Naming ceremony for baby - ideas on what to do?
July 31, 2012 7:35 PM   Subscribe

We are having a non-religious, self-created naming ceremony for our new daughter on Saturday. Can you help with ideas on what, actually, to do to make this a "ceremony" and not just a bunch of people standing around looking at the baby??

This is our beautiful Nora. We are holding an informal naming ceremony for her this weekend, and several of our friends and my parents will be there.

We are not religious, but wanted to have some sort of "welcome to the world" ceremony for her that was just mellow and sweet, but as I am not really into ritual I am having a tough time thinking of ideas of what to do.

My dad (a Catholic deacon) will say a few words, and her daddy and I will, too, but other than that I'm a little stumped.

Her middle name incorporates those of her two grandmas, one of whom died a year ago to the day of this ceremony. Her other grammy will be there, so we'd like to do something to honor her female elders, too.

The event will be at a beautiful fountain on the UW campus, and the weather will be stunning.

Do you have any suggestions of rituals, poems, acts of blessing, etc, that we could incorporate? This atheist is clueless.
posted by tristeza to Society & Culture (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard of people having slips of paper available for people to write out good wishes or advice for the baby. You can read them as part of the ceremony or just keep them for later.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:37 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Write up an explanation of the name, maybe describing the ladies she is named for and the attributes you hope she gets from them, and read it to your guests.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:40 PM on July 31, 2012

(She is a precious little muffin btw, congratulations!)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:41 PM on July 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh and as an alternative to slips of paper, you could pass a book around so your guests can write something for her, wishes or advice or whatever, that she can have as a keepsake when she gets older.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:42 PM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Might be too cheesy/wedding-y for your tastes, but how about guests write well wishes and hopes for baby on (or attached to) balloons, and then release them at the end of your ceremony?
posted by hasna at 7:44 PM on July 31, 2012

Plant a tree!
posted by divabat at 7:45 PM on July 31, 2012 [14 favorites]

Slips of paper with advice are a good idea (a nicely bound notebook, written on with a decent pen is even better - a composition book and a bic don't cut it for a life milestone).

You could also have a small gift for her like a necklace, bracelet or ring that everyone at the ceremony can pass around, hold onto, and put their good mojo on it. They put their best wishes into it, a prayer, or chi or whatever. Then there is some kind of physical thing that she can have for forever that was there the day she was named, and is imbued with the best wishes of important people in her life.

This is what me and my fiancee are doing with our rings at our wedding next month!

Congrats and good luck!
posted by amcm at 7:46 PM on July 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

I went to a party awhile back that was at somebody's backyard. There was a pool, there were tiki torches, it was after dark, and it was our extended family getting to know a new baby that was in the family. Everyone was passing the baby around from person to person and that combined with the atmosphere with the dark and the torches and the water made me feel like I was at some kind of prehistoric "welcome to the tribe, baby" ceremony.

Not suggesting you do something totally cheesy or obvious but something about passing the baby from person to person resonated with me. I guess this depends on the baby's temperament, this baby was particularly easy-going.
posted by bleep at 7:48 PM on July 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Record everyone & their good wishes. Maybe think of a few questions to ask them (best love advice?, what's her most likely job going to be?). When Nora gets older she can watch it.
Also do something together, play some live music, sing a song together, let some lanterns fly, hold hands in a circle - it might sound silly to you now, but it really makes for a special moment and nice memory when everyone is involved.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:49 PM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

I like the idea of a necklace--how about a locket with photos of her two grandmothers in it?
posted by Scram at 8:28 PM on July 31, 2012

I like combining hopes for the baby with a call-and-response thing (not unlike the prayers of the faithful/petitions in a Catholic mass.) Maybe solicit ideas from the attendees in advance and have grandma read them? Like this:

Reader: We hope you have your late Granny Mary's quick laugh and you have many opportunities to use it.
Group: Welcome, Nora!

Reader: We hope that we, your friends and family, are a web of strength to support you and let you reach great heights.
Group: Welcome, Nora!


Please don't release balloons. They're bad for sea life.
posted by purpleclover at 8:29 PM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

I once went to a baby welcoming ceremony at a UU church. Everyone was given a daisy and we had to gently bop the baby on the head with it. I thought it was odd at first, but it turned out that the baby LOVED this activity and giggled throughout.* A whole roomful of people making the baby laugh with flowers seemed very welcoming indeed.

*Your Baby May Vary.
posted by apparently at 8:40 PM on July 31, 2012 [18 favorites]

Oh, I should point out that we queued up and the parents walked by us slowly holding the baby, so only one person was interacting with her at a time. We didn't rush her all at once and start beating her with daisies.
posted by apparently at 8:43 PM on July 31, 2012 [14 favorites]

My friends referred to their daughters' ceremonies as "glistenings." I'll have to look back and see what they incorporated, but I just loved the name :)
posted by Madamina at 8:55 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know about the ceremony, but there should be some kind of album/guestbook or something to sign. Or maybe go graduation-style and get one of those big photo mattes that everyone signs?
posted by radioamy at 9:08 PM on July 31, 2012

Ritualwell is specifically targeted to Jewish ritual, and as such may be entirely not what you're looking for, but there are a lot of lovely naming ceremony traditions and some of the ideas may resonate for you. Congrats, and welcome to Nora.
posted by judith at 9:24 PM on July 31, 2012

Have everyone sing "What a Wonderful World," or some other welcoming song, to her.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:39 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make sure that, provided Nora will tolerate this, you get LOTS of photos, with at least one of every person individually holding her.

One of the things my grandma did was write out "Welcome to the World, Firstname Middlename" in lemon juice on a piece of paper; my very first posed photo of myself is of me lying in front of the paper, which has the words glowing because there's a candle behind the paper. I loved looking at that photo after my grandma died; for whatever reason it was hugely special to 9-year-old me. Try incorporating the ideas/talents of the attendees into your ceremony/event.
posted by SMPA at 10:10 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

In fashion, the more formal the event, the older the style.

So, for example, American army dress blues harken back to the Civil War. The coat is a darker blue than the pants because during the Civil War, the soldiers frequently put the jacket in their saddle bag but wore the pants. They were both wool. The pants got washed more frequently, got sweated on more, and got more sun exposure. So they faded. Then when there was a formal thing going on, you pulled out your unfaded dark blue jacket and put it on. This is now the official formal style for dress blues and the color difference is now intentional. Dress blues are more formal than dress greens. When I was a military wife, everyone had dress greens but not everyone had dress blues. (Though it is possible that military uniforms have changed in recent years. However, that wouldn't invalidate my point.)

Also, the more formal or esteemed the setying, the older the style. So, the style of clothing worn by the guards of The Vatican are even more out of date than dress blues. They are something like 500 years out of fashion (or were when I was reading up on this stuff).

So I am thinking that idea can be used to create a sense of ritual, not necessarily through clothes but through anything that gives a sense of a bygone era. Have any written things done by a calligrapher instead of typeset. Use candles for light instead of electricity. Have guests sign a guest book with a fountain pen. Etc. Anything which gives the occasion a sense of being handed down from long ago, and never mind that it was just now made up.

posted by Michele in California at 10:23 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pass Nora from person to person. As each person holds Nora and gazes down at her, they say a few words of welcome, a personal, thoughtful message. If possible, record what everyone says. (It helps to let people know a little in advance what's expected of them, so they aren't suddenly on-the-spot speechless.) I guess it's a more formal and traditional alternative to daisy-bopping. And I really like the daisy-bopping idea!
posted by exphysicist345 at 11:14 PM on July 31, 2012

I just wanted to say that most "ceremonies" consist of people just staring at other people - whatever you decide to do, even if it's one minute of "hey, attention everyone - here's our baby and her official name is Nora!" will be a ceremony.

I think everything you said you've already planned is wonderful (though I love a lot of the suggestions!) and more than qualifies as a ceremony.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 12:15 AM on August 1, 2012

A couple of possibilities for poems to read: Yeats's A Prayer for My Daughter, Larkin's Born Yesterday, or (maybe an excerpt from) Coleridge's Frost At Midnight.
posted by désoeuvrée at 3:45 AM on August 1, 2012

Have everyone bring an object (small, low monetary value) to symbolise something she will need in life. For example: a heavy bolt, for steadfastness in the face of great burdens, or a paintbrush for self-expression and creativity. Then have them all take it in turns to come up to the front and give the object, with its explanation, to the baby. Keep all the items along with notes explaining their rationale in a box, so that she can take it out at difficult times.

Depending on how close your friends and family are, you could also have everyone bring an offer of wisdom, like: look me up in fifteen years time if you want someone to teach you how to do makeup right. Ask me to show you how to waterproof a wooden fence. Talk to me when you're older about which poetry you should start off reading. I can teach you how to make the best chicken soup.

Singing songs together can be a great way to get a sense of togetherness in the ceremony. There aren't many songs about babies, but there are a lot of songs about how beautiful the world you are welcoming to her is. Like Iris Gambol, I immediately thought of "What a Wonderful World", but there are plenty more if you don't like that one.

Dancing in circles is always fun, and surprisingly powerful. How about a segment where the guests hold hands and dance around her, singing their good wishes?

In pagan ceremonies we start by calling upon the four elements, or in some Celtic traditions on the three realms. How about calling upon the elements of life that you find important? You could have a group of your friends to call upon the power of the intellect, another group maybe including grannies to call upon tradition and family ties, another to call upon the power of love and compassion. The groups can think about the words they would like to use to bring these elements into the ceremony and into her life.

I also really like the daisy-bopping!
posted by Acheman at 3:46 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

What about having people read from "Oh the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss? You could record it and have people sign the book itself as a present to give her on her 16th or 18th birthday. :)
posted by Hello Darling at 7:08 AM on August 1, 2012

Our friends did something similar. They used the chuppah from our wedding, had their parents make brief heartfelt statements (one was a pastor), and then food. It was beautiful.
posted by canine epigram at 7:12 AM on August 1, 2012

Get some cardstock in 3 x 4 pieces, and nice colors. Include in the invitation, asking everyone to write something, a saying, thought, story, quotation, etc., for Nora's welcome book. Or ask them to make a picture, either a photo, collage, drawing, or saying, and make a "quilt" on the wall, which you will later put in a book.

Perhaps instead of gifts, assuming you have adequate onesies and a decent stroller, ask for a children's book or children's music, to start off her library. You could ask guests to bring their favorite piece of music for kids, and play them during the event.

I would have a toast, and a solver baby cup with a few drops of bubbly, so Nora can make a very funny face. Maybe ask guests to be ready to make a toast to Nora, for a round of toasting. (just don't force people; some people hate speaking publically).

It's a great idea, and she is, indeed, a charmer.
posted by theora55 at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2012

also, try to take a picture of each guest holding her, and send as thank you's, as well as putting in her book.
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2012

Consider having a godmother and godfather. Religion aside, it's good to have two people who feel some semi-parental involvement in the child's life. It honors your chosen friends, and in return, your daughter may call upon them for a favor now and then.
posted by musofire at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2012

We did this. We had sponsors instead of godparents, and invited our good friends to choose something they were really good at and cared about, to take on teaching our child about those things, over the course of her childhood. (Art, Texas, Nature, Science, Gardening, Literature, are some that spring to mind.) We gave them a double-frame photo - one side had a pic of our child, and the other had a card that said, "Thank you for being my Sponsor and teaching me about _X_."

We gave them out at the ceremony.

And we read that Kahlil Gibran quote, your children are not your children..... I cried a lot at that part but I'm a sap.

And we also did the card with advice. And it was nice.

I'm glad we did it, glad we gave ourselves a chance to celebrate with our friends and family. And glad our child has so many people looking out for her, given that we don't participate in a church community. She's 5 now, and sure enough, occasionally one of our friends will pick her up and take her on a date to learn about whatever they picked. The friends are mostly child-free so they enjoy the kid time, daughter enjoys getting to interact with a different grown-up, and she might even learn something.
posted by pomegranate at 10:22 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Depending on the number of guests, you could ask each one to buy Nora a birthday card for her (meaningful number) Birthday, inscribe and a Wish/hope/dream for Nora inside and seal the envelope. On the outside, they should write their name & how they are related to Nora.
Put on the envelopes in a safe deposit box without reading them and give them to her on the appropriate day. (a relatively inexpensive yet meaningful option as some of the people at the ceremony may not be there for her birthday)

Or if your guests/family are willing/have the means, ask each one to purchase a small representational charm for Nora - the charm will represent the gift giver (a book charm from a librarian, plane charm from a pilot, Eiffel Tower from the gal from France etc).
Start off with everyone in a loose circle and you or your partner presenting a chain or bracelet and saying something like:

"A family is a little world connected by love. This chain represents the connections we, her parents, are gifting to her. Right now each person here is connected to Nora through us but as she grows, she'll have her own connection to each one of you. This is her first step into building those connections." Add in stuff about how her names connect her to her grandmothers. etc etc.

Then as one of you holds Nora, the necklace/bracelet is passed to guest 1 who describes the charm, their connection to Nora and then they connect it on. Pass Nora to Guest 1 who holds her while Guest 2 describes charm/the connection/adds repeat repeat. The last person is you/your partner who drapes the bracelet/necklace across Nora and says something like:

"Nora Middle Last Name is now counted as a member of our family as are each of you. We wish her good health and happiness today and all days."

Go and have a nosh and drinks. Congratulations, she's a doll!
posted by jaimystery at 3:55 PM on August 1, 2012

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