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Christening Etiquette for Parents

author image Kathryn Rateliff Barr
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.
Christening Etiquette for Parents
A christening typically occurs before the baby is 6 months old. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Most christenings today take place as a part of a church service with church members in attendance to support the family and new baby. In most Protestant churches, the etiquette is less formal because there is no need for formal godparents and few parents have a large celebration with food following. Denominations such as Catholic, Episcopal and Greek Orthodox often include more formal etiquette elements for a baby's christening.

The Christening Party

In the electronic age, it’s acceptable to issue christening invitations via a phone call, text or email. Most parents limit invitations to close family and friends including grandparents, aunt and uncles, godparents and sponsors of the child. Since most christenings occur during public worship services, alert the church if you need to reserve one or more pews to accommodate your family. You’ll want everyone to sit close to the front so you can easily make your way to the front of the church when the minister indicates it’s time for the christening. Sit on the end of the aisle so you can make your way from the church to the nursery if the baby becomes fussy during the service.

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Standard attire for the christening party members is Sunday church clothes. The baby may wear a traditional white christening gown, although it isn’t required. You can change the baby out of the christening gown after the christening, either in the pew or in the nursery, if you desire. Some churches use a small flower or rosebud to sprinkle water on the top of the baby’s head, so take the flower with you to church and leave it in a bud vase near the baptistery fount, or wherever the minister indicates he needs it.


Some couples still honor the tradition of having formal godparents for the new baby. If your church has requirements godparents must meet -- such as being a member of the same denomination or church -- get this information to the pastor prior to the service with the required documentation. In some Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, the godparents often present the baby with a small cross and chain at the christening and the baptismal candle that accompanies the baby to several masses following the baptism.


If family members or friends present baptismal gifts, they should do so in a private setting after the service. Parents should issue written “thank you” notes within six weeks following the celebration. In some Protestant churches, the church gives a small Bible to the parents with the baptism certificate. Include a “thank you” note for the Bible to the pastor, along with any donation you might want to include for the pastor and the church.


The christening takes place during a worship service. Limit pictures and videos to a reenactment after the service to prevent disrupting the service for church members. The pastor is usually willing to pose with the baby and family after the service.

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