backyard of the family home, followed by public
spaces such as parks, with a few held in commercial
premises such as clubs and restaurants.
Holding the ceremony in your own backyard has
- It is a familiar space for your child
- It is private
- You won't be competing with others for the
- You can take your time setting up and clearing
- You have no time limitations
However, with COVID-19 restrictions a ceremony at
home may also have externally imposed limitations
on who may attend, how many people in total, or
other requirements. And these are subject to
If you plan to hold the ceremony in a public park
or other public space there are additional
considerations and things to be done
- How accessible is the space? Will parents with
small children in prams and anyone with mobility
problems be able to get to it easily? How far
away is the parking?
- What facilities are available and how close
are they? With a guest list that potentially
includes children, pregnant ladies, and older
people a long hike to the toilet is not an
attractive proposition. Are there any shelters?
Is there seating? What will you need to bring
- How crowded is the area likely to be? And how
- Are there hazards in the vicinity - for
example unfenced ponds or water features
- Do you need a permit?
- Are you allowed to decorate the space?
Wherever you hold the ceremony it is a good idea
to carefully consider the space so that you can
decide, well ahead of the day, exactly where
everyone participating will stand and where the
guests will be. Things you need to check include:
- Shade - it is never a good idea to be in full
- Line of sight - will everyone be able to see
what's going on, and will you (and your
celebrant) be able to see the guests?
- Where you will position the table - you'll
need a table to sign certificates and to hold
any ceremonial or ritual objects
Don't forget Plan B
I can't stress the importance of a Plan B. You'll
need to have an alternative if
- It rains
- It is extremely hot
- The venue becomes unavailable (which can
happen with parks and commercial premises
- A change to COVID-19 restrictions means you
can no longer use your Plan A site
Who will lead the
There are no legal requirements attached to a naming
ceremony, so, from the legal point of view, anyone
can lead the ceremony. However, as with all
ceremonies, it takes experience and skills to create
a ceremony honours the occasion, a ceremony that is
both emotionally satisfying and tailored to your
particular family and to lead a ceremony where
numerous small children are present!
I offer two alternatives
- I will both create and lead the ceremony -
which involves gathering detailed information
about your child, your family, your wishes, and
your hopes for your child, making suggestions
about what to include in the ceremony, including
rituals, creating personalised certificates, and
leading the ceremony on the day
- A DIY ceremony where I create the ceremony for
you and provide you with hints and tips about
the practicalities of performing it but you
either lead it yourselves or have a friend or
family member lead it.
Either of those is a much better option that
finding a boilerplate ceremony on the internet and
swapping out the names!
How will you integrate
meaningful symbolism into the occasion?
A naming ceremony is generally part of a larger
celebration, so there are opportunities to not only
integrate meaningful symbols into the ceremony, but
into the whole occasion.
- How will you link this occasion with earlier
ceremonies? Your own wedding? Naming ceremonies
or baptism of earlier generations, including
yourselves, or, if you have an older child,
their naming ceremony.
- Are there any family traditions that would be
meaningful to include or refer to?
- Are there cultural traditions from either side
of the family that could be incorporated?
Honouring cultural background is a wonderful
reminder your child's roots and the history of
What props or decorations
will you need?
Do you need to make them, borrow them, or hire them?
How much lead time do you need?
Who would you like to
participate in the ceremony?
While, in the interest of your child and other
children present, it is a good idea to keep the
ceremony relatively short, involving other people
adds to its meaning.
- Are you going to appoint godparents (adult
sponsors and mentors who are usually still
referred to as godparents in Australia but who
can be called anything you like)? Hint:
I suggest you don't call them guardians unless
you have put legal steps in place appointing
them as such in case the unthinkable
happens.Appointing someone as a guardian as part
of a naming ceremony has, in itself, not legal
- Do you have an older child or children who
could play a meaningful role in the ceremony?
- What about grandparents?
Participation of others doesn't need to add to
the length of the ceremony if it is carefully
How will you include
anyone who is unable to be physically present?
Remembering deceased ancestors of the child can be
both a meaningful and a joyful addition to the
ceremony. Where living loved ones can't be present
because of distance or other reasons, there are a
range of technological mechanisms for sharing the
ceremony. Make sure you appoint whose only
role is to manage this so that you don't have to
worry about it. And do have a test run beforehand.
Thanks for reading!