A Quick Etiquette Guide to Baby Celebrations

Baby Ceremonies: FAQ

Whether you welcome your baby with a christening, a bris, a traditional naming ceremony (as practiced in Muslim, African, or Native American traditions), or a ritual that's your own invention, there are a few basic guidelines that are common to all:

Who should be invited?

Invite family, friends, and whomever else you choose -- these celebrations can be intimate or large-scale. But new parents should be careful not to put too many demands on themselves. Limit the scale to what you can comfortably manage, and remember that it's perfectly fine to delegate chores to close family members and friends, during the preparations, at the event, and for clean-up.

How should guests be invited?

Invitations need not be formal. Phone calls or, at most, handwritten notes are customary for a christening or a bris, and should suffice for other kinds of baby-welcoming ceremonies as well. This saves the new parents the trouble of making up invitations.

Is it appropriate to serve food?

It's perfectly appropriate to treat your guests to a bite to eat after the ceremony. The refreshments could be as simple as coffee and cake at your home after a christening to a full banquet at a baby-naming celebration. The new parents aren't under any obligation to take on more than they can handle, either physically or financially. The event should be about spirituality, community, and/or family -- not about elaborate food and drink.

Does the baby have to be present for the whole event?

Certainly not. If the star of the show needs to sleep, she should be put down for her nap. Guests will have other chances to dandle her on their knees. A new parent should feel free to gently decline requests to hold the baby at any point, if it seems like being passed around like a (much-loved) football wouldn't please the little one.

Should guests bring gifts?

Gifts aren't usually expected at a baby-welcoming ceremony. While in some traditions or families, it's customary to bring a small token like a rattle or a cup to such a celebration, it's shouldn't be the focus of the event. In most cases, it's more appropriate for guests to send or bring a baby gift at another time.

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