Baptism Etiquette

An infant christening

Baptism etiquette is very important during a christening. A baby baptism, most often called a christening, is a formal event during which a child receives his Christian name and is baptized into the "faith". This process has been extended past Christian denominations and into "naming ceremonies" which forego the element of water baptism but are still used to bring an infant into a particular faith or simply to announce the child's birth.

About Baptism Etiquette

Infant christenings typically occur in a church. Guests will usually receive a formal invitation by mail which, when received, requires your first display of baptism etiquette; you must RSVP. Responding to invitations hastily is one of the most vital components of proper etiquette. If you have received an invitation to an infant christening, it's usually a sign of great honor, as these events are typically opened up to only family and very close friends. Hence, if you have received an invitation, you have been invited to a very intimate event.

Bearing this in mind, it is also very important to arrive on time. Since the baptism typically takes place in a church, it is even acceptable to arrive at the church ten to fifteen minutes early. You can sit quietly in the pews or chat with other guests. However, it is a complete defiling of etiquette to show up even one minute late. Baptisms are still considered to be sacred events, and nothing is more distracting than a guest who attempts to slip in late.

Bringing Gifts

Many people wonder whether or not they should bring a gift to an infant christening. Theoretically, one is not obligated to bring a gift to a baby baptism. This is even truer if you have contributed a gift during a baby shower or post birth. However, parents of the baptized infants are expected to contribute to the officiating clergy member. Moreover, there is a small gift exchange between parents and godparents. Parents will frequently provide the godparents with an appropriate gift, and the godparents will give a gift to the baby.

Baptism etiquette extends to the types of gifts that are given during these christenings. Many websites will report a consistent theme of silver rattles, eating-ware, picture frames, cups, and other small items that function mostly as keepsakes. You can also give types of jewelry that can be worn by the child when she is older. The true vital aspect regarding the nature of these gifts is that they be more elegant than the typical gift you would purchase for a baby shower.

What to Wear

Infant christenings are not casual events, even if the christening is more of a naming ceremony. The desired attire falls within the realm of "Sunday best". Hats (for women), suits, dresses, and apparel that would be appropriate for a Sunday morning at church are appropriate. Spaghetti straps and revealing outfits do not fall within the delineation of appropriate attire. Men should wear button-up shirts and, perhaps, even a tie. Sports jackets and polo shirts are, for the most part, not indicative of someone putting his best foot forward. An infant christening is considered a holy event for the parents, and a guest's clothing should emanate reverence and respect.

Final Thoughts

Infant baptisms are typically followed by a reception that is held either at the parents' or godparents' house, or someone closely related to the child. Do attend the reception as it is a chance to bond with the family and the infant post-christening. Ignoring the christening is generally against etiquette rules unless you have discussed your need to be absent with the child's parents at least a week beforehand.

Also, since christenings are somewhat exclusive events, it's against baptism etiquette to bring a guest of your own. It's also unacceptable to show up to a baby baptism if you were not invited. Though some of these suggestions may be flexible if you discuss your thoughts with the child's parents well before the event place, the aforementioned forms of etiquette are consistent throughout most societies and denominations.

Baptism Etiquette