Christening Etiquette

Updated April 17, 2017

A christening is a religious ceremony in which parents present their baby to Christ and to the Christian faith. Taking time to learn the guidelines and christening etiquette of your church will make for a less-stressful day. Begin preparing for this event with the church and the godparents prior to your baby's birth.


Check the rules of the particular church where you are planning to baptise the child. Each church, or parish, has different pre-christening requirements. One parish may require that the parents be registered parishioners or members in order to have the baby baptised. Another parish may allow non-parishioners to participate after getting approval of the parish where the parents are registered.

Find out what kind of christening services your church offers. A private baptism is separate from regular Mass with only the baptismal families and friends present. Some churches offer christenings as part of Sunday Mass. This allows the parish community to witness and be part of the celebration.

Attend pre-baptismal counselling offered by your church. This may be in the form of a group class with other families or a one-on-one meeting with a church representative. The counselling session will explain the importance of the christening, the actual service, the importance of choosing godparents for your baby and available baptism dates.

Baptise your baby as soon as possible. Catholics believe that each person is born with original sin, a sin passed down by Adam. A soul is not able to get to heaven if a person dies possessing original sin. The baptismal water washes away the sin and restores the soul to a state of grace. While the church does not have a specific time frame as to how long after birth the christening needs to take place, it recommends immediate baptism if the baby's life is in imminent danger. This ensures that he is free of original sin and can get to heaven in the event of death.


Choose godparents wisely. At least one godparent should be an active and committed Catholic. According to, godparents are required to be at least 16 years old, be someone other than the baby's parents and lead a life within the parameters of the church. Godparents must also be fully initiated into the church. In the Catholic Church, this means they must have already received the sacraments of Communion and Confirmation. Only one godparent is required, although two are preferred.

The lifelong role of a godparent is to assist the parents in raising the child in the faith. Godparents need to be willing to be legal guardians of the child if necessary. Be advised that if this need does arise, legal guardianship papers need to be executed. The law will not recognise legal guardianship merely because someone is a godparent.


Dress the baby in all white for the christening ceremony. The colour symbolises cleansing and purity. During the ceremony, the parents and godparents proclaim to raise the child in the Catholic faith by answering to the priest. The godparents light a candle, which represents Jesus as the light of the world. The candle is later given to the parents after the service.

A baby is baptised at the baptismal font. Churches differ on how the baby is actually christened. Some priests sprinkle holy water on the child's forehead, while others fully immerse the child in the font's water.

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About the Author

Antonia James is a Florida-based writer who began writing full-time in 2009. After starting her career in the world of journalism she ventured into the courtroom as an attorney. James holds a Bachelor of Arts in media studies from Fordham University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami.