Humanist naming ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular and are very personal, aiming to celebrate the love and hopes of each parent for their child. Each ceremony is individually and sensitively written following a meeting with the parents and may contain poetry prose and music. Some parents may wish to have a ceremony for more than one child, or a ceremony to celebrate an adoption; I can discuss the possibilies with you.
The ceremony
Your commitments

Your public declarations of love and support are probably the most important part of the ceremony. The promises you make are very personal and meaningful and reflect the kind of parent you’re undertaking to be. In many ways it is better that the parents and supporters write their own promises or commitments to the child as this will be something very personal to them and to the family.

Most parents focus on the great responsibility of being a parent and how they intend to offer their child respect tolerance, honesty, kindness humour and their unconditional love and protection.

You might choose just one or two promises, simply saying that you’ll be the best parent you can be; or you can choose a whole range of promises that reflect specific ways in which you will try to positively influence your child’s life. However, bear in mind that less is often more – brief statements have more impact and you can end up saying the same thing in several different ways.

Suggestions for parental commitments
  • To care for and nurture him / her
  • To teach him / her truth and reason
  • To provide him / her with a calm and stable home
  • To encourage him / her and develop him in the paths he / she chooses
  • To help him / her achieve happiness, peace and fulfilment
  • To love him / her unconditionally
  • To always love and support him / her
  • To be ready always to listen to him/ her so that he can bring to you his/ her joys and his/ her concerns
  • To teach him/ her honesty, generosity of spirit and tolerance
  • To work hard to create a loving cheerful and comfortable home in which to raise your son / daughter
  • To teach him responsibility, not only to his family but also to the world in which we live.
  • We promise in the presence of our families and friends to love (name) forever and keep her/him safe from harm
  • We promise to nurture and support (name)
  • We promise to raise (name) to believe in friendships and to understand the importance of their contribution to society.
  • We promise to help (name) to learn right from wrong and encourage her/him to always try to do the right thingWe promise to keep (name) safe and clothe him/her, shelter and protect him/her, for as long as he/she needs us, to the very best of our ability
  • We willl encourage and support ( name) in his/her chosen endeavours; irrespective of success or failure, encourage him/her to express his/her own thoughts and feelings without fear of rejection and teach him/her moral values to enable him/her to become a responsible and caring adult
  • We will endeavour to bring (name) up in a home filled with love and kindness and teach him/her to have tolerance for others and respect for humanity and the earth which supports and regenerates all life.
Supporting Adults

There are many different ways to name those who stand as supporters of the child in a namimg ceremony – what the church calls godparents. Many celebrants find it hard to warm to any of them and some parents fall back on the familiar ‘godparent’ – without the capital letter! I am happy to go along with whatever the parents choose as long as it is dignified and is taken seriously.

  • Supporters
  • Oddparents
  • Goodparents
  • Sponsors
  • Mentors
  • Guardians
  • Guides
  • (Spanish)Padrino & Madrino
  • (French) Parrain & Marrain
  • Special Friends

The supporting adults you choose will have an extremely important role in your child’s life. Their public declarations of ongoing love and support can be either just to the child, or to the family as a whole.

The promises you choose will be personal to you all and it’s important that the supporting adults are comfortable making them. Discuss the content n advance with them and decide who will promise what; they may choose to write their own in which case they should agree between themselves what each will say or whether to agree to the same things. It is more usual for the celebrant to read the promises out and for the supporting adults to respond with “I promise” but sometimes they wish to speak their own vows.

Suggestions for supporting adult commitments
  • Do you promise to keep (name) in your thoughts and encourage her/him to achieve her/ his aspirations
  • Do you promise to offer support to (parents’ names) in the upbringing of (name), be loyal friends and be there for them when they need you?
  • Do you promise that in times of difficulty (parent’s names) and (child’s name) can turn to you for reassurance and help?
  • Do you promise to keep careful watch over (name) until he/she grows to be an adult and be always ready to advise encourage and comfort him/her?
  • Will you promise to take time to get to know (name) and keep in touch with him as he grows?
Possible symbolic acts
  • Planting a tree or another long-lived plant like a rose for example
  • Releasing balloons: Give the guests a helium balloon (perhaps with a label) upon which they write their own wishes and these can all be released into the atmosphere with cheers at the end of the ceremony!
  • Giving a gift of some sort – a spoon or mug or a bracelet for example
  • Make up a time capsule
  • Candle lighting
  • Symbolic gifts can include water, salt, bread, coal for example with appropriate wording:
    • Water is the very basis of life, may you never be thirsty
    • Bread is the staff of life, may you never be hungry
    • Salt is for savour, may your life never be bland
    • Coal symbolizes warmth, may you never be cold
  • Fireworks – though you need to observe the venue’s policy
  • Have a guest book where guests can write their wishes for the future
  • Give gifts to the guests to take away – bulbs for example in spring or autumn, or acorns in the autumn, or seeds at any time.
  • The ceremony can be marked with a circle marked out with flower petals. Ask for the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water to embrace the child and sustain and protect her / him throughout his / her life.
  • For a girl a charm bracelet and selected charms can be given to represent different things you wish for her life (owl for wisdom in her choices in life, candle to light her way in times of darkness, etc) You can each speak those wishes in turn to her as you gave her the gift.

An example of part of a ceremony where the parents planted an oak tree.

  • Neil: Olivia, we wanted to give you this small oak tree as a gift from us and as a symbol of your roots in Devon.
  • Melanie: We collected the acorn back in the Autumn last year and can I just say that bending down picking up acorns when you’re heavily pregnant is not an easy thing to do!
  • Neil: We planted the acorn when you were born and have really enjoyed watching you and the tree grow and develop.
  • Melanie: We promise to care for and nurture the tree as we will you until you may feel you want to take on the care of the tree yourself and maybe even pass on the acorns to your children and even grandchildren.
  • Neil: The Celts believed the Oak Tree has great healing powers and symbolises strength, courage and provides protection especially for new life.
  • Melanie: This tree symbolises our lifelong commitment to you and reflects our general take on life; that’s put nicely in a quotation by Nelson Henderson which is  ‘The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit’.