A baptism or christening is both a spiritual and a social event. It's a celebration of faith, life and hope for the future. Baptisms are like weddings in that they reflect religious as well as cultural and social traditions. From a planning perspective, that means there can be a number of details involved in the process. And since others will be called on to play important roles in the ceremony, putting together a schedule and keeping everyone informed is important.
For some couples, an impending baptism can have another purpose, too. It's a time that encourages new parents to take a closer look at the way they view their faith and relationships. Interfaith marriage is one example of a family situation where confusion or conflicts can arise relative to baptism that may require analysis and earnest reflection. Another consideration is the choice of friends or family members who will stand as spiritual advisors and be willing to take on the significant roles as godparents in your child's life.
After the spiritual elements of the baptism have been addressed, there's the party to consider, too. Baptisms are joyous times. They're often occasions when family unity and harmony is at its strongest. Like weddings, baptism party celebrations can be small and intimate or large and elaborate. Your circumstances, style and budget will determine whether a party is a good idea and what type of party will work best.
From scheduling the event with your church to putting together the invitations (or announcements), there are time-sensitive arrangements to make. On the next couple of pages, we'll help you prepare a checklist and offer a few practical and fun suggestions for an unforgettable day.
Organizing a Baptism
When organizing a baptism, scheduling is the key to a successful event. Start by contacting the church involved and discussing their calendar openings and any rules that may be involved. It's a good idea to plan the event a month to three months in advance. Although there are usually no hard and fast rules about when baptisms can be performed, holding a baptism before a child's first birthday is pretty common. For adult baptisms (or those planned for older children), timing isn't a factor, but scheduling may be.
Churches can have crowded schedules, particularly during certain times of the year, so be flexible. You'll want to discuss the topic of godparent selection with your church representative, too. There may be rules in place requiring godparents be members of the same faith. The title of godparent is that of spiritual consultant or mentor, and some faiths take the role very seriously. As parents, you may also be requested to participate in an instructional session explaining the meaning of baptism. These details will have to be taken care of before the baptism happens.
The next order of business is the selection of godparents. Knowing what your church requires is important, but finding godparents who are willing to take the responsibility seriously is important, too. This may take time and thought. Ideal godparents are involved in the lives of their godchildren, which can easily become a decades-long commitment. It's up to you who you choose, whether it's a couple or two people who have never met each other before. But make sure they're two people you love and trust, who are very close to you. Choosing a work friend or neighbor may not be the best option.
After you've selected godparents and discussed your plans with your church, review the tentative date you have in mind with other important participants, like both sets of grandparents, and then confirm the date with the church. This sounds like a lot of back-and-forth discussion, and sometimes it is. Making sure everyone is available and all the requirements for the baptism have been met are the two biggest hurdles in planning, though.
Baptism Invitations and Announcements
Once you've settled on a date, it's time to send out invitations. If you have friends and relations who won't be attending, it's nice to send a baptism announcement, which can also serve as a birth announcement if you'd like. For those people you intend to invite, a written invitation is always in good taste. Formality isn't obligatory, though. You can send e-mail invitations or make a series of phone calls, instead. If you're working on a tight budget or time is a factor, the important thing is to get the word out. Written or e-mailed invitations have the advantage of being consistent. You won't forget any of the details, and you can add some helpful reference materials like a map to the church or parking recommendations for the reception or after-party.
Be sure to include these ceremony details in your invitations:
- child's name
- name of the church
- names of the godparents
You can also add information about the reception:
- an RSVP request with phone number
Here are some other important details:
- Mention the dress code -- If you're having a formal (or very informal) baptism, it's a good idea to spell out the recommended dress code to avoid misunderstandings and possible embarrassment.
- Assist out-of-town visitors -- If guests will be arriving from out of town, provide hotel recommendations and transportation options.
- Arrange for a christening gown -- This could be a classic white confection you plan to make a family heirloom or a christening gown that's already been in your family for generations. To keep the gown pristine, pack another garment the baby can change into right after the ceremony.
- Take plenty of photos -- Appoint a designated photographer or provide disposable cameras to guests to be sure you'll get some great photos.
Baptism Party Ideas
To commemorate this special day, you don't need to spend a fortune. The goodwill generated by the ceremony itself tends to lend the party lots of energy, and it's usually a great time for family storytelling. Whatever your budget happens to be, consider these fun ways to celebrate:
- Choose a location relatively close to the church service. Your guests will spend more time celebrating and enjoying themselves and less time traveling.
- If you want to keep things simple, plan on having a brunch or tea. You can provide finger foods and refreshments instead of an entire meal.
- If the party is at a residence, make sure there'll be adequate parking.
- Arrange ahead of time for the baby's godfather to offer a toast. It's a good way to start the party on a festive note.
- Ask family members to bring their photo albums and scrapbooks. This is a great time to reminisce. Family history can be fascinating and help reinforce familial bonds for the next generation. If anyone in your family is active on ancestry.com, ask him to make a brief presentation about your collective heritage. You can also burn a CD of family photos to play a running slideshow during the celebrations.
- For spring or summer baptisms, hold the after-party outdoors. Natural settings are all about rebirth and renewal. Park, beach or backyard celebrations are fun and easy to plan. Some parks even have covered picnic areas available for rent with onsite electrical service and cooking equipment.
- Organize assigned seating and place photos of adult guests when they were children next to their respective seats. This one's a great crowd-pleaser.
- Since this is a family gathering, make sure to have entertainment for the kids, too. Outdoor sports like softball or lawn sports are fun, but you can also add a face painting booth manned by one of the young adults or even a crafting station where youngsters can color or make other paper crafts or projects.
- Arrange for a separate table for the younger kids, and decorate it with kid-friendly balloons and streamers. They'll entertain themselves (hopefully without too much squabbling) while the adults chat.
- And, as the guest of honor, your baby has the right cry if he wants to, but there are a few things you can do to keep him or her happy. If your baby is tired, let him sleep. If your baby is hungry, feed her. Follow your baby's lead on what he needs, and you may be able to keep the peace.
- American Catholic. "The Sacraments: Baptism." (3/6/12). http://www.americancatholic.org/features/special/default.aspx?id=30
- Mullen, Amy. "How To Plan a Baptism: Christening Ideas for Infant Baptism." How to Do Things. (3/6/12). http://www.howtodothings.com/family-and-relationships/a3365-how-to-plan-a-baptism.html
- Nap Time Productions. "Tips for Planning a Baby Baptism Party and Designing Baptism Invitations." (3/6/12). http://www.naptimecards.com/articles/art_baptism_planning.asp
- One Small Child. "How to Plan Your Christening, Baptism, Blessing in 9 Simple Steps." (3/6/12). http://www.onesmallchild.com/pages/How-to-Plan-Your-Christening.html
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- Sentimental Values. "Christening & Celebration Checklist." 3/28/06. (3/6/12). http://sentimentalvalues.com/christening_checklist.html
- Sugar Doodle. "Organizing Your Baptism." (3/6/12). http://www.sugardoodle.net/Primary/Leadership%20Helps/Baptism_Kit.pdf