What is in a name?

baby naming


With more parents opting for Baby Naming Ceremonies, Charlotte Tomlinson-White looks at this trend and finds out what it’s all about

There isn’t a community in the world that doesn’t have its own way of marking the birth of a baby. Traditional ceremonies include Christenings, Baptisms, Namakarma Sanskars (Hinduism), Brit Milahs (Judaism) and Naam Karan (Sikhism) but more and more parents are turning to alternatives, and naming ceremonies come out on top.

What is a Baby Naming Ceremony?
A Baby Naming Ceremony provides the perfect opportunity to introduce your new addition to family and friends, as well as formally name them and explain your choice of name. It is also a time to make promises to your child to ensure his or her future happiness and wellbeing. They are purely celebratory and hold no legal bearing, providing a lovely alternative to the more traditional services that have long been cultural tradition.

Where did they come from?
Naming ceremonies have existed for hundreds of years, with each culture having its own take on the process. Name giving ceremonies (as celebrants carry them out today), however, are relatively new, and were launched in the 1970s. They have become increasingly popular in recent years, perhaps because of changing lifestyles and complicated family situations.

How are they different?
Baby Naming Ceremonies are different to other traditional services in many ways. Firstly, they are non-secular and therefore have no religious rules to follow. Unlike Christenings, they are not legally binding. Dissimilar to Church Blessings and Thanksgivings, which take place as part of a main Church service, a Naming Ceremony service stands alone, focusing on the relationship between the child, the parents and the wider family rather than welcoming the child into the religious faith. Contrasting to a Naam Karan, a Baby Naming Ceremony does not determine what name or middle name you give your child. Parents are not required to declare their faith and the child is not committed to a life in the Church as they would be after a Baptism. Baby Naming Ceremonies are not confined to a religious place of worship, it can be carried out anywhere, with those involved believing in differing faiths. Likewise it does not have to be conducted by a religious figure – a celebrant usually facilitates, but anyone can lead them. Contrasting to other faiths, including Judaism and Hinduism, where babies are named within a number of days after birth, a Baby Naming Ceremony can be carried out at any age. Baby Naming Ceremonies are often regarded as informal celebrations, transcending across the age and religion boundaries, encompassing all.

Appointing Significant Figures
Much like Godparents at traditional Christenings, you can appoint ‘Significant Figures’ at the ceremony. There is no limit to the amount of ‘figures’ you can have, again, it is entirely up to you. You can even choose what name is given to them, such as Role Model, Guide-Parents and even Odparents – playing on the term Godparent but removing the ‘g’ to signify the lack of religion involved – reflecting the position they will play in your child’s life and development. A good friend of mine’s little boy Rufus has a ‘Fairy Godmother’.

So what happens at a Baby Naming Ceremony?
There are no set rules or scripts but, as a guide, the format is usually a straightforward structure starting with an introduction and welcome to guests, followed by a reading before commitment of role models / mentors. This is then preceded by ‘Giving the Name’, another reading and the final declaration. The Ceremony concludes with the signing of the certificate. The ceremony can be as simple or as lavish as the family desire. Distinctive additions could include water, candles, flowers, petals, trees and even pebbles. Some families choose to exchange gifts during the ceremony. Personal touches of music, readings and poems can also be included. Some choose to involve grandparents in the ceremony, remember absent friends or family. Attendants can dress formally, smartly or just casual – there are no pre-determined rules.

What happens after the ceremony?
That is completely up to the family. How about a sumptuous three-course sit down meal? A tasty buffet or an elegant afternoon tea? Why not mark the occasion with a champagne toast, the release of some butterflies or the lighting of lanterns? There is no end to the possibilities but be sure to check with your venue if it is not your home!

To name or not to name?
So you may ask yourself is a Baby Naming Ceremony for you? Yes – if you do not have religious beliefs but still think it is important to hold a ceremony to welcome your child into the family and make a commitment to their wellbeing. Yes – if you have mixed religious beliefs and do not want to decide on one religion to welcome your child into. Yes – if you want a flexible ceremony that in no way inhibits your child from seeking a religion of their choosing in the future should they wish.

Possible Venues

Name: The Natural History Museum
Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
Website: www.nhm.ac.uk
Capacity: 150- 200
Price: £6,000-£18,950 plus VAT
What they say:
Perfect for inspiring, celebratory or intimate occasions.We have three stunning spaces, our Central Hall, Earth Hall and Darwin Centre. All of which are special and unique in their own right, providing a dramatic backdrop for any private event.

Name: EDF Energy London Eye
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB
Website: www.londoneye.com/EDFEnergy
Capacity: 25
Starting Price: £480
What they say:
Have your baby named 135 metres above London. Experience breathtaking views from the luxury of your own Private Capsule or add Champagne Afternoon Tea served by your very own host.

Name: ZSL London Zoo
Address: Outer Circle London, Greater London, NW1 4RY
Website: www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo
Capacity: 70-300
Price: £800-£4,400 plus VAT
What they say:
ZSL London Zoo is a fantastic venue to hold any event. We have two main function suites, the Prince Albert Suite and the Mappin Pavilion, plus the option to hire space in some of the Zoo’s exhibits, including Penguin Beach, Animal Adventure and BUGS. With expert caterers serving up the finest foods.

Name: The Tower of London
Address: London, EC3N 4AB
Website: www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon
Capacity: 150
Starting Price: £3,400 plus VAT
What they say:
The impressive New Armouries building, built in 1663, is our daytime event space. Complete with a PA system, the Banqueting Suite on the first floor is available for lunches for up to 150 guests. We have a list of approved catering suppliers and we can even organise access to the public areas of the Towers.

Name: The Barbican
Address: Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS
Website: www.barbican.org.uk
Capacity: 72-300
Starting Price: £2,000 plus VAT and £3,000 minimum catering spend
What they say:
The heart of the Barbican’s banqueting facility, the spectacular Conservatory is a tropical oasis, home to finches, quails, exotic fish and tropical plants and trees. Or the Garden Room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Barbican Lakeside, St Giles Church and cityscape. With a range of catering options available.

Name: Cambridge Cottage Kew Gardens
Address: 26 West Park Road,  Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DA
Website: www.kew.org
Capacity: 80-150
Price: £1,500-£3,500 plus VAT
What they say:
This former royal residence and Grade II listed building makes an ideal venue. For pre-dinner drinks, the Drawing Room can accommodate up to 80 guests in a theatre style seated ceremony. The Gallery houses exhibits botanical art and can accommodate up to 100 guests. Both rooms open onto the picturesque Duke’s Garden and 150 people can be accommodated for a cocktail reception.