Christenings and baptisms are almost exclusively religious services, so etiquette at these events reflects the traditions of the ceremonies. What is more, christenings and baptisms occur on a much smaller scale than celebrations such as weddings, so those on the invitation list are usually family members and very close friends only. As a result, the invitation is considered an honour, and guests should take care to consider the etiquette surrounding such ceremonies.
Today, christenings and baptisms are considered more or less the same event, although at one time they were entirely separate. At a christening, an infant was "Christianized" with the bestowal of a Christian name. At a baptism, an infant was sprinkled with water to indicate acceptance into a Christian body. Baptisms with accompanying christening are more common today, although it is not unheard of for families to hold separate ceremonies.
Families who plan on sending out invitations for baptisms and christenings should give their guests plenty of time before the planned ceremony. Three or four weeks is standard, as this provides enough time for guests to make any travel arrangements. Invitation wording tends to be simple, with basic information about the parents, the name of the child and the date, time and location of the event. For example: "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request the honour of your presence at the baptism/christening of their son Michael on Sunday, the fourth of January, at nine o'clock in the morning at St. Edwards Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland."
Guests who attend either a baptism or a christening should plan to dress appropriately because the service is almost always held in a church. Etiquette experts recommend the "Sunday best," with the women in a dress or a pantsuit and the men in a suit and tie. Clothing that is too revealing is discouraged due to the nature of the ceremony. Even in a more informal church, formal clothing is recommended for this type of event.
Gifts for a baptism or a christening tend to be reciprocal. This is to say, it is expected that those selected to be godparents will give a gift to the infant, while the parents will give a gift to the godparents. Recommended baptism/christening gifts include Bibles, silver baby utensils and picture frames. Outside the godparents, other guests are not expected to bring a gift, because it is likely they have already given a gift at a shower. Additionally, the parents of the infant are encouraged to provide a small donation to the officiant who performs the ceremony.
A reception after a baptism or a christening is on a much smaller scale than a reception after an event such as a wedding. The location might be the home of a family member or close friend who is a guest of the ceremony, or it might be the reception hall at the church where the ceremony is held. If the ceremony includes the larger congregation of the church, the latter is recommended for space reasons. The reception does not need to be elaborate: a cake and some beverages are appropriate.
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