Baptism Etiquette

Contributor: Julie Kirk
Baby boy is baptized in a Catholic Church

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

A baptismal ceremony is a significant and sacred event. It is also important to practice appropriate etiquette at the baptism. Those invited to this holy occasion will include family and close friends. It typically occurs in a church and will be led by a member of the clergy. He will be the one to explain what to expect and prepare you ahead of time for the ceremonial process. There are a few basic guidelines that should be followed which include:

Godparents

It is a great honor to be asked to be a godparent. Those who are asked to be godparents are family members or friends that share your same values and beliefs. The expectations and obligations may vary depending on religion, culture, customs and family. But it is important to know that the godparents are among the most important people there at the christening. They are the child's representative and speak on the child's behalf at the baptism. After the ceremony itself, you may take on more of an honorary role or you may actively participate in their spiritual upbringing. The general role of being a good godparent is being a friend and mentor to the child and being supportive of them through their life.

Baptism Invitations

Invitations to the baptism should be sent out at least four weeks in advance. It is acceptable that they are extended formally, by email or by phone. If you receive a formal invitation by mail, it will often ask for an RSVP. But regardless of how you are invited, you should display appropriate etiquette and courtesy with an R.S.V.P. Responding to invitations hastily is one of the most vital components of proper etiquette. Of course, you should never bring a guest on your own or just show up if you were not invited. But 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.

What to Wear

Since most baptisms occur in a church, you'll want to dress respectfully and not too casual. Infant christenings are simply 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. 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.

Don't Be Late

You have been invited to an important life event. Bearing this in mind, it is also very important to arrive on time. Since the baptism will be 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 intimate, sacred events and nothing is more distracting than a guest who attempts to slip in late.

Appropriate Gifts

Many people wonder whether they should bring a gift to a baby's christening. Although it is not necessary, it is good form to bring a gift. A few gift ideas include:

  • Bible
  • Cross
  • Special blanket
  • Engraved silver spoon, cup or rattle
  • Engraved photo album
  • Picture frame
  • Keepsake box
  • Jewelry (for when the baby is older)
  • Religious-themed artwork
Golden cross for christening

Monetary Gifts

You can also give money as your baptism gift. A few suggestions include:

  • If you are the godparent, $100 to $150 or more is appropriate. If you are a close family member $50 is acceptable. If you are a guest, you can give what you can afford and if you can only give $10 or $15, that is fine as well.
  • Savings bonds are another nice option.

Gifts for Godparents

It is customary to give a gift to the godparents. It does not have to be elaborate or expensive. The gift should specifically commemorate the special occasion.

Gifts for Clergy Member

The parents of the baptized baby should give a gift to the officiating clergy member. The best and most appropriate gift would be a financial contribution to the church which is always appreciated.

Reception

The parents will typically host a reception or a party at their home after the baptism ceremony. This may be a traditional, sit-down meal, but keep in mind, an appetizer-only menu, a casual potluck or just cake and coffee is completely acceptable as well.

Baby being introduced to family on a garden party

A True Celebration

Baptism, christening, and dedication ceremonies are sacred events that serve as an introduction of the child to the church. It is a celebration that is both solemn and joyous. While knowledge of baptism etiquette is important, just know that your attendance alone shows the family your appreciation, respect and support of their religion and customs.

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Baptism Etiquette