Baptism Etiquette: Tips for Christenings & Baptisms

A baptism or christening is a formal religious event during which a child is baptized into the faith. To be invited to a baptism is an honor, as such events are usually intimate affairs only attended by relatives and close friends.

If this is the first time you’re arranging to have your child baptized, you may have questions about how to arrange the event and how to act. If you’ve been invited to attend a christening, particularly in a church you’re not familiar with, you may have your own questions about baptism etiquette. We’ll do our best to answer your questions here.

Baptism Etiquette for Parents

It’s good manners to give the church plenty of lead time when planning a baptism. Contact clergy or church administration well in advance of the planned baptism date. The church will ask you for details, including the name of the child, his or her age, the names of godparents or sponsors, and how many guests you expect to attend the event. Depending on the church you may need to provide additional information.

Send out invitations to guests at least two months before the baptism, to give people time to respond to the invitation. Most churches are fine with guests from outside their congregation attending the service. If you have friends or family who are unfamiliar with the church, either include a brief note telling them what to expect or ask people to phone you if they want more information.

On the day of the service, arrive at church early so the family can sit together. Ask the church if reserved seating is available for the family on this special day.

If the child is a baby, there’s little to do to prepare them for the event. If an older child is going to be baptized, it’s good baptism etiquette to prepare them for the event in advance.

Baptism Etiquette for Guests

When you receive a baptism or christening invitation, respond as soon as possible whether you plan on attending or not. This helps the family prepare for the service and any reception that may follow. Unless the invitation says otherwise, never bring your own guest to a baptism—this is a special and intimate occasion for family and friends.

If you’re not sure what’s expected of you during the service, either ask the parents or contact the church itself—either should be happy to provide you with information. Be sure to respect the church’s customs even if they seem strange to you.

What to Wear?

What’s considered proper attire varies widely from church to church, so again, if in doubt, ask. As a rule, dress smartly and conservatively. Suits and dress pant/sports coat combinations are fine for men, while women should be fine with knee-length or longer dresses or a nice pair of slacks and a blazer.

Baptism Gift Etiquette

What about a baptism gift? Etiquette doesn’t demand a gift, especially if you already gave a gift during a baby shower or directly to the child, but many people want to give gifts to mark the special event.

If you choose to give a gift, consider choosing something special the child will treasure throughout life. Silver is a traditional baptism gift, either in the form of a silver spoon, cup, photo frame, or baptism bracelet. Alternately, consider a personalized baptism book such as My Little Book of Blessings or the popular God Loves You!  Both books are customized with the child’s name and have room for a loving personal dedication.  

It’s traditional for parents to present a small but special gift to godparents or sponsors—an engraved photo album with pictures of the child is always a nice choice. If you’re a guest, have a little money ready for the church donation box. Proper baptism gift etiquette for parents would be to either leave a donation in the collection plate with a note of thanks or quietly give the pastor or clergy a donation after the service.