Your Easy-As Guide to Organising a Naming Ceremony

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (18/09/2020) Categories: | Naming Ceremonies |
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Naming Ceremony Table. White cloth, pink rose
                      petals, keepsake copy of the ceremony with pink
                      coverNaming 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 naming ceremony?

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 the ceremony?

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 distinct advantages.
  • It is a familiar space for your child
  • It is private
  • You won't be competing with others for the space
  • You can take your time setting up and clearing up
  • 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 change.

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 with you?
  • How crowded is the area likely to be? And how noisy?
  • 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 sun
  • 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 ceremony?

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 your family

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 effect.
  • 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 thought out.

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.

Further Information

Thanks for reading!

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