Complete Baptism Etiquette Guide for Guests

Updated February 28, 2022
Baby boy is baptized in a Catholic Church

Baptism etiquette is very important during a christening. The baptism of a baby, often called a christening, is a formal event during which a child receives their Christian name and is baptized into the "faith." This process has been extended past Christian denominations and into "naming ceremonies" which forego the element of water baptism but may still be used to bring an infant into a particular faith, or simply to announce the child's birth.

Overview: Baptism Etiquette for Guests

A baptismal ceremony is a significant and sacred event during which appropriate etiquette should be observed. Family members and close friends are invited to this holy occasion, which typically occurs in a church and is led by a member of the clergy. The officiant will explain what to expect and prepare the family ahead of time for the ceremonial process. Procedures aren't the same in all churches or faiths, though a few basic guidelines should generally be followed.

Role of Godparents

It is a great honor to be asked to be a godparent. Those who are asked to be godparents are usually beloved family members or friends who share similar values and beliefs with the baby's family. The expectations and obligations for godparents vary depending on religion, culture, customs, and family. Godparents are among the most important participants in a child's christening. They are the child's representatives and speak on the child's behalf at the baptism. After the ceremony, godparents may take on more of an honorary role, or they may actively participate in the child's spiritual upbringing. The general etiquette for being a good godparent is to serve as a friend and mentor to the child and to be supportive of them throughout their life.

Baptism Invitations

Invitations to the baptism should be sent out at least four weeks in advance. They should be extended formally, by mail, email, or phone. Regardless of how you are invited, you should display appropriate etiquette and courtesy with an RSVP. Promptly responding to a baptism invitation is one of the most vital components of proper christening etiquette. Being invited to an infant's christening is usually a sign of great honor, as these events are typically opened up to only family and very close friends. It's only proper to let the host know if they should expect you to attend the ceremony and/or reception. Of course, you should never bring an uninvited guest or just show up if you were not invited.

What to Wear to a Baptism

Since most baptisms occur in a church, you'll want to dress respectfully and not too casually. This is true even if the event is more of a naming ceremony than a full baptism. The desired attire falls within the realm of "Sunday best," meaning you should choose apparel that would be appropriate for a Sunday morning at church. Women can wear a nice but modest dress, skirt and blouse, suit, or pants outfit. Men should generally wear button-up shirts and slacks, and perhaps even a tie. An infant's baptism is a holy event and an important rite of passage, so guests should wear clothing that appropriately conveys reverence and respect.

Don't Be Late

A child's baptism is a very important event in the life of a child and their family. Bearing this in mind, proper etiquette dictates that it is very important for guests to arrive on time. It is even acceptable to arrive at the church ten to fifteen minutes early. You can sit quietly in the pews or chat with other guests in the vestibule while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Baptisms are intimate, sacred events and nothing is more distracting than a guest who attempts to slip in late. Some baptisms take place during a church service; in that case, you should plan to attend the entire service to avoid creating an unwelcome distraction that could spoil an intimate and important celebration.

Baptism Reception

The baby's parents will often host a reception or christening party at their home after the baptism ceremony, or possibly in an event hall at the church. Those who are invited to attend the baptism are typically welcome at any reception or follow-up event. The officiant is usually invited as well. The reception may involve a traditional, sit-down meal, but an appetizer-only menu, a buffet, or a casual potluck is perfectly acceptable as well. For a quick reception at the church facility, refreshments may be limited to baptism cake and coffee. Parents sometimes provide a baptism favor to those who attend the reception. If you are bringing a baptism gift, it should be given to the parents during the reception.

What Do You Give for a Baptism?

Baptism etiquette for godparents generally requires giving the baby a thoughtful baptism gift. Guests who attend the christening and/or reception aren't necessarily required to bring a gift to a baptism, but it's common practice to do so. Parents should send thank-you notes to guests who bring a gift.

Appropriate Baptism Gifts

Golden cross for christening

A baptism gift doesn't have to be a large or expensive item. Sentimental items that commemorate the child's christening are ideal. Good baptism gift ideas include:

  • Bible
  • Cross
  • A special blanket or afghan
  • Engraved baby item (such as a silver spoon, cup, or rattle)
  • Engraved photo album
  • Picture frame
  • Keepsake box
  • Jewelry (for when the baby is older)
  • Religious-themed artwork

If there is a gift table at the baptism reception, that's the best place to leave the gift. Otherwise, give it to the parents before you leave. If you are unable to bring a gift on the day of the event, it is fine to ship it to the parents within a few weeks of the big day.

Monetary Gift for Baptism

Financial gifts are also an appropriate option for baptism. If you bring this type of gift, don't leave it on the gift table. Instead, give it directly to one of the parents while offering words of congratulations for their baby's big day.

  • If you are the godparent, $100 to $150 would be a good amount to consider.
  • If you are a close family member, $50 is acceptable, though less would be fine as well.
  • For guests, any amount would be fine.
  • Savings bonds are another nice option to consider.

Baptism Gift Ideas for Godparents

It is also customary for the parents of the newly baptized baby to give a gift to the godparents. It does not need to be elaborate or expensive. The best gift to give to godparents is one that specifically commemorates the special occasion, such as an engraved frame with a photo taken during the baptism ceremony or another sentimental item. The idea is to thank the godparents for agreeing on the responsibility and honor of fulfilling an important role in the child's life.

Baptism Gift Ideas for the Clergy Officiant

Baby being introduced to family on a garden party

The parents of the baptized baby should also give a gift to the officiating clergy member. It's generally best to provide a financial gift to the officiant, either in the form of cash or a financial contribution to the church.

Celebrating a Child's Baptism

Baptism, christening, and dedication ceremonies are sacred events that serve as an introduction of the child to the church. It is a celebration that is both solemn and joyous. While it's important to follow proper baptism etiquette for the ceremony, reception, and gifting practices, you should also be aware that your attendance alone shows the family your appreciation, respect, and support of their religion and customs, and that you care about them and their child.

Complete Baptism Etiquette Guide for Guests