Notification to godparents, friends and family may be by post, telephone call or email and will include mention of any party afterwards. Traditionally, formal invitations were not sent out for christenings or baptisms, but some parents do choose to send them. These are either pre-printed or bespoke cards; the style of the invitation should reflect the level of formality of the service and party.
Traditional Formal Invitations
John and Charlotte Debrett invite you to celebrate the christening of Thomas Edward at St Botolph’s Church, Hanbury on Sunday 8th November and afterwards at the Old Hall
David and Lucy
Pre-printed cards are available with spaces left blank for the guests’ names, the baby’s name, and the date, location and time of the christening, to be handwritten. The pre-printed wording usually reflects the sex of the child, for example ‘…request the pleasure of your company at the christening of their son…’.
Guests should reply to invitations promptly. The level of formality of the reply should reflect the style and tone of the invitation. If a very formal invitation is received, it is advisable to reply in the third person, as for a wedding invitation.
Parties after the service may include a lunch (possibly a buffet), or tea in the case of an afternoon ceremony. The party is usually fairly informal and not all that long, as the baby’s routine needs to be considered. It is best to have any party fairly near the church, whether it is in a hotel or similar venue, or a private house.
Drinks are served, most usually champagne and wine, as well as tea or coffee and soft drinks. Traditionally the top layer of the wedding cake was saved and re-iced to use as a christening cake. A godparent may toast the baby, but long speeches are unusual.
Parents will expect some people to bring presents, so it is sensible to have somewhere to put these, but not necessary to open them there and then. Thank-you letters should be sent promptly.
Guests may bring small children of their own or the baby may have siblings and cousins, so it is a good idea to have some help and to have organised suitable food and possibly a play area for them. It would be very unusual not to invite children; however parents bringing children must look after them properly.
Large parties for christenings are unusual. The essential guests are the godparents, grandparents, the parents’ siblings, and perhaps the godparents of the baby’s siblings and the closest family friends. Cousins will not always be included, nor will neighbours or friends, even very close friends. Godparents are usually accompanied by a spouse or partner.
Parents may need to work the date round the most important guests. If only the actual godparent can come and the spouse is away then the godparent should come alone. If a godparent is unable to come, then another close friend or family member may stand in for them – for practical reasons – during the service.
It is essential to invite the clergyman and spouse to any party or reception. Busy parish priests may not be able to come and parents must allow for this.
Photographs in church should always be non-invasive and cleared beforehand with the vicar or priest. Photographs at the party should be organised efficiently for the sake of the baby. Godparents may want to be photographed holding the baby but it is unwise to force this.
It is correct to dress smartly, with men in suits, or a country jacket and tie, and women in dresses and jackets but not necessarily hats (although it is not wrong to wear one). It is no longer necessary for women to cover their heads in Catholic churches though some may choose to do so. Men should remove hats. Children should be dressed smartly.
The baby may wear a traditional christening robe, which may be a family heirloom, but these may not always fit larger babies. White is traditional and a dress and shawl look best – there are specialist companies that make modern versions.