Organising a christening

If you would like your child to be raised as a Christian, a christening is usually one of the first steps to take. While some clergy are relaxed about your own expression of faith and how often you come to church, others will expect of you regular attendance before and after the Christening in order to become an actual member of the community.

Is there a difference between a Baptism and a Christening?

There is no difference between a Christening service and a Baptism service. Some churches will use the word 'baptism' and some the word 'christening'. Babies are baptized during a christening service just as couples are 'married' during a 'wedding' service.

Everybody can be baptized, as long as they haven’t been baptized before. There is no need for parents to be baptized themselves in order for them to want this for their child. A Christening calls for the child to accept Jesus and repent to any sins. However nowadays an increasing number of people believe that such an important choice shouldn’t be made unless the person is old enough to understand what this entails. That is why many people opt for a blessing as an alternative. This means that the child will be blessed and thanks will be given for his safe arrival into the world without parents making any promises on his behalf. An actual christening can then be held at a later stage when he or she is able to understand what baptism involves.

If you have decided on a Christening, the first thing to do is talk to your local vicar to see if the Christening will be included in Sunday services or if this will be held on a separate occasion. Some churches will only ask you more general information whereas others prefer specific information about your own belief and that of the godparents. You can have your baby Christened at your local parish church but if you want to have the christening at a different church, for example, where you grew up or where you were married, you will need to talk to the vicar at that church.

Choosing godparents

Godparents are probably the most important people present at the christening because they promise to stand by the child in time of need. Traditionally, Godparents were chosen for their strong Christian beliefs so that in moments of doubt, they were there for reassurance. Nowadays godparents are chosen among family members or friends, more often for the bond they have with the parents. The important question to ask yourself is “Are they going to be there in time of need? “Will they help our child with the big questions in life about love and hope? Now? In ten years?”

It is common for girls to have two godmothers and one godfather and for boys to have two godfathers and one godmother. Unlike parents, godparents do have to be baptized themselves and old enough to have such a responsibility.

How to dress

Traditionally, girls and boys wear a long white or cream coloured christening gown. It’s wonderful if you have one of these gowns that has been in your family for generations. If not, this can be found in special christening shops; also many large department stores often have Christening sections.

Invitations

Many parents do choose to send out invitations. These are either pre-printed or bespoke cards; the style of the invitation should reflect the level of formality of the service and party.

Make sure, especially if the Christening is being held as a special occasion that everybody arrives 10 minutes before the service begins since the vicar might be on a schedule that day for other Christenings. In general a ceremony will last about 20-30 minutes. All of this should be put into the invitation.

After the service you might want to provide coffee, tea or sandwiches. If you have family coming from further away you might want to serve a meal to thank them for coming. If it is in your budget you might want to call for a caterer and save yourself the trouble. Don’t forget to invite the vicar to this part of the day as well!