Proper Baptism Etiquette

It's important to know baptism etiquette and follow the rules carefully. Receiving an invitation to a baptism is very special, and you don't want your behavior to distract from this very meaningful ceremony.

Baptisms and Christenings
A baptism is a religious ceremony that brings the child into the Church; therefore, it is important to treat the occasion with respect. It is a great honor to be asked to attend or participate in a baby's baptism.

At one time, a baptism was different from a christening. In the baptismal ceremony, the child was introduced to the church. In the christening ceremony; the child received a Christian name. Recently, the words have become interchangeable.

The invitation might request your presence at a christening or a baptism. In both instances, you will witness the child's introduction to the church.

A child may also be brought into the church through a ceremony known as a Dedication. In this ceremony, the child is dedicated to God. This ceremony is sometimes called a naming ceremony, which is often less religious in nature.

A Public and Private Ceremony
Generally, the ceremony occurs shortly after birth, usually within the first six months of the baby's life. It is up to the baby's parents to schedule the baptism with their church. The parents of the child then send invitations to everyone who they want to attend the baptism. It is also the responsibility of the baby's parents to choose the people who will stand as witness or godparents for the baby.

A baptism is both a private and public ceremony. It is public because it usually takes place at church in front of the entire congregation. It is private because only the closest friends and family members receive invitations. 

Rules for Attendees
If a baptism is taking place, you must be a member of the congregation or an invited guest to attend. Do not attend if you do not fall into one of these categories.

Dress appropriately. That means breaking out your Sunday best or formal church attire. Men should wear jackets and ties. Women should wear simple dresses or pantsuits. A baptism is more solemn than a wedding, so avoid clothes that are too showy or revealing.

The baby will most likely be wearing a special christening or baptismal gown. Many times the outfit is a cherished family heirloom handed down from generation to generation.

It is not uncommon for the family to host a reception after the ceremony. The reception might be held at the church with cake and coffee for the entire congregation. It may also be held at a function room and be only for family and friends. 

Gift Giving
There are some special gift-giving rules for the parents and godparents at a baptism. The parents should give a gift to the godparents, while the godparents should give a gift to the baby. Gifts made of silver are traditional. Picture frames, plaques and baby eating utensils made from silver are all appropriate.

It is also customary for the parents to make a special monetary donation to the clergy member who performs the ceremony. If you have a close relationship with the person who officiates, a small gift can be given in place of money.

Guests are not required to bring gifts unless this is the first time they have met the baby. If you've already given a gift at a shower or during a visit at the parents' home, you're not obligated to bring an additional gift. If you do need a baptism gift, items that can be used by the baby are best. Look for gifts with spiritual symbols or inscriptions. Avoid spiritual books or versions of the Bible for young readers, as these are common gifts that are likely to be duplicates.

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