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Do It Yourself

If you don't have any religious or spiritual beliefs, or you have spiritual beliefs, but don't subscribe to any form of organised religion you may be looking for an alternative to a traditional Christening. Or perhaps, in today's multi-cultural society, you simply want to have a ceremony involving all your friends and relatives, whatever their creed.

Although there are now local authority endorsed ceremonies, you can also organise your own Baby Naming ceremony - with your choice of words, and music and people to perform them - which you can hold in a hired venue or your own home.

Elements to include in a baby naming ceremony:

Choose a meaningful place. This can be because its peaceful, beautiful, has good associations for you or simply because its home! If you're going to hold your celebration in a public space such as the local park make sure that you have permission (if necessary) and that you won't be disturbed by the pub football team practice session. Will you have some kind of 'font'or centrepiece? If so, will you be able to use something already at the location or will you need to bring your own? If you are outside, will everyone be able to stand or will you need to supply chairs for elderly relatives or mums-to-be?

How the guests will be congregated depends on how you want to format the ceremony. If you are in a particular venue such as a hotel or castle, then your choices will be more limited, but if you are outside or at home your choices are greater. Perhaps they will all stand (or sit) facing you and the baby, perhaps they will gather round in a circle. Is there a particular direction you want to face in - for instance, east or towards home?

You can lead the ceremony yourself or get someone else to do it. Whichever you choose, make sure you match the tone of your ceremony. A very serious, sentimental celebrant will not fit well with a more jocular ceremony, and a complex ceremony will certainly need a celebrant to keep things flowing.

Supporting Adults
Although not strictly necessary, most namings include the 'appointment' of a form of non-religious 'god-parent'. This person (or persons) can play many roles in the ceremony. They may take the part of the celebrant, or hold the baby throughout. Usually they will make a promise of some nature to the child.

These may be made by the parents, siblings, supporting adults, family and indeed the entire congregation. Rather like a wedding, they could be made either as a statement or as answers to questions posed by the celebrant.

Readings & Music
The best thing about doing your own naming ceremony is that, should you so wish, you can include both religious/spiritual and non-religious music and readings. You might want to mix popular hymns such as 'Morning Has Broken' with your favourite chart toppers, or include Bible readings with secular works. The key here is to choose music and readings that you love or are important to you - they don't necessarily have to be specifically about birth or naming. They can also celebrate a love of life, or nature, or family, or just love itself.

Signifying the naming
You may want to have some kind of central act that symbolises the moment of naming for the baby. Think about the movie 'The Lion King' by the moment at which young Simba is lifted up in front of the gathered animals. This 'significant action' could be as simple as a round of applause, or more complex, such as all the guests reading out a 'naming welcome' to the child. These could run along such lines as 'We have to come together today to meet BABY'S NAME and welcome him/her to the world' or 'Let this child be called BABY'S NAME and may he/she have a long and happy life with us and all family and friends'.

Other ideas to incorporate into your celebrations:

Siblings come and take a turn at holding the child, each repeating a promise to look after him or her, or simply repeating the baby's full name

A tree is planted to mark the moment

Ask everyone to sign a book, with a message for the child when he or she grows up, commemorating the day

A toast is made during the ceremony

Ask guests to file past the baby, each touching or kissing him or her on the head. Or you could walk your baby round your circle of guests.

The baby is passed from guest to guest and back to the front, each repeating his or her name, greeting him or her by saying "Hello" or perhaps making a small promise, such as 'We'll always look after you".

Each guest is given a single flower at the beginning of the ceremony, and at a certain point they each come up one by one and 'give' them to the baby.

Throw the floor open to your guests to make ad hoc toasts to the baby's health and happiness

If friends and relatives want to make a financial gift to the baby, they may want to offer their gifts during the ceremony.

Who and how to invite, and to what
If there are Grandparents they will want to come, and its always a good idea to check whether key guests - such as the supporting adults - will be available for the big day before confirming any bookings or ordering the invitations. Children are almost always honoured guests at Namings.

The baby is the star of the show at a Naming. If you have a traditional family gown then there is no particular reason, as long as it does not offend any close relatives sensibilities, why it should not be worn. However, you may want to put the baby in a completely different outfit altogether to emphasize the difference. The parents, god parents and guests should take their cue from the occasion and venue - a more formal service and church will demand more formal wear, whereas more informal attire can be worn at a more relaxed church and service. Formalwear here usually means lounge suits.

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