Frequently asked questions

We know you’re likely to have lots of questions. Have a look at what we’ve been asked before and do contact us if there’s something we haven’t covered.

Where can we hold a naming ceremony?

Since namings have no legal status, the choice of venue is entirely up to you. Many namings are held in people’s houses or gardens, in village halls, function rooms, the park or even at the zoo! Inside or out, as long as you’ve gained permission from the relevant person, local authority or organisation, it’s entirely up to you.

Are humanist naming ceremonies legal?

A naming is an entirely private occasion and so there is no legal status to the ceremony. It’s very different to registering a child’s birth which has to be done through a register office within 42 days of your baby’s arrival.

Is my child too old to have a naming?

Children appreciate special days for them at any age. Your celebrant can help make sure the occasion is tailored to your child’s age and your family situation – perhaps calling it a ‘welcoming’ rather than a ‘naming’ for example. And many families also have a joint naming ceremony for an older child as well as a new arrival.

Can we have a joint birthday party and naming?

Absolutely – and you’d be in great company! A great number of the naming ceremonies our celebrants conduct are combined with a first birthday party; it’s a double celebration at a time when you might well have gathered friends and family together anyway.

Do you conduct adoption ceremonies?

Yes. We are delighted to arrange adoption ceremonies to mark a new family unit, formally welcome a child (or children) to the community around them or perhaps to celebrate the completion of the legal process. These occasions are often very emotional and might focus on the journey to adoption and thank those that have helped support the parents along the way.

Can I appoint ‘godparents’ at a naming ceremony?

Most families choose to appoint adults to play a significant role in their child’s life; indeed that’s often one of the main reasons people have opted to hold a naming ceremony in the first place. How many (if any) godparents – or equivalent – you appoint is entirely up to you. Your celebrant can suggest commitments for them to make or other ways of involving them in the ceremony.

Is there a non-religious version of the word ‘godparent’?

Yes, there are lots to choose from. The most popular are ‘guideparent’ or ‘supporting adult’ though you might also want to think about ‘mentor’, ‘sponsor’ or ‘guardian’, for example. Other families go for a more light-hearted term like ‘sparent’ or ‘oddparent’! And since it’s a term we all know and understand, others prefer to stick with the word ‘godparent’ whilst acknowledging that the religious aspect of the role isn’t relevant in these circumstances.

What happens at a naming ceremony?

Each ceremony is written specifically with each family for their circumstances, which means there is no set format. That said, many namings last between 20 and 30 minutes and might include readings of some sort, parental promises or commitments, the appointment of guideparents, some kind of formal ‘welcoming’ or ‘naming’ of the child, information about them as an individual and some tears and laughter! A typical structure of a naming ceremony is given here.

How much work is it to arrange a naming ceremony?

Celebrants understand how little time (and often how little sleep…) parents have and so will work with you to make the process as easy as possible. The celebrant will visit you – often at your home – to find out what you want from the occasion and then keep in contact by phone and email.

I’d love a naming ceremony for my child but hate public speaking. Do I have to say anything?

Though most naming ceremonies involve parents making some kind of commitment or promises to their child, you can do this by simply answering “we promise” to questions asked by the celebrant, for example, or perhaps just one parent could speak. If no one wants to speak, the celebrant will find a way round this – perhaps reading promises on your behalf. The most important thing is that you enjoy the day and the ceremony expresses what you want it to.

How do I find a celebrant?

Our find-a-celebrant search facility lets you search for all Humanists UK accredited celebrants that work in your area. Simply enter the postcode of your home or proposed venue and you’ll be given a list of people to contact. You can browse their websites, then phone or email them directly to check on their availability and fees.

I love the idea of a naming ceremony but don’t know where to start.

That’s absolutely fine and very common. Your celebrant will lead the process and give you as much help and guidance as you need to work out what would be right for you and your situation. They can advise on readings, music, promises and a whole series of big and small issues that help the day to go smoothly.

We’re not actually humanists but we don’t want a christening. Can we still have a humanist naming ceremony?

Certainly. Our ceremonies are available to anyone who wants a non-religious, personal and meaningful way to welcome their child to the world – and we promise we won’t seek to ‘convert’ you or any of your guests to Humanism! (Though that said, some parents discover they are actually humanist in outlook without having realised it before – our ‘Are you a humanist?’ quiz is a fun way to find out more.)

My grandmother is very religious and I don’t want her to be offended.  Will a naming ceremony be okay?

Absolutely. We recognise that every ceremony will be attended by guests of many faiths and of none, and feel that everyone present should feel comfortable and involved. Namings focus on the child as an individual, the joy and responsibility of parenting and those close to the child. Religious people find namings just as moving and enjoyable as those who live their lives without faith.

Does it matter that I’m a single parent / we’re not married / we’re a same sex couple?

Not at all. We are delighted to be involved in helping any parent or couple mark their child’s arrival.

We had our first child christened. Can we have a naming ceremony for our second?

Yes. We recognise that people’s priorities change, or perhaps they haven’t heard of naming ceremonies until later on. And if there is anything you wish to include about your first child at your second child’s naming, we’ll make sure this is done in a way that is fitting.

I don’t really know any poems or prose and can’t imagine that anyone will want to read one. Do we have to include readings?

You don’t have to have anything in the ceremony that you don’t want and that certainly includes readings. That said, there are a surprising number of great readings and poems that are suitable for naming ceremonies and you might want to look through these before deciding whether to include one. If there’s something you do like but no one wants to read, your celebrant will be happy to read it on your behalf.

How long does a naming ceremony last?

This depends on what you want to include but as a guide around 20-30 minutes. We’re always conscious of little people’s attention spans when creating ceremonies, and less can certainly be more…

I’d like to say why we chose our daughter’s name.  Can we do this?

Yes, and in fact that’s often a highlight of the occasion.There is nearly always an interesting story about how the child’s name came to be chosen and it can be lovely to recount this. The same goes for any middle names and, on occasion, surnames.

Are naming ceremonies chaotic with lots of small children around?

They can be but we think that’s half the fun! Our celebrants are well used to the unpredictability of working with lots of young children around. We can suggest some tips to keep slightly older children interested, but mostly the relaxed atmosphere and child-oriented occasion mean that any disruption from smaller children is unlikely to cause problems.

How much does a naming ceremony cost?

Our recommended fees are £150-£300 – but individual celebrants’ fees will vary. When you contact a celebrant to check their availability on a particular day they will also tell you their fee, so be sure to say where you are based so they can factor in the travel involved.

Many hours of preparation go into writing a naming ceremony but our fees compare very positively with what some register offices charge for a naming that is very often less flexible in content and possible venue.

I love the idea of a naming ceremony but my partner isn’t convinced. What should I do?

This isn’t unusual… The best way forward is for the unconvinced partner to phone or email a celebrant and find out more for themselves. This might help them make up their mind either way. Also, have a look at our namings video which gives a lovely example of what such an occasion might look and feel like.

Can I involve my other children in a naming?

Yes, and it’s a lovely thing to do. Big brothers and sisters can say something themselves if they wish, or perhaps give their younger sibling a significant present (like their favourite book from when they were very little) or maybe even make a promise themselves. Your celebrant can suggest lots of ways of making sure the occasion is about the whole family and not just the newest member.

Can we involve our child’s grandparents?

Yes. Grandparents are often popular choices to give readings or perhaps to make some promises to their newest grandchild. And since grandparents are so important in many children’s lives, it’s often good to mention them by name and perhaps to say something about their special relationship.


Got a question that’s not answered here?  Send us an email or post on our Facebook page and we’ll get back to you.