A baptism or christening is a traditional ceremony amongst many Christian denominations. People of Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Lutheran and other related faiths choose to celebrate their baby’s baptism with close friends, family and church acquaintances.
What is a Baptism?
The actual proceedings of the baptism can vary from faith to faith, but the idea is generally the same. The parents present the infant to the minister, who either pours or sprinkles water on the child’s head as he recites the phrase, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
To some, the baptism ceremony is one deeply steeped in religious values and beliefs, while to others it is a rite of passage. Many parents dress the infant in a special Christening gown; a white or ivory gown with delicate lace embellishments. While boys traditionally wore the gown as well, lately it has become more acceptable for them to wear white suits or vests.
To ensure that no one misses this celebrated event, send invitations to everyone you would like to see in attendance. The invitation should include the date, time and location of the ceremony as well as the names of both parents and the child.
Baptism invitations are usually white, ivory or cream to reflect the overall theme of the day. A wide variety of styles and designs are available, from the very simple to the extremely ornate. Be sure to order an invitation package with matching envelopes and thank you cards for well-wishers who bring gifts to the event.
Each attendee of the ceremony will receive a program or order of service as the ceremony begins; order these to match your invitations for a clean, polished overall look.
Parents choose godparents for their new baby according to a number of different criteria. Some would like to honor a special friend or family member by naming them Godparents. Others are looking for someone to designate as their child’s caretaker, “just in case”.
Whatever your reason for choosing whomever you do, make sure you give the decision a lot of thought. It might help to understand the role of a Godparent according to Christian tradition. Godparents historically had three important duties:
- They were the guarantors of education, responsible for the majority of the child’s education in Christianity.
- They represented the Church of Jesus Christ during the baptism and presented the infant to the minister for consideration as a new member of the church (the parents do this now).
- They made a lifelong commitment to the child as a mentor and friend.
As you can see, in days gone by, the role of the Godparent was a very important one. Choose a couple you can see yourself being friends with 10 or 20 years down the road and decide what role you would like them to play in your child’s life.
While a few baptisms are private affairs, most are held during a church service, where several children may be baptized at once. It is not necessary to decorate the church, beyond the regular alter arrangements present in most churches.
If your are holding a ceremony outside of a regular church service, ask all attendants to arrive at least 10 minutes early so everyone can be seated when the minister is ready to begin.If you have a lot of guests with small children, assign one adult beforehand to care for them in the Sunday school room or front hall of the church to keep them from interrupting the ceremony.
Have the baby fed and changed before entering the church and a friend standing by with a camera to capture the ceremony on film. The minister will ask the attendees to gather at the front of the church, at which time the ceremony begins. The entire proceeding should take about 20 to 30 minutes.
Decorating for the Baptism Party
This is the opportunity for the parents to be more creative. While the ceremony itself is very traditional, the meal afterwards need not be.
It is considered good manners to offer a meal after the baptism, especially if attendants have traveled a distance to be there. Some parents choose to hold this event in their home, while others might take advantage of the church and dining facilities in the church (the best choice if your home is more than a few minutes drive from the church).
Have your home decorated before leaving for the church. Although you can choose a color scheme of your choice, traditional white and gold is quite suitable for the occasion. Simple decorations would include balloons and confetti with paper plates and matching napkins for dining. A more extravagant decorating scheme might see the room decorated with floral arrangements, linens, chair bows and candles.
The time of day will largely dictate the type of food that is offered. A morning christening is perfect for a brunch-style meal afterwards, while a late afternoon affair calls for a more substantial dinner. The most popular after-baptismal meal is simply tea and finger sandwiches.
Choose fare that will work well with the overall tone of the event. A casual, standing room only party calls for finger foods and hors d’oeuvres. If you are accommodating several out of town guests, you might choose to book a dinner in a fine restaurant to eliminate the need for cooking and cleanup.
Cherish the Memories
Your baby’s baptism or christening ceremony is truly a once in a lifetime event. Preserving the memories f this day should be your number one consideration!
Save two or three copies of the invitation, order of service program, thank you card and envelopes for your photo album or scrapbook. You might even have them arranged and mounted together in a decorative frame.Have your child’s christening gown or outfit professionally dry-cleaned and sealed in a garment box or container to preserve it for years to come.