Communities and religions all over the world have their own special celebrations when a baby is born. From baptisms, to christenings, to dedication, the ceremonies are rooted in belief and tradition. But what about the families who do not adhere to a belief system or don’t want a traditional ceremony? What can they do?
Humanists and other non-theistic families typically have secular welcoming or naming events. These events will be as diverse as the family that hosts them. And that’s the point really. There are ceremonies for infants, adoptions, and blended families. But what do these ceremonies include and how are they crafted?
Infant Welcoming or Naming – Most families in the area where I reside will name their child the moment its born. Most parents have already picked out the name and call the child by name before it’s born, so naming ceremonies most likely won’t be as popular for me. However, a welcoming ceremony would be. An infant welcoming ceremony could be as similar as a traditional baby shower (after the baby arrives), or a little more unique like a gathering of close friends and family, naming of godparents, a blessing read over the child, and even time for each person to hold the baby and make a promise to them. Again, it can be just what the family wishes for their child. Family members can speak at a welcoming ceremony or write messages in a book for the child to read when they’re older, or even plant a tree for the child. My husband and I planted a tree in our yard for our grandson Liam the Spring after his birth. We will be doing the same with our granddaughter Ellie this Spring and again next Spring for our grandson Kaden. For us, it’s a promise of every time we see that tree we will think of that particular grandchild, and the promise of caring for that tree is symbolic of the love and care we have for our grandchild. There wasn’t a ceremony for this, but we know what it means to us and that is satisfactory.
Adoption Welcoming Ceremony – I recently met a couple who adopted an infant into their family. What a great way for family and friends to come together to welcome the child and state their commitment to the family. It would be an incredible gesture for an older child who is adopted to feel the support and love from a larger group of family and friends. Again, each person could say something to the child and the parents or write something in a book for the child to read later.
Blended Family a/k/a Step-Family – In a few wedding ceremonies I’ve officiated, the couple has asked me to come up with something to add to the ceremony where either grooms or brides makes a promise to the others child. I love when couples want this because it’s personal to me as well. When my husband and I married, he gave me two daughters to love and I gave him a son. We didn’t have a public ceremony with our children, but he and I made promises to each other during personal conversations about how we would commit to loving and supporting each others children. I love my step-daughters with the same love and commitment that I have towards my son. When people ask me about my family I always hesitate calling them my step-daughters and until I’m pushed to explain, I always refer to them as my daughters. To me, they are my children and always will be.
Blended family ceremonies could always be made part of a wedding ceremony of course, but if you wanted to make it more about your children than your wedding day, a blended family ceremony would definitely be the way to go. Again, the symbolic gestures could be the promises and commitments from family and friends, messages in a book for the family to read, or symbolic gifts to represent the blending of the families.
The incredible thing about not having theistic or traditional rules to follow is that you can make the ceremony personal and unique, and more importantly, you can make the ceremony suit the needs of the family itself. And as always, having a Humanist Celebrant who cares about your needs to assist in creating and leading a meaningful ceremony is valuable.
What ways have you welcomed new members to your family? Comment below.
In my next blog post I will share with you some of the ceremonies I have done and what was unique about them. I think it will help to shed some light on who I am and why I love being a Celebrant!
Until next time,