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Naming Ceremony - Humanist

Humanists aim to draw positive moral values from life that are based on human experience, rather than God-given. They don't believe in an afterlife, but think that 'we should try to live full and happy lives ourselves... and make it easier for other people to do the same. They consider most thoughtful, considered non-religious naming ceremonies to be humanist in nature. It is not necessary, even at an explicitly humanist ceremony, to have a Humanist celebrant. Humanist ceremonies are increasing in number each year. They are popular with people who have no religious affiliations.

What is a humanist naming ceremony?
The British Humanist Association describes its ceremonies as 'dignified, caring, and totally personal'. It publishes a practical guide to help you organise your own naming ceremony, 'New Arrivals', which includes the following:

  • Advice on where and when to hold your ceremony
  • Appointing 'mentors' or 'special friends' (the humanist equivalent of godparents)
  • A basic framework for the ceremony· Ideas for poetry and prose readings
  • Two sample scripts
  • Special ways of marking the occasion

    And the rest is up to you!

    A humanist naming ceremony can take place literally anywhere - from your front room to a mountain top. The rites performed have no legal status at all. A humanist ceremony is completely secular (i.e. non-religious with no hymns, prayers or Bible readings). This can be a particular advantage for parents from different faiths. Rather than plump for one tradition at the risk of alienating the other, inter-faith parents can design a ceremony that emphasises what they have in common. A celebrant trained and licensed by the British Humanist Association usually conducts humanist naming ceremonies, but you can ask a friend or relation to do it if you prefer.

    Organising your humanist naming ceremony
    Once you have decided on a date and time, you need to do the following:

  • Unless you have chosen a friend or relation to conduct the ceremony, contact the Humanist Association on 020 7430 0908 to find someone to act as a celebrant and for more information, go to
  • Once you have found a celebrant, decide on a venue, ideally somewhere that's significant and personal to you as a couple. Most parents choose to hold the ceremony at the start of a celebratory party.
  • Decide on the type of service you'd like and what you would like to say. The job of the celebrant is to help you create a ceremony that's personal to you. You can write the entire service yourself to reflect your love for and commitment to your child, and your hopes for their future welfare and happiness with help and advice from the BHA, you can adapt one of the ceremonies they can suggest to you. They also have suggestions for readings and music. The formal ceremony can be as long or short as desired, they usually last about 20 minutes.

    Don't forget to encourage contributions from other adults and children!

    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 god parents - will be available for the big day before confirming any bookings or ordering the invitations. Children are almost always honoured guests at Christenings.

    The baby is the star of the show at a Naming. You may want to dress him or her in a traditional style long gown and shawl, but you may also choose something completely different to emphasize the non-religious aspect. 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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