A baby naming ceremony is a non-religious celebration when a child is 'officially' named. They have no legal status but have become increasingly popular with parents who do not want a religious christening or baptism.
There are three types of naming ceremonies:
Ceremonies organised by the parents
The parents write and lead the ceremony themselves at home or in a venue such as a hired function room in a hotel. As the procedure has no legal status, parents are free to style the ceremony in any way that they please. This is the least formal and, in some opinions, the most personal style of naming ceremony.
Ceremonies organised by a private party
There are many private companies which offer a number of naming ceremony packages that vary in cost depending on the level of individuality required. The company writes and styles the ceremony and a trained individual acts as the celebrant and conducts the ceremony. The company will present the parents with a certificate as a keepsake of the day.
Alternatively, a cheaper option offered by most companies is a planning service, where the ceremony is planned for the parents to conduct themselves, without an officiant.
Further information can be found at the British Humanist Association website
Civil Naming Ceremonies
This government-led scheme, offered by most local authorities in England and Wales, provides parents with the opportunity to host a civil naming ceremony in an approved venue in their area.
The ceremony is conducted by an individual from the local registration service who acts as a celebrant - not a registrar - for the ceremony. A selection of approved local venues (with the correct fire and safety standards and public liability insurance) are available for hire for the ceremony, for example the local register office or a hotel. At the end of the ceremony, the parents receive a certificate as a keepsake of the day.
A naming celebration usually takes place once the baby is a few months old.
Instead of godparents, individuals are asked to be 'supporting adults'. The role should be undertaken with equal commitment as that of a godparent.
Most parents send out an invitation to guests.
It is usual to for there to be a reception for guests after the ceremony with some food and drinks. It is popular to serve a naming cake (similar to a christening cake) at the reception.
Guests should be smartly dressed - it is sensible to look at the formality of the venue and the invitation - and many choose to take a present for the baby.
Whether you choose to lead the ceremony, hire a specialist company with an officiant or opt for a government-approved civil naming ceremony, the format is roughly the same. Here is an outline and some guidance on the format of a naming ceremony:
Naming ceremonies last approximately 30 minutes, depending on the length of the readings.
The parents and supporting adults (equivalent of godparents) make a promise to care for an support the baby.
There are usually two readings by close friends of the family or relatives; many parents also choose to involve the grandparents in the ceremony.
A naming ceremony usually follows the following order: an introduction, a reading, the formal announcement of the baby's name, the parents' promise, the supporting adults' promise followed by another reading.
At the end of the ceremony - when led by a hired officiant or local government representative - the parents are presented with a certificate.