A dilemma: Choosing between a baptism or naming ceremony

Does the choice of holding a religious Christening ceremony or a secular naming ceremony pose a dilemma for you and your partner? What’s different about them? Why have a ceremony in the first place?

If you don’t attend church regularly this can be a tricky situation. New parents may worry about facing problems in the future when choosing a primary school for their child. Perhaps they feel pressure from the baby’s grandparents to hold a religious ceremony.

Many feel the need to celebrate the arrival of their child with some form of celebration.

Why have a ceremony?
Traditionally, parents held a religious baptism or christening ceremony for their new baby in the days or early weeks after their birth to mark the start of their Christian upbringing. Baptism focusses on welcoming the baby into the Christian faith while a non-religious naming ceremony the emphasis is on the family and community welcoming the baby as a new member.

Both ceremonies bring the families together to celebrate but they differ in many ways.

What do the ceremonies involve?
You may hold a non-religious naming ceremony anywhere that is convenient or special to you and your family. Your home, garden, park, hotel, forest are all possible options. You may include anything you wish in your ceremony, keeping it quite traditional or be a little more quirky. Parents can always include prayers and readings if they wish.

This type of ceremony is very flexible and will suit your family’s personality. Before planning, it is advised that you find a celebrant who is trained and has experience in naming ceremonies.

What is the difference?

A baptism ceremony differs in that the local Priest will preside over proceedings which is of course held in the parish church. If you happen to live in a large town or city, several babies may be baptised on the same day. The purpose of the ceremony is to cleanse the new baby of original sin.

A naming ceremony would also include vows from parents and ‘guideparents’. The lighting of candles is also included to symbolise the joining of two families through the birth of this new baby. You may include the giving of symbolic gifts, reading, poetry and music. Some families will have a memory book on display where guests can write down their wishes for the baby’s future. If you are considering a baptism or naming ceremony think about having a photographer present to capture the moments for you. You will be involved in the ceremony and won’t have time to take photos.​

Both ceremonies have the child at heart and are a wonderful way to mark the baby’s entrance to his new community. It is a very personal choice for a family and will depend of course on their own beliefs, but whatever you choose, baptism or naming ceremony, it is no doubt a beautiful way to come together as a tribe.

This becomes more and more important especially in these modern times where we tend to come together so rarely.

Teresa Devenney

Mum to two, wife to patient man, photographer to lovely Irish families and their newborn babies. Learning constantly.

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