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Baby Baptism and Christening Etiquette – Everything you NEED to Know

A baptism/christening is an important event in a baby’s life. It’s also a special day for parents. This event is an opportunity to formally introduce their baby to friends, family and before Christ. Many parents will attend a class, but knowing all the do’s and don’ts of baby baptism etiquette will ensure that this is a day to remember.

Guests, godparents, and even the baby’s parents might not know that there are some rules for a baby christening ceremony. There are do’s and don’ts when it comes to dressing, behavior, and even the right gifts to bring. Although it can seem like a lot to remember, knowing baptism etiquette is important for anyone attending this special occasion!

What is a Baptism Ceremony?

Baptism and Christening ceremonies are traditionally held in a church or by a natural body of water. The ritual’s beginnings can be traced back to the time of Jesus Christ – when he baptized his disciples in the River Jordan. Today, baptism still symbolizes absolution and the acceptance of a new church member. For many parents the religious and spiritual significance of a baby baptism is profound.

Baptism Will Vary Based On Religion  

Most religions baptize their new members but the ritual can differ. Some faiths separate christening and baptism into two ceremonies. Babies are christened and welcomed into the faith, but only adults are baptized after completing religious classes and repenting all their sins. Other religious use the terms “baptism” and “christening” interchangeably. Babies are baptized or christened into the faith shortly after birth. Adults can also be baptized if they want to renew their faith or are switching from another religion. 

Who do you Invite to the Christening?

The ceremony is usually small, intimate gatherings of close family and a few friends. The baby will need sponsors, usually the infant’s godparents to stand at the baptismal font. It’s not uncommon for the parents to publicly name the godparents at the christening. In the baptism litany, the godparents will be asked if they accept this role and vow to be a positive influence throughout the child’s life. 

What to Expect at a Christening 

Parents and godparents often hold lighted candles throughout the ritual, though some only call for the candle lighting at the end. A baptismal certificate is read out loud by the priest, minister or another type of religious officiate and then presented to the parents. Modern baptisms often have a memory book where guests can write messages to the baby. It’s a thoughtful way to keep the memory of the ceremony alive for parents and their babies. 

Preparing your Baby for Baptism

Etiquette doesn’t always apply to behavior It also covers the time of the ceremony and how your baby is dressed, along with hints on how to help your child stay calm and quiet during the ceremony. Here are few baby baptism etiquette rules parents will want to remember when they’re planning the ceremony. 

What is the Best Time to Baptize Your Baby?

The best or right time to baptize your baby depends on the parents’ preference, religious affiliation, and sometimes the health of the child. Baptisms can also be postponed if the godparents live out of state or country. Basically, the best time to have a christening for a baby depends on the parents. 

If you want to follow Christian religious tradition, you should plan to have your baby baptized within the first few weeks, preferably on a Sunday. This follows the Code of Canon law that the Catholic Church and most other denominations adhere to. The Canon law goes on to state that if the infant is born with a life-threatening illness the baptism should be performed immediately. This may require omitting some of the baby baptism etiquette rules parents are normally obligated to follow. 

Most priests will prefer that you baptize your little one immediately, but the most common time to hold this ceremony is when baby is 2-3 months. It’s not uncommon to see babies much older as well. This goes back to having your child’s godparents available, the preference of your church, or the health of your baby!

Tips on Keeping your Baby Calm and Quiet

Parents know that they can’t predict when their baby is going to be active and when they’ll be calm or even asleep. Routines can be established, but a christening ceremony can upset these. Your baby is in a new place surrounded by people. This is a disruption in their normal routine and may cause your baby to become excited or upset. 

Pacifiers or Small toys

These can help settle your baby during the baptism ceremony. Best of all, you can find both in colors that match your baby’s christening outfit. If you do decide to bring a toy, you’ll want it to be small enough to not be a hindrance during the brief ceremony. Just remember that pictures will probably be taken and you want your baby to be the main subject, not their toys or pacifier.

Bring a Snack

If your little one is old enough, bring them something to munch on during the ceremony. This can come in useful, especially if your event is close to feeding time.

Feeding Right Before

We all know that once our baby is feed, this can make them sleepy! Try feeding your child just before the service and they might just nap through the baptism.

What Should Your Baby Wear for Baptism?

Most parents don’t even think about a baptism ceremony for their baby until they need to start planning the ritual. Then there’s the dilemma over what your baby should wear. Baby baptism etiquette can help. However, it’s also important that your baby is comfortable in the outfit you choose. 

Christening Outfits for Boys and Girls

Christening gowns are the most common choice for babies, regardless of their gender. The color of the gown is typically white or off-white and it is often embroidered with needlework and lace. For many families, christening gowns are passed down throughout the generations but this is not always possible.

Not all families have heirloom christening outfits to pass down and this is okay. If you don’t have a special grown but want to start the tradition in your family, you can find outfits for sale in most baby department stores. A benefit of buying a christening gown is that you can pick the length that your baby will be comfortable in. 

Traditionally, christening gowns were long – over the feet – but this is not always practical. Parents that wait longer than a few weeks to have their baby baptized, might be dealing with a child that is learning or already crawling. A long gown can get in their way. 

Modern Baby Christening Outfits

Modern christening gowns come in a variety of lengths for boys and girls. Parents also don’t have to choose a long or short christening gown, rompers are another option that meets baby baptism etiquette rules. Blankets and bibs are other items parents might want to consider and are appropriate “baby attire” for a christening. 

If parents are uncertain about what is the proper attire for their baby, they can also check with church guidelines. If the baptism is occurring outside of the church, the proper dress etiquette can be more relaxed. 

Baptism Etiquette For Parents

Having their baby baptized is a special occasion for parents and their guests. After the ceremony, it’s not uncommon for everyone to gather for a celebration. In a way, baptism is a chance for family and friends to “meet” the baby, and for some, it will be for the first time.

What to do After a Baby Baptism

The gathering doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be held at the parents, godparents or another close relative or friend’s home. Some churches also allow celebrations to be held on the premise after the christening. 

What to Serve at the Party

Punch, tea, coffee, and other beverages are normally served at the celebration, along with desserts, fruit, and other finger foods. Etiquette doesn’t require parents to host a sit-down meal. It can be a relaxed gathering where guests mingle with each other celebrating the baby’s baptism. 

Who Should Pay for the Party

Etiquette usually requires the parents to pay for the celebration after the christening. This is also the main reason the gathering doesn’t need to be a full-course dinner. New parents usually don’t have the time to plan an extensive menu or the funds to throw an elaborate party.

Sometimes the baby’s grand or godparents plan and pay for the party. This is also acceptable etiquette and can be viewed as their baptism gift to the baby. The parents should be included in the planning – the party is celebrating their baby – and this includes the guest list.

Who Should you Invite to a Baptism?

Since a baby’s baptism is a special event, most parents keep the guest list short. Along with the baby’s parents and siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are usually invited. The guest list should also include the baby’s godparents and close friends of the parents. 

Etiquette does allow for variances in the guest list. Some churches have specific rules on who the parents can invite to the baptism. This can include the celebration if it is held at the church. Other acceptable variations are,

  • Having a large guest list for the baptism and a private celebration with only the godparents in attendance. The godparents can also be the only ones at the baptism and following celebration. 
  • Some parents only invite the grand and godparents to the baptism and invite extended family and close friends to the party. 
  • Anyone that attends the baptism should be invited to the celebration. 
  • If it is a Catholic baptism the parents and their guests will be expected to attend Mass with the celebration held after the service. 
  • In a Lutheran baptism, the baby is christened after the sermon with the parents and godparents in attendance. 
  • Methodist baptisms also take place during the worship service and it is customary to invite the entire congregation to the celebration. 

As you can see, the etiquette rules for the guest list are extremely flexible. 

Choosing Godparents

Your baby’s godparents will be important influences on your child’s life so you want to consider your choice carefully. Not only do godparents support and positively influence the child, but they are also often named as guardians if something happens to the parents. 

The baby’s grandparents, aunts or uncles are common choices for godparents, along with close friends. When parents are choosing their baby’s godparents they need to consider a couple of things:

  1. The type of influence you want in your child’s life.
  2. Would this person fit with their wishes when it comes to raising their child? 
  3. Do they have a strong faith?

Deciding on who will be your baby’s godparents should not be a rush decision. You also want to ask the prospective godparents before formally introducing them at the baptism ceremony. They should have the chance to ask what you expect from them before they are given such an important role in your child’s life.

Baptism Etiquette For Godparents

Godparents play an important role throughout the baby’s life. They act as mentors and help guide their godchild. Your baby’s godparents can also step into your role if a tragedy occurs. Parents want to carefully consider who they bestow the honor of being a baby’s godparents on. It’s a role they will have throughout their lives.

What are the Roles of a Godparent?

Being asked to be a godparent is an honor. The parents are asking for the godparents to be a positive influence in their child’s life. In the Christian church, godparents are tasked with the child’s spiritual growth. Along with providing mentorship, godparents are often the listed legal guardians if anything happens to the parents. It is an important role to fill that lasts a lifetime. 

There are occasions when the godparents are unable to attend the christening. They can still be named as the godparents in absentia. 

Should Parents Buy the Godparents a Gift?

Parents and godparents might not know that there are etiquette rules that apply to gift-giving. Godparents should present the baby with a gift, and receive one from the parents. 

  • The gift from the parents – symbolizes their appreciation for the godparents becoming mentors to their baby. 
  • The gift from the godparents to the baby signifies their commitment to being a positive guiding influence. 

Choosing a Gift for Godparents

The gift from the parents to the godparents is usually a small token that commemorates the baptism. Engraved picture frames with the baby’s name and the date of the christening are popular gifts, along with inspirational verses in a book or framed. 

Choosing a Gift for Baby from Godparents

Godparents’ gifts to the baby are often “silver”. Engraved frames, spoons, and cups are popular gift items. The baby’s gift can also be inspirational figurines, a children’s book of religious stories or a memory book. The book can begin with the godparents filling in the baptism information. This is different from a memory book parents might have for guests to sign at the baptism and celebration. 

Baptism Etiquette For Guests

It’s an honor to be invited to a christening and no one wants their actions to take the focus away from the baby. There are certain etiquette rules guests will want to follow that cover the appropriates gifts to give, along with proper attire. No one wants to embarrass themselves or the parents at a christening. 

What Should You Wear to a Baptism

After you’ve responded to the invitation, you need to decide what you’re going to wear. Some churches do have dress requirements so it might be a good idea to check to see what is appropriate. You also want to look at the invitation to see if the christening is indoors or outside. 

  • Long or mid-length dresses are fine for women, along with dress slacks. If the christening is being held outdoors, women might want to forego heels and wear a pair of dressy flats. 
  • Men should plan on wearing a suit or dress pants with a nice jacket. Ties are not required but do add a nice touch to a button-down shirt. Generally, you want to dress conservatively when you’re attending a baptism. 

What Should Children Wear?

If small children are attending the baptism, most etiquette rules state that kids should wear church appropriate clothes. This also includes teens that don’t always have conservative tastes. There can be exceptions if noted on the invitation. Not all parents have the baptism performed in a church or by a traditional religious leader. 

Can I Give Money as a Baptism Gift?

Trying to decide on the perfect gift for a newly baptized baby can be difficult. Many guests choose to give money, and this is perfectly acceptable. Checks or cash in an envelope can be given to the parents to hold, savings bonds are another option for guests that want to give a monetary gift. Parents generally keep the money in an account until their child is ready to use it. 

Even though etiquette doesn’t require guests to give gifts at a baptism it is still accepted practice. Personalized gifts with the baby’s name and christening date are good gift choices, along with a baptism bracelet or children’s religious books. If you want your gift to be unique here are a few ideas. 

Noah’s Ark Stuffed Animal Play Set

This is a safe and fun toy for babies and toddlers. Its religious significance also makes it ideal as a baptism gift. The ark symbolizes God’s promises to mankind, including children. It comes with a plush zebra, lion, giraffe, and elephant which can be stored in the soft cloth ark. 

The Busy Bible

This is perfect for children. It comes with twelve biblical stories and a carrying case. It is a great way to introduce children to God’s love, while also helping to keep kids occupied. Parents can read the stories aloud and children can follow along with the pictures. Since this is your child’s first bible, it also makes a great keepsake. 

A Precious Moments Baby Blessings Jar

A thoughtful gift that can be used throughout the child’s life. The adorable lidded ceramic jar is perfect for keeping small keepsakes and notes. You can write a special note for the baby and place it in the jar for safekeeping to be reread throughout the years. 

These are just a few gift ideas. The main thing to remember when choosing a christening gift is that it should reflect this special occasion. If you’re wondering when is the right time to present your gift, it’s usually done after the christening at the party. It’s also appropriate to send a gift even if you’re not able to attend. This particularly applies to intimate family members and close friends. 

How to Behave at a Christening

Knowing how to behave at a christening is important. Most individuals know how to behave in a church. Loud voices, yelling, and cursing are behaviors in poor taste. This also applies if the christening is being held outdoors. The ceremony should still be treated with dignity and respect. If the parents want a vocal response from their guests it will be communicated to them before the ceremony starts. This usually only applies if the baptism is in a non-religious setting. 

Baptism Etiquette at a Christening Party

Etiquette also governs guests’ behavior at the celebration. Most parents have a gathering at their house and guests are expected to act appropriately. This is not the time for relatives or friends to get into heated discussions, it’s a time to celebrate the baby’s baptism. Manners are important and should govern guests’ actions from eating to mingling with others. Guests also want to take the time to have a few quiet words of congratulations to the parents. 

In Conclusion

There are so many do’s and don’ts for a baby christening and the following gathering. While parents are not required to adhere to every rule, there are some that when followed can make the baptism go smoothly. Etiquette also answers many of the questions parents and guests might have about gifts, outfits, and behavior. 

A baby’s baptism is a time for celebration and this should always be remembered. In a sense, it’s a naming ceremony as the child is formally introduced to family, friends and often the church. The day should be about the parents and their baby and this is what baptism etiquette helps to accomplish. 

Baby Baptism Etiquette

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