Planning a Christening and preparing for the party afterwards can seem a bit daunting. We have outlined below a few ideas we have picked up over the years that may make the whole experience less overwhelming and far more fun.
CHOOSING THE CHURCH
For continuity in the future, it is a good idea to choose a local church. Not only will this be helpful logistically in the run up to the ceremony and on the day, this is also the church your children will get to know over the years – a welcoming, local second family. The Church of England has a useful site to help you locate and contact your local parish church at:
If you have connections with a parish church close to your original family home, the vicar would be happy to discuss holding the service there.
Contact the church and arrange to meet the vicar when you will be able to book a date for the ceremony and discuss any queries you may have. When choosing the day, bear in mind other events or family occasions – you don’t want to have a clash of dates. And book a date some time in advance to allow guests time to fit it in their diary. The weekends around Easter are always popular for Christenings, as are the Summer weekends when the weather is better for parties in the garden at home.
Visit the church – you will receive an warm welcome. Also, why not make a trip to the church toddler group when you will get to know some of the other parents you will probably meet at the service.
CHOOSING THE GODPARENTS
Most parents choose relatives or family friends. It is best to choose godparents who you expect to stay in contact with you and stay close to your family long into the future. Whoever you choose, you are asking them to make a life-long commitment to your child’s faith and emotional wellbeing. You need to consider:
- You must choose a minimum of three godparents, although you may have more.
- Two godparents should be of the same sex as your child, whilst one should be of the opposite sex.
- You and your spouse can be a godparent.
- Godparents should already be baptised.
- You are not asking godparents to make a legal commitment or become legal guardians. Their role is as guides and mentors in your child’s spiritual and religious journey throughout life.
- Consider whether your chosen godparents will be comfortable making the promises and commitments in the church service detailed below.
Here are a few suggestions that may help you avoid one or two logistical hiccups:
- DON’T book the church or print the invitations until you have checked whether the future godparents are free on the day.
- Think carefully about the guest list and how it will affect the budget. How many children will be there and of what ages? If there are a lot of children, you may need to consider special food and entertainment.
- If you want one of the godparents to propose a toast at the party after the Christening, ask them well in advance so they have plenty of time to prepare.
- Photography: Don’t rely on somebody taking some good pictures by chance. Ask a guest who knows what they are doing to take responsibility for taking a few photos at key parts of the ceremony. Some people enjoy having a role and will take on the project with pleasure. Do check with the vicar that the church is happy for photographs to be taken during the service.
- Invitations, whether printed and posted or emailed, should include the date, time, location (of both the church and the party), directions, RSVP (include a date to RSVP by) and dress code (if there is one). If you don’t wish to receive presents, or would prefer gifts to charity, you can let guests know in the invitation.
- Do any of the godparents want to be involved in the preparation – they could be very helpful support. Would they like to meet the vicar or find out more about the service?
- Where to hold the party: The majority of families hold a small party at home after the ceremony, although a local restaurant, hotel or village hall may be preferable for larger numbers, so review your guest list before making a decision. Budget could also be a big consideration – set yourself a limit and stick to it.
During the Christening ceremony, your child will be baptised with water and welcomed into the family of the church. The ceremony often takes place as part of an existing church service such as a Communion or a family service. Key parts of the service include:
- The Decision/Promises: Godparents and parents make declarations and promises
- Signing with the Cross: The sign of the cross is made on your child’s forehead – usually with a special oil
- The Baptism: As you gather round the font, the vicar pours blessed water over your child’s head. It is at this point the vicar will use your child’s name.
- Light in the world: A lighted Christening candle is often presented to the child during the service with the vicar saying: “Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.”
- Prayers, Hymns & Readings: As with most church services, there will be a variety of prayers, hymns and readings during the ceremony.
- You may find it useful to review the complete service at: www.churchofengland.org/media/1190836/holy%20baptism.pdf
- Baby’s gown: You may like to dress your child in a traditional Christening gown, especially if it is a gown that has been used by other family members in the past. In some families it is customary for the godmother to provide a gown or an item of clothing. There is however no obligation to use a gown and many parents choose something smart that the child is used to wearing. A comfortable, contented baby at a Christening can be far more relaxing for all concerned than a flustered, irritable little bundle, unaccustomed to a formal gown. The main thing to remember is … babies grow – a piece of clothing that fits when you start planning the Christening may be rather snug on the day.
- Dress Code: There is no formal dress code for the adults, but many families like to dress up for the occasion. Suits or jackets for the men and elegant outfits for the ladies. Imagine a relaxed informal wedding rather than “red carpet” glamour.
AFTER THE CEREMONY
The party after the ceremony is a wonderful occasion of friends and family, where some of the most important people in your life and that of your child are gathered, so enjoy it. Don’t turn it into an emotional and physical assault course. Here are a few thoughts when planning the party.
Christening Gifts: For safety and security, plan where you will put any gifts that people bring to the party. A helpful niece or nephew might take responsibility for looking after the pressies. And remember, when you do get round to opening them, have a pen and pad of paper handy to note down who gave what … it’s easy to muddle things up.
Don’t forget to ask the vicar to the party. Vicars are very busy people and they probably won’t be able to make it, but it can be so easy to overlook them in all the whirl of planning and preparation – an invitation is often appreciated.
A small speech or toast at the party is traditional and often expected. Plan ahead and ask someone (usually a godparent) to propose a toast well BEFORE the event. If you spring it on them on the day, they will be ill-prepared and won’t thank you for it. If the budget is tight, you don’t have to splash out on Champagne for the toasts, a dry Cava or Prosecco works just as well and is often preferable.
The food, drink, theme and location of your party will depend on your budget and your guest list, so we’ve outlined a few thoughts below to help with your budgeting.
To help you plan ahead, here are a few things you may need to budget for. You may find there are more added costs to consider than you think:
- Dress: Apart from what your child will wear at the Christening, think about what you, your spouse and your other children will wear on the day
- The Church: Is there a fee? Do you want to make a charitable donation? Flowers and decorations?
- The Party doesn’t have to be expensive, but here are the main costs to consider:
> Food & Drink
> Fizz for the toast
> Balloons & Decorations
> Table Decorations and Napery
> Christening Cake
> Venue Fee
- Presents: You may be planning to buy something substantial for your child like an engraved silver cup or some silver jewellery, but also consider a small thank you gift for the godparents and maybe the grandparents. A little memento for the other children at the party is also a nice idea.
- Unexpected additional costs can include: Professional photographs or video; Musicians & entertainers; Putting up guests and relatives overnight who have travelled a long way; Transport and parking … and of course, the holiday you will need when it’s all over.