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First communion etiquette

Updated April 17, 2017

First Communions are Christian ceremonies at which a child receives the Host (bread and/or wine) for the first time. This ceremony is very important in the child's spiritual and religious journey, and is often celebrated by her family and friends. Customs and rules of etiquette can vary based on the religious denomination of the ceremony.

Ceremony and Participation

There are ceremonial differences between Catholic and Protestant First Communions. At a Catholic First Communion, the children are 6 or 7 years old. Each child receives Communion with his parents, and the entire class of children receives Communion before the rest of the congregation. If you are not Catholic, you are not permitted to take Communion.

Protestant children generally receive First Communion between age 11 and 14. Often, First Communion occurs during the regularly scheduled Sunday services, and the entire congregation receives Communion together. The rules for receiving Communion vary by specific denomination, but generally, Christians who have received a First Communion may take Communion at a Protestant church to which they do not belong.

What to Wear

According to Emily Post, the First Communion recipient's attire depends on denomination. Catholic girls should wear white dresses, with an optional veil or hairpiece. Catholic boys should wear dark-coloured suits with a white shirt and tie. Protestant girls usually wear nice dresses of any colour, and Protestant boys can wear anything between a dress shirt and slacks to a suit and tie.

As a parent or guest of the family, regular Sunday church attire is appropriate for any First Communion. For men, this ranges from slacks and a collared shirt, to a suit and tie. For women, this usually refers to business casual attire: a dress shirt and slacks or skirt, or a dress.

Parties

It is generally customary for Catholic parents to give a party after the ceremony of their child's First Communion. For Protestants, this celebration is not expected and up to the discretion of the parents. If you are a parent wishing to give a First Communion party, it is customary to invite family members and any close friends of the child. It is acceptable to hold a party at a family member's home or at a restaurant.

Gifts

According to Emily Post, if you are attending a First Communion party, it is customary to bring a gift. Ideal gifts are long-lasting throughout the life of the child, and pertain to spiritual faith and/or introspection. Examples include a religious pendant or necklace, a Bible or prayer book, a journal or money. You should select a gift based on your closeness to the child. If you are not attending a First Communion party, you are not expected to send a gift, but a card is an acceptable and optional way to express pride in the child and honour the occasion.

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About the Author

Ileana Weinstein is a fashion blog writer and music teacher in Virginia. She received her bachelor's degrees in English and music from the University of Virginia in 2006. Since then, she has worked to empower people through the aesthetics of fashion and musical performance.