There are lots of reasons to have a naming ceremony for your child – to welcome your new baby into the family or a joint-celebration with a first birthday or a wedding.
If you’re not religious, the idea of a non-religious humanist naming ceremony may appeal to you.
What is humanism?
Humanism is a word for a non-religious approach to life which has at its heart respect and fairness for all. Humanists believe that we have just one life (and that there is no afterlife or creator) and look to science and evidence for a rational understanding of the world around us.
Does this sound like you? Then you may be a humanist. Many people find the word describes the approach to life they already have. There’s a fun quiz on the Humanists UK website where you can test ‘How humanist are you?’
Why choose a humanist naming ceremony?
Melissa Cotter, who became a humanist naming celebrant in 2018, told us:”A humanist naming ceremony doesn’t impose any beliefs onto a child who is too young to make the decision themselves: it celebrates the family, and the child’s position within it, with meaning and creativity.”
“Each ceremony is unique and bespoke, tailored specifically to the family. You receive a quality service and will have the keepsake of a beautiful presentation script to remember the day.”
A Humanist naming ceremony is focuses on family
The most recent naming ceremony Melissa conducted was for twin girls, Petra and Pia at Bannatyne in Ingleby Barwick in Stockton-on-Tees.
It was a sunny day and the atmosphere was full of excitement and there was a real sense of occasion amongst the 80 or so guests.
The twins’ mum, Olivia chose a pink and white theme for the decorations, which included a flower backdrop, table decorations, two celebratory cakes, and a balloon arch. Even the twins’ outfits and Olivia’s outfit were coordinated to match the theme.
The naming ceremony focused on the family. First, Melissa welcomed everyone and then gave a simple explanation of why the couple had chosen a humanist ceremony and what it meant to them.
Each parent lit a candle in memory of late relatives who they wished to include in the ceremony, and they each thanked their grandparents for their help and support.
Melissa told the story of Olivia and Jack who have been together for over 10 years and are still ‘going strong’. She then went on to describe the girl’s individual qualities and characteristics – one more like their dad and the other more like their mum.
Melissa gave a reading, Sonnet 17 by Pablo Neruda, which illustrates the special bond of twins: “I love you without knowing how or when or from where. I love you straightforwardly without complexities or pride: so I love you because I know no other way that this; where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”
The parents both made a promise to the girls, then the guideparents were introduced and they made promises to the girls too.
The guideparents’ different qualities were all mentioned, along with how they will help the girls individually. One would be there to support them and their parents and help them to feel safe and secure. Another would inspire them creatively. The third would help them with being organised and planning and the fourth would be there for ‘advice about most things’.
All the guideparents made the same promise together which was, “To support Pia and Petra in all that they do. To inspire their imagination and to help them to fulfill their dreams.”
What about humanist ‘godparents’?
As the old saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’! Whatever you choose to call them, significant people in your child’s life can certainly be included in the naming ceremony if you wish. How many (if any) you appoint is entirely up to you and they can all have different roles and titles.
The most popular name used in place of ‘godparent’ is ‘guideparent’. Other families may choose a more light-hearted term like ‘oddparent’ or ‘sparent’. It’s entirely up to you.
Naming the twins: two peas in a pod
Melissa explained how the twins’ names were chosen and where they came from: Petra was named after Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter because Jack is a Formula One fan. After deciding they wanted another name beginning with ‘P’, Olivia and Jack agreed on the name ‘Pia’.
Now, Petra and Pia are known as ‘two peas in a pod’.
Then came the naming itself: each of the girls was named by the celebrant and everyone there, one twin at a time.
The ceremony ended with Brahms lullaby, which is the twins’ favourite tune.
Become a naming celebrant is a rewarding career
According to Melissa, being a Humanist CeremoniesTM naming celebrant is a rewarding career.
She explains: “It is a privilege to help a family make important, happy memories of the day their child was named. There is an atmosphere of anticipation at a naming ceremony. It is all about celebrating the child and their place amongst their family and friends, and there is also so much love and hope for the future all in one room. It’s impossible not to be uplifted by it.”
So, what does a humanist naming celebrant do?
Naming ceremonies are an increasingly popular way for families to formally welcome a child into their family, and whilst a humanist naming ceremony might be a ‘first’ for you, celebrants from the Humanist Ceremonies network are trained to deliver not just the ‘naming’ of your child, but a ceremony that can include a variety of promises, readings, and symbolic acts such as planting a tree, lighting a unity candle, or conducting a sand-blending ritual.
A naming celebrant will meet with you to discuss your wishes for the day – from a short ceremony as part of an intimate family do, to a longer ceremony which is part of a day of celebration with family and friends.
They will offer you support with choosing readings, poems, music, and writing personal promises to your child, and provide you with a draft script for you to edit and agree in advance.
On the day, your celebrant will lead the ceremony and ensure that everything runs on time, freeing you up to welcome your guests, relax, and enjoy time spent with family and friends.
You will receive a presentation copy of the script and a commemorative certificate.
Find out more about humanist naming ceremonies
Melissa conducts ceremonies in Teesside, Durham and North Yorkshire. If you’d like Melissa to conduct a naming ceremony for your child, you can contact her via her website.
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