A baptism or christening is a time to welcome a new baby into the family faith. The party that follows the ceremony is a time for celebration-of new life, tradition, and the circle of family and friends. Your baptism party should be appropriately respectful of the event it honors, but it is also a time to relax with those close to you and enjoy time with your little one. Planning the party can be enjoyable, too, if you follow this simple checklist.
1. Coordinate with the church. Contact your priest or minister or the church’s office to schedule the ceremony, and also to learn if your family is requested or required to take a class before having your child baptized. Then find out when on that date the baptism will take place, so you can set the hours of your party accordingly.
2. Contact the godparents. Your baby’s godparents are essential on this day, so you’ll want to make sure they are available to attend both the baptism and the party. You might even wish to consult them on aspects of the party planning, or they may want to help host the gathering. At the party, one godparent, or both, should stand up and give a brief toast in the family’s honor.
3. Choose an appropriate venue. A location close to the church where the ceremony will be held is ideal, though not required. Traditional venues for a baptism party are the family’s home or a local restaurant. Think about your budget, the time of day of the party, and how many you might be feeding when you’re deciding on a venue. If you’ll be hosting a small group of mostly family, one possibility is to reserve a private room at a restaurant for a buffet-style lunch; for a larger group of family and friends and their children, a backyard barbecue at your home might be the better option.
4. Determine the guest list early in the planning. How many people can your venue accommodate? Who must be at the party? Will there be many kids, just a handful, or none at all? Take these factors into consideration when planning the guest list, and discuss it with your spouse and the baby’s godparents. The guest list will also help you decide on an appropriate menu for the party.
5. Consider the guests when planning the menu. If you’ll be feeding a group of twenty or more, a buffet or a barbecue may be easier to manage and less strain on the wallet. Take into account the number and ages of the kids who’ll be in attendance, and plan a menu and meal setting that will be appealing to them. In other words, a sit-down dinner is probably not a good idea if you’ll have ten or more kids under the age of ten running around. An early-evening cookout may be the better choice.
6. Send out the invitation three to four weeks in advance. You’ll want to make sure that your close friends and family will all be present to help you celebrate this joyous occasion, so get it on their calendars early. Send out the invitation, with detailed information on the time and date of the party (as well as the ceremony, if all will be invited) and where it will be held. Don’t forget to include a contact for RSVPs so you can get a head count for food and seating.
7. Plan a kid-friendly event. A baptism party tends to be a low-key event, in reflection of the solemn ceremony it celebrates. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun activities on hand for the kids who will be present. Set up an area outside or in the house with games, books, and puzzles for them to enjoy while the parents are mingling and chatting.
8. Inform guests of your gift policy. If you prefer that guests not bring a gift, let them know in person, by phone, or by email, or you can include a tasteful “No gifts, please” at the bottom of the invitation. If gifts are welcome, you don’t have to say anything at all; guests will assume gifts are in order unless you tell them otherwise.
9. Incorporate family traditions. Since a baptism is a time for honoring family and its faith tradition, it is a meaningful gesture to make the party that follows full of traditions as well. If your family has a special prayer or song, make it a part of the festivities. If a certain gift is handed down from generation to generation, this is a nice time to present it to the new member of the family. And if your family is just starting out, you can take this opportunity to make your own traditions, to be carried on through following generations.
10. Take plenty of photos to remember the event. Make lasting memories of your child’s baptism by having someone, either a willing guest or a professional, take photos of the event. Your close friends and family will be on hand to help you celebrate, so make the most of the fact that you’re all together in one place and take a few group shots as well as some candid ones. In the years to come, you’ll be happy you did.
An occasion as important and sacred as a child’s baptism deserves a joy-filled celebration. With this checklist as your guide, you’ll be able to plan your party in no time and then focus your attention on this beautiful moment in your family’s life.
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