Our secular baby-welcoming ceremony

Guest post by Ruby Key
Gene at his welcoming ceremony
Gene at his welcoming ceremony

When our baby Gene was born, my partner Martin and I had already decided during our pregnancy that there was going to be no christening/baptism or anything along those lines as we simply didn’t go to church or follow a religion.

Don’t get me wrong — we have no problem with people choosing to go down that route; we’ve been to a really lovely Church of England christening recently that was very moving, but we just didn’t feel comfortable choosing a religion for our little man to follow that we didn’t truly believe in or could commit to raising Gene to the standards and beliefs of a religion. Whilst my fella Martin is christened, I’m not … so I couldn’t really see the point in doing it for our bambino.

Genie was born and we threw ourselves into bringing him up in our own bumbling way (turns out that even if you’ve never even held a baby before, you’re pretty good at knowing what to do with your own!) Visitors came and went, family started pestering us a lot more and Gene’s community started to build up around him. When Gene reached about 9 months old, we started to wish that we’d done something to mark his birth, and after attending the naming ceremony of a little girl whose parents we met at antenatal classes, we decided that we wanted to go down a similar route.

So, we set ourselves to task: 6 weeks to figure out exactly what we were going to do, where we were going to do it and how we were going to feed the 50 or so guests we wanted to invite!

babyceremony1After looking at the local village hall, the venue decision was easy — a tent up on our front lawn would be the perfect setting. Next came the food issues. Luckily, our mums are amazing cooks and my mother set to work on making all the savoury dishes (quiches, salmon, salads, huge bowls of olives, cooked meats, breads, cheeses and all sorts of delicious stuff!) and Martin’s mum got to work making desserts, including two amazing Norwegian celebration cakes (did I mention Martin was half Norwegian?)

So, food sorted, tent bought, posh clothes bought for the baby and a new frock for me and we were almost ready — except what were we going to say and do?! We decided to keep it simple; ultimately the day was an excuse to show off our beautiful boy, get our families together and for our various groups of friends to mingle a bit.
We came up with a script for us to read (this later went out of the window in places on the day as I struggled to keep my emotions in check and kept bursting out crying!) We basically explained the choices behind Gene’s names, thanked some special people in our lives and made promises to Gene about the way we hoped to raise him and that we would support and honour him not matter what choices he made with his life.

Our little ceremony happened in the tent, then, as it was a beautiful day, everybody spread around the garden to chat, eat and drink. It really was a great day and a great way of letting people know how committed we were to our little boy, as well as one another and how much everyone there meant to us and the role that they would play in Gene’s life.

We’ve since had loads of feedback from guests about how much people enjoyed the day, how nice it was to do something that honoured our lifestyle and morals, rather than pick the same old traditional thing because that’s what you ‘do’. And the cake went down a treat! Gene was beautifully behaved and seemed to relish all the attention that was bestowed on him.

I think it’ll be really nice when Gene is older for him to look over the photos and videos of the day, read the comments in his guest book and look at the promises that we made to him and to see how many people showed up because they care about him. I’m so glad we decided to do something for Gene and look forward to repeating the experience with any future kids we have.

Comments on Our secular baby-welcoming ceremony

  1. Good for you! I have lots of Ghanaian friends and what they do in Ghana is called "outdooring" or "outdoor" ceremony. It is the first time the baby is announced to the public, and named publicly. It's done after a few weeks (to ensure the baby survives originally). I think we will do the same thing (since we're not affiliated with any religion either). I think it's a wonderful way to as you said "show off your baby" but also a great way to build love around your child, or in this case, affirm that love! Hurray for loving our babies and building a community around them 🙂

    • Another Ghanaian tradition is to have the eldest male in the family help the babe transition from angel to human by putting their bare feet on the ground. Many believe that babies are still not of this world until they are "grounded" by a family member. My father, who lived and ran a high school in Ghana for four years when he was in his 20's, has done that for all of his grandchildren. Even though we haven't done it as part of a formal ceremony, it has always been a touching tradition in our family. You might want to add that to your celemony as a way of honoring a relative.

  2. naming ceremonies are awesome. and my partner and i also like you, not religious and we did a naming ceremony with an awesome reverend at our local episcopal church, i loved her so much and the way she involved my son, i ended up making communion and having my son baptized and he has also made communion.

  3. Very inspiring! Just curious, did you have a replacement for the traditional "godparents?" We're looking for a secular way to honor our good friends and recognize that they will play a special role in our family's life.

    • We didn't pick "godparents", no. To us the day was really about us saying "This is our son and this is our commitment to him." We didn't feel the need to pick "godparents" as such as we both have siblings and our friends are aware of the role that they play in our lives already. The whole day was really about everyone there and us acknowledging that they all have a role in our son's life and letting them know that we appreciate it.

  4. We're doing something similar, though we're tying it into our daughter's first birthday. I'm not religious, and the bf is a "failed catholic", so there will not be any baptism…though we wanted some sort of ceremony. Not only that, but we felt it would be a good time to unveil her Vietnamese name (that we will legally add to her middle name after it's announced).

  5. Lovely! The food sounds amazing!

    We are Jewish, so when my daughter was born, she had a naming ceremony when she was a month old, in which we bestowed upon her, her Hebrew name and shared who she was named after (my grandmother).

  6. love it. we had secular 'naming ceremonies' for both of our kids. we basically made them up by putting together readings that we found online (that said stuff we meant vs. a baptism where we'd be saying stuff we didn't mean). some of our family were skeptical the first time, but people went with the flow. both ceremonies were very nice. i'd be happy to share the text of our ceremonies with anyone who's looking for something. shoot an email….

    • Hi there,
      I am planning my daughter’s welcome to the world party for next saturday (May 4), and would love to have a look at your script if you don’t mind sharing.
      Thank you so much for the offer.
      Tara Jordan (mother of Zanya)
      [email protected]

  7. I'm really happy to read that you did something special to introduce your child to the world and share it with family and friends. While I plan on having the traditional Catholic baptism for my baby once its born, I see nothing wrong with doing that you did. It has to feel right for you but also you should do somethings. I've seen too many friends of mine ignore completely doing some type of welcome ceremony (religious or not) and it always bothers me. Good luck to you, your husband and beautiful baby Gene. Oh I also like how you told people about the reasoning behind your son's name and want to include this after our baby is born for their baptism/welcoming ceremony!

Join the Conversation