One of the most unique aspects of a humanist naming ceremony is the option to include a symbolic ritual to celebrate your new arrival. There are so many options to choose from, from candle lighting to bubble blowing to anything else in between, and we can personalise them to make them even more relevant to you and your family.

Today we’ll take a look at five symbolic rituals that are more usually associated with weddings, but can absolutely be adapted for naming ceremonies too.

1. Handfasting

Handfasting is a Celtic marriage ritual dating back more than two thousand years, which is today very popular at humanist weddings and is strongly associated with Scottish weddings. Did you know that this is where the expression ‘tying the knot’ comes from?

In a wedding, the celebrant ties ribbons around the couple’s hands as a symbol of their union. In a naming ceremony, you can also include your baby or child’s hand into the handfasting as a sign of a new family union who will always stick together, perhaps as part of the promises that the parent(s) will make to the child.

The newly created knot can then by carefully removed and framed as a permanent reminder of the day – it could be a unique piece of art for your child’s bedroom!

2. The Quaich

A quaich (pronounced k-way-ch {as in loch} is a traditional Scottish drinking cup with two handles, which has been used for hundreds of years as a symbol of welcome and unity. In weddings, it is used to symbolise two families joining together as one but it also works very well as a symbol of welcome for your new child. It is usually filled with a dram of whisky, but of course you can add anything you like!

The quaich can be passed around all of your guests to each take a sip, between your guideparents to welcome them into the family too or just by the parent(s), followed by a toast. The drink can be poured into the quaich by the celebrant, a guideparent or by one of the parents. For an extra layer of symbolism, why not ask each of your guideparents to pour some of the drink into the quaich as a symbol of the special role they’ll have to play as your child grows up.

You might already have a quaich in the family, or a new quaich can be a new family heirloom that your child can use during their life’s milestones – for example at their own wedding or to welcome a child of their own!

In the most recent ceremony I conducted, the baby’s parents had used a quaich at their wedding, and so it was a natural decision for them to use the quaich again to symbolise their family unit growing from two to three.

“As you have shared from this cup, you have promised to share all that the future may hold. And may the sweetness that life brings be all the sweeter because you have drunk from this quaich together.”

3. Wine Box Ceremony

As vineyard weddings are becoming more popular, couples are choosing to incorporate their beautiful surroundings into their ceremony with a wine box ceremony. Often, couples will have prepared a wooden wine box, containing a bottle of their favourite wine along with a meaningful letter to each other which is then sealed using a hammer and nails during the ceremony. The couple will then open their wine and re-read the letter to each other on a specific anniversary, such as their 10-year anniversary.

It’s definitely possible to adapt this ceremony for a naming ceremony too. You could choose a bottle of wine or whisky and include a copy of your parental promises or indeed of the whole ceremony script into the box and seal it during the ceremony. You can save the box to give to your child om their 18th birthday – just make sure you pick something that will age well!

If you don’t drink alcohol, why not create a time capsule with some personal mementos instead?

4. Sandblending Ceremomy

A sandblending ceremony involves filling a large empty glass jar, bottle, vase or perhaps a decanter with layers of different colours of sand. Each colour or layer of sand represents a different person in the child’s life, such as parents and step parents, siblings, grandparents and guideparents. As each person fills the glass with their layer of sand, they can also make a promise to the child.

In weddings, a sandblending ceremony is often used where families with children from previous relationships are joining together to welcome their new stepchildren into one new family. For a naming ceremony, this kind of ceremony can also be used to symbolise the commitment that a step parent is making to the child or for a child who has been adopted.

The container can be kept long after the ceremony as a reminder as a reminder of your child’s special day and of the commitments you have made as a family.

5. Favours

Did you know: favours aren’t just for weddings! Why not give your guests a small keepsake from your baby’s naming ceremony?

If your family loves visiting the seaside, why not collect some pebbles or seashells to give to your loved ones? You can also paint your pebbles with a colourful pattern or with your guests' names for an extra-personal touch, which can be a fun activity for siblings and younger guests in the lead-up to the ceremony.

You could also give your guests some seeds to plant in their garden or window box and admire in the years to come. This could work especially well if your child’s name is inspired by nature, like Willow, Daisy or Poppy.

Which of these five ideas is your favourite?

Quaich and whisky from a recent naming ceremony


Welcome to my first blog post. If you have stumbled across this blog, then chances are that you have recently welcomed a new addition into your family and are perhaps considering a humanist naming ceremony. Huge congratulations to you!

They say it takes a village to raise a child. As with other kinds of ceremonies to welcome a new child into the family, you can nominate your closest friends and family as supporting adults to be there for your child as they grow up.

Who will you choose? Your baby’s auntie and uncle, your best friend from school, a lovely couple you met at your NCT class?

Q. What can I call my supporting adults and how many can I have?

There are lots of names you could call your chosen supporting adults, such as:

· Guideparents

· Mentors

· Sponsors

· Sparents

· Fairly Odd Parents….!

If you prefer, you can choose to call them godparents too since this is a familiar term.

In terms of numbers, there’s no set limit – you can choose as few or as many as you like; the average is around 4 or 5 as a ballpark figure. You can choose individuals or couples/groups who can share the role between them.

Q. How can we introduce our supporting adults to our guests?

Before they make their promises to your child, we can introduce your child's guideparents to your guests. We can talk about:

· Where did you first meet them and what do you like doing together?

· How have they supported you since your baby was born?

· Why did you choose them as one of your baby’s guideparents?

· What special qualities or talents do they have that they can pass on to your child?

For example: “Emma, Orla’s Mum, first met Carly on their first day in Year 7 in their tutor group at Kingsdale High. They have been there for each other through all of life’s big milestones and Carly was Maid of Honour at Emma & Matt’s wedding three years ago. Carly was so supportive when Orla was born – her parents especially appreciated all the banana bread she brought round in those early weeks! Carly and Orla already share a special bond, and Emma and Matt are sure that Orla will be able to go to Carly with any problem, big or small, as she grows up.

Q. What kind of promises can our supporting adults make to our child?

If your guideparents aren’t sure about what to include in their promises, encourage them to think about:

· How will they support your child throughout their life?

· Do they have a special skill or talent to teach them?

· What kind of activities will you do with them when they’re a little older?

Remember, they can be a combination of serious, funny and silly promises!

An example promise: “Joe, we promise to be there for you in times of celebration and when life just isn’t going your way. We promise to let you stay up late when you’re staying over at our place and to buy you a pint on your eighteenth birthday”.

In terms of the promise format, there are three main options:

1. The guideparents read out their promises in full (if they’re saying them as a couple/group, they can read them together or alternate between lines). This is a good option if they’re comfortable with speaking in public.

2. ‘Wedding-style’ promises: where the celebrant says one line at a time and the guideparent repeats it back.

3. The celebrant reads out the promise in full and the guideparents respond with “I/we will”. This is a great option if you have a guideparent who really doesn’t like speaking in public.

Remember, the most important thing is that they are meaningful to them and to you as a family unit and to enjoy the moment!

Who will you choose to be your child's guideparents?