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5 wedding traditions to use in a humanist naming ceremony

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

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