Etiquette may not be at the forefront of the parents’ minds when a baby is on its way but births and christenings are rites of passage, which have accrued traditions in British culture. There are established guidelines and contemporary considerations relating to announcing births, presents and ceremonies, about which it is helpful to be informed, although personal style will always play a major role when it comes to the choices of any given family.
Traditionally, it is the father’s responsibility to spread the good news, but a grandparent or other relation often shares the duty. Immediate family and close friends should be informed as soon as possible by telephone; it is sensible to prepare a list in advance of those nearest and dearest that require a phone call.
Other family and friends can then be contacted and it is customary to use other media – for example, text message, email – to spread the word. It is essential that the most important people have learnt of the news in person before it is announced on social media sites.
Cards, sometimes complete with a coloured ribbon (or a photograph), may be sent out at a slightly later stage, with details such as the baby’s weight, if desired. Often, this may double up as a thank-you card if a present has been received.
If there are complications, the announcement may be delayed until the health or wellbeing of the mother and baby are known.
Birth announcements in the paper are traditionally very simple and succinct. Announcements are usually confined to the broadsheets – effectively The Times and Daily Telegraph, though fewer people now do both – or, if appropriate, a local newspaper.
A traditional announcement would read: Debrett – On 20th August to John and Charlotte (née Berkeley), a daughter, Caroline Jane.
Unmarried couples will use both parents’ first name(s) and surname. For example: Maddox – On 20th August to Richard Maddox and Ilsa Curzon, a daughter, Alice Louise.
Single parents may use only one parent’s name. For example: Curzon – On 20th August to Ilsa, a daughter, Lucy Claire.
If it is not a first child the sibling may be named (for example, ‘a sister for Joanna’) and occasionally the hospital (certain fashionable private London hospitals include the announcements in their package and always name themselves). Additions such as ‘much loved’ or thanks to the medical team are less traditional but may be included and may reflect particular circumstances.
It used to be rare to announce the adoption of a child but is now much less so. Some parents choose to send out cards and the traditional wording would read: