Jeanne Rathbone


Humanist Naming ceremonies leaflet

Humanist Naming ceremonies leaflet

I really do think that our ceremonies play a significant role in our changing and fragmented society as so many people no longer adhere to religious beliefs and rituals. I think that a child’s arrival is a momentous event and should be celebrated with a ceremony and they should be given the opportunity to have oddparents especially appointed to play a part in their lives.

Lauren's Naming at Sion House conservatory

Lauren’s Naming at Sion House conservatory

These ceremonies, which are mainly held in people’s homes/gardens but also in parks/commons/pubs/boats on the river, should be relaxed, humorous but organised. I usually get all the children sitting on cushions/rugs on the floor, in front, in school assembly mode! I usually only visit a couple/family once before the ceremony and I get to the ceremony venue well beforehand so that I can speak to all the contributors and put them at their ease.

Humanist Naming Ceremonies – YouTube

People can organise their own ceremonies without having a Humanist Celebrant. It is best, however, to have an MC and an agreed programme/list of contributions etc. I would stress that it is important for all contributions to be written down so that they can (1) be put in the child’s nameday book , (2) to stop rambling, (3) to check the time/length of the contribution, (4) you get better/more thought out contributions and (5) it helps those who are a little nervous about speaking in public.


I do strongly recommend having a NAMEDAY BOOK which will include the contributions from the ceremony and from all the guests who have been invited to bring along something for the book eg.  a poem, acrostic- using the initials of the baby/child/childrens names, a reading, picture, photographs, a piece of advice, a wish, a promise, a recipe, list of their favourite things, a bit of family lore, a specially composed song etc. I find that it is better when there are many people involved in the Naming ceremony with fairly brief contributions. There would be an introduction by the celebrant outlining the ceremony.

Sophia's Naming

Sophia’s Naming

 A typical order of ceremony would be.

Introduction, welcome,  an explanation of a Naming ceremony, the formal naming of the child,. Sometimes a symbolic gesture of  lighting of candles, more usually I kiss the baby on behalf of all those present, contributions from parents/grandparents/others/children and the appointment of mentors/oddparents. Our New Arrivals and Sharing the Future  booklets are helpful.

THE STORY SO FAR. There may be a brief section about the couple and how they met. This could be delivered by a friend of each of them doing a short profile followed by the interesting/accidental/ magical story about them meeting. Every story is special and a little magical and is partly an explanation for their little one of how their Mum and Dad met.

Tulip's Naming at Brockwell Lido cafe

Tulip’s Naming at Brockwell Lido cafe


The PARENTS speak –stating their hopes for their little one, making promises to them, relating the time leading up to their birth and their arrival, explanation of the names chosen/ meaning of the name/ funny spell check etc.

GRANDPARENT’S contribution. This might include some family lore, thoughts on been made grandparents, memories of the parents when they were children, a favourite family poem/reading/musical tribute etc.
OTHERS. This section may include something from aunts/uncles/cousins/friends and /or singing/ reading a child-centred piece.

The appointment of the mentors who are usually called ODDPARENTS. They are people who have been chosen to play a special part in a child’s life. The parents would probably mention why they have chosen the oddparents. The child, I reckon, has a right to know why these people have been chosen for them as one assumes they were not chosen at random out of a hat!   (Perhaps, one day a couple may well decide to do just that!)

The Trafalgar venue for a Naming

The Trafalgar Greenwich venue for a Naming

The oddparents would then speak. They may have some advice, warnings, memories of the parents, promises, hopes, wishes etc. all expressed with humour, of course. Again, I have witnessed some wonderful contributions that have been both funny and emotional.
I would probably reiterate the invitation for contributions for the child’s NAME DAY BOOK as these will provide a lasting and fascinating memento of the occasion when a group of people came together to celebrate that child.  The Nameday Book will be something to cherish in years to come.

Edith with her Mum and Dad in Battersea Park for her Naming

Edith with her Mum and Dad in Battersea Park for her Naming

Toast, bubbly and bubbles/ blowouts/poppers/indoor sparklers for the children and kidults to make a bang of a finale!!

As we become more secular Humanist ceremonies will become the norm and so they should.  Baby namings and combined naming/commiment ceremonies have it all – laughter and tears, a celebration of family, unconditional love, parents, grandparents, relatives, children and friendship as well as music, feasting balloons, bubbles and bubbly yet they are very easy to organise.

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