Write Your Own Baby Naming Vows

Way back when I was planning my first-ever baby naming, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you could have vows at a baby naming, like you do at a traditional christening. With a christening, the vows are shaped by the Christian tradition, but with a baby naming, you’re freer to write your own rules.

A lot of the vows I came across when I was writing the ceremony were quite sentimental. If you’re sentimental, they’d be a perfect fit, but I decided to put my own spin on them. Inspired by that experience, I’ve put together this blog post to inspire you to write your own vows, promises that you can make to your child and to each other.

Of course, it’s your baby naming. If you don’t want vows, you don’t have to have any. But if you do want to have vows, I hope this post will be useful.

Who Says The Vows?

Again, that’s entirely up to you. You can make vows to each other and to your child. You can ask your guests to say vows together. They can promise to act as your tag team on your great parenting adventure.

You can also appoint guide parents for your child, who can make promises to support your child and guide them through life, much like godparents at a christening.

Format of Vows

The most popular vows are still the question-and-answer vows that you’ll remember from christenings. Or you can just list out the promises you want to make to your child. If you’re feeling nervous, I can call out the list and ask you to repeat it, sentence by sentence.

So, I’m going to have vows in my baby naming ceremony. What vows should I write?

Vows Based On Values

If you have values that you hold very strongly as a person and as a family, you can make promises to uphold those values on behalf of your child. For example, if you value honesty, kindness and respect, you can promise to teach your child to tell the truth, to treat your child with kindness and to show your child how to respect others.

Vows Based On Interests

If you’re a family who’s passionate about a certain hobby, you can use that hobby as a metaphor for your vows. Sport in particular lends itself to this. You can talk about being a cheerleader for your child or supporting them whether they win or lose.

If you’re arty, you can also draw metaphors from the arts. You can promise to help your child turn their life into a masterpiece, help them write their own script or help them strike the right note.

Playful Vows

If the idea of saying vows seems a bit po-faced to you, why not have fun with the idea. You can create vows that reflect the reality of family life, such as promising to love your child when they daub paint on your walls or throw a tantrum in the supermarket.

Or you can promise to turn a blind eye if your child allows three weeks’ worth of plates to accumulate under their bed. It’ll give your guests a laugh but it also outlines an important point – you’re going to accept your child for who they are, warts and all.

Above all, don’t forget the love. You may think it goes without saying, but the most powerful vow you’ll make is the vow to love your child for the rest of their lives, no matter what.

Format of Vows: The most popular vows are still the question-and-answer vows that you’ll remember from christenings. Or you can just list out the promises you want to make to yoru child. If you’re feeling nervous, I can call out the list and ask you to repeat it, sentence by sentence.

I’m conscious as I write this that you may not been able to welcome your child into the world the way they would like. I’m also conscious that your family may not have been able to welcome them either. A baby naming will help you give your child the welcome they deserve and to celebrate their arrival.

Have you held a baby naming? Did you say vows at it? I’d be interested to hear about how you approached the vows. Email info@celebrantderv.ie to share your thoughts.

Strengthen Your Bonds With A Family Ceremony

I’m giving a rather unusual ceremony this Sunday. It’s not a wedding, a funeral or a baby naming. It’s not a coming of age ceremony, which is becoming more and more popular. It’s a family ceremony. Family ceremonies did not come up on the list of ceremonies I learned about on my celebrancy course, but I’ve been approached about giving them a few times since I qualified.

Reasons For Holding a Family Ceremony

Family ceremony is a flexible term for any ceremony that gives you a chance to celebrate your family and the bonds you share. If you’re the sort of couple who don’t like a fuss, your family ceremony makes a low-key, fun alternative to a wedding, anniversary celebration or vow renewal. Do you wish you could have had a baby naming for your older children? It’s not too late – you can celebrate all your children together with a family ceremony.

If you and your partner have children from previous relationships, a blended family ceremony is a great way of bringing you all together and create a new bond. You’re celebrating the shape of your new family and showing everyone in it that they are valued.

Have you recently adopted a child? Why not welcome them into your family with a family joining ceremony. This is particularly valuable if the child you have adopted is older. You are telling them that they have made your family complete.

Family ceremonies are great for families with young children because they’re so inclusive. You’ll have no worries about your children being bored and restless during a ceremony – they’re going to have a starring role in the ceremony.

Because you’ll be celebrating together, they’ll be doing the rituals with you. And if you want to hold their interest, the shorter the better. That’s why I’d recommend keeping your family ceremony at 16 minutes.

So, what happens in a family ceremony?  Well, that’s up to you.

Because it’s such a new type of ceremony, you can feel free to invent your own. But here are some ideas.

The Power of Trees

Trees give life, and as a family, you give life to each other. Celebrate your growing family by planting a tree in your garden. The tree will grow along with your family, and every time you look at it, you’ll be reminded of the special family you shared.

You can also create a tree of life in your garden. You tie ribbons to the branches with pieces of paper attached to them. On those pieces of paper, you can write wishes for the future or words that you feel capture the spirit of your family, like loving, kind or fun.

Making Memories

Memories are the glue that hold a family together, and as part of your ceremony you can create a memory box to capture and store those memories. Ask everyone in the family to share memories of great times you’ve had, in the form of a drawing or a piece of writing.

Then you store them in a special box that you will then hide in the house and open again in five, ten or twenty years’ time. You’ll be able to feast on memories from that day which you might otherwise have lost.

Celebrate Unity

There are lots of colourful family rituals you can do which remind you that your lives as a family are forever intertwined. They help you to strengthen your bonds and remind you that while you’re all individuals, you’re also one unit.

You’re always looking out for each other and always loving each other. Rituals that are ideal for young children include putting your handprints on a page or a family sand ceremony, where each of you pours sand into a decorative pot. These will then become permanent mementos of your day.

This picture shows how you might arrange the sand in a family sand ceremony, to create a perfect memento of your day.

This picture shows two jars of sand, one white and one blue. Beside them is a picture in a frame, made of layers of white and blue sand.

Family Words

You can break up the rituals with more reflective moments – as long as you keep them short. There are lovely poems that capture the magic of childhood or family that you can use as readings.

You may decide you want to make promises to each other as a family. If you’re having a family ceremony as part of a wedding or vow renewal, you can make promises to each other and to your children, and your children can make promises to you.

Family Music

Singing a song together is a truly joyous way of ending a ceremony. It doesn’t matter whether you can sing or not; just belt out those words. Get your children involved in choosing a song.

They might like a song from their favourite film or a silly song that gets everyone up and dancing. Something upbeat that you can dance along to would be perfect, and it’ll leave you with a good taste in your mouth and warmth in your heart.

Have you any thoughts about what you think would make a great family ceremony? Email info@celebrantderv.ie to share your thoughts.

Celebrate Your Wedding Day With A Zoom Wedding

In the next few months, I’m going to be offering virtual wedding ceremonies to couples via Zoom. I never imagined when I qualified that I would be officiating virtual ceremonies. And I’m sure many couples never imagined they’d be celebrating their special days on a screen either. But when it’s a straight choice between spending the day dwelling on what might have been and marking the day with joy, most people will choose joy.

If you’re choosing joy and choosing a Zoom wedding, it’s important to get one thing out of the way. It’s not going to be the same as your wedding day. That day will come, if you have a new date fixed. This ceremony is just a way to keep the dream of your wedding alive, and to remind yourselves that in these strange times, your love remains strong.

Your Zoom wedding will still be very meaningful. You can dress up in your wedding clothes. Your loved ones will be there to celebrate – from a distance. Zoom allows you to invite up to 100 people to a meeting, so you’ll have an audience. And your Zoom wedding will include all the ingredients that make a wedding ceremony special. They’ll just be modified for the virtual world.

Preparing for Your Ceremony

I know you’re probably worried about the technology and whether it will let you down. That’s why we’ll have a rehearsal before your virtual ceremony, to iron out any kinks. We’ll check your connection, your sound and your lighting. Lighting can be really tricky. You want daylight but you don’t want too much glare. A lot of problems can be solved by drawing the curtains or pegging a sheet to a window. As long as you can be seen in all your glory, that’s what matters.

Next comes the question: to record or not to record. When we’re planning your Zoom wedding, I’ll ask you if you want it recorded. If you say yes, then just before the ceremony starts, I’ll tell all your guests that the ceremony is being recorded for posterity. If they don’t want to be part of the recording, I can turn off their screens so they won’t be seen.

Virtual ceremonies are just as much about the look as about the words. Why not decorate the room where you’ll be for the ceremony just as you would dress the ceremony room in a hotel? You can also ask your guests to dress up according to a theme. One celebrant on a celebrant forum I’m part of shared her experience of officiating an Easter wedding where all the guests were asked to wear yellow.  

Now, let’s talk about the day of your Zoom wedding. What will happen?

Your Entrance: In the real world, you’d make a grand entrance, either together or alone, with your partner waiting. For your Zoom wedding, you’ll be the first ones invited to the Zoom room, and you’ll wait for your guests to join you.

All your guests will be put on mute, to cut down any background noise that might spoil the atmosphere. Only your screen will be left unmuted, because you are the heroes of the house. I’ll let your guests know that they’ll be on mute.

Readings: Readings will come across well on Zoom. You can involve one of your guests by asking them to deliver the reading. I’ll send you a selection of readings the way I would for a real-world ceremony, and then you pick one and choose someone you know will be comfortable with reading it.

This picture shows a couple who had a Zoom wedding in their home, dressed in their wedding clothes.

This photo shows a couple in their wedding clothes, getting married via Zoom. They have a white wall in the background, and the room is decorated with tall plants in plots. {Photo Credit: BBC News.

Rituals: You can carry out rituals online the way you would in the real world. You can light candles for a unity candle ceremony or you can do a handfasting if you have someone else in the house to tie the ribbons for you. If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, you can gather sand for a sand ceremony.

A couple of fun, low maintenance rituals you can do include blowing bubbles to make a wish and giving each other a rose as a symbol of eternal love. And everyone will see you doing the rituals. You’ll be in Gallery View on Zoom, which means all eyes will be on you.

Music: As we’ve probably all experienced, music can be tricky on Zoom. It’s probably easier not to have music at your Zoom wedding, for copyright reasons as well as reasons of sound.

But if your professional musician is willing, you could ask them to play you a song at the start and the end of the ceremony. Or you could ask a musical member of your family to play or sing for you.

The End: I’ll pronounce you married in whatever way you wish, just as I would in a real-world ceremony. Then a lovely way to round off a Zoom wedding is to ask everyone to raise a glass for you, to toast your future happiness. It’ll finish your ceremony on a festive note. I’ll then leave the meeting and let you all get on with chatting to each other, so you can keep the party going a little while longer.

If you want to find out more about how to organise a Zoom wedding, you can call me on 00 353 87 6959799 or email info@celebrantderv.ie.

Creating A Beautiful Memorial Ceremony For Your Loved One

I’m feeling quite sad this week. A few days ago, I heard about the passing of one of my ski tribe. I thought about his partner and children, who like so many people at this time, are mourning without a supportive crowd around them. Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about someone in my circle who’s had to endure a lonely funeral.

But I am looking forward to attending the memorial ceremony for this man, who was a talented athlete and musician. There are going to be a lot of these memorial ceremonies, because we don’t want this virus to stop us from being there for the people we care about. And because we want to define people by how they lived, not by how their lives ended.

This picture complements a blog post about post-COVID memorial ceremonies.
Pic from Irish Ethical Celebrants Society which featured my article about memorial ceremonies.

I qualified as a funeral celebrant just before the virus began to close the world down. And I want to help you mourn your loved ones the way both you and they deserve. So, I’ve put together some ideas to help you plan a memorial ceremony for your loved one when restrictions are lifted. You can adapt your memorial ceremony  to fit the type of person your loved one was and pay tribute to them in a really personal way.

The Two Types of Ceremony

There are broadly two types of memorial ceremony you can arrange.

The Story Of Your Life

You can organise an informal celebration for your loved one that tells the story of their life in music, words and pictures. Hire a venue that your loved one enjoyed going to, fill it with family and friends and feast on your memories. Invite people from different areas of the person’s life to tell stories about them and intersperse each one with songs the person liked.

Ideally, you’d have a talented musician in your family play them live, but you can also sing along to a recording. And while you’re reminiscing, you could arrange a slideshow of pictures of the person to play in the background. Just be sure you designate someone to be the MC for this event, so it all flows smoothly.

Funeral-Type Event

You can also have a more traditional memorial ceremony. This is closer to a funeral in form. But it can still be highly personal, a ceremony that celebrates the person’s life and the contribution they made to all of your lives.

Here’s a flavour of the elements you can include in your funeral-style ceremony.

Opening Remarks: It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget about welcoming people when you have so much to think of. All you have to do is say that everyone is welcome and thank them for coming. And don’t forget to use your loved one’s name. Your name is intertwined with who you are. By using their name, the name they were known by, you invoke their presence and bring them to life. 

Readings: Did your loved one have a favourite poem or reflection? You can include that as a reading in the ceremony, to showcase your loved one’s personality. There are also readings written especially for end of life rituals. These are designed to give you comfort and to show you that the person can still be present in your life.

Depending on your loved one’s beliefs, you can choose a prayer, a spiritual reflection or a poem. You can spread readings throughout the ceremony: for example, a reading after the opening remarks, after the eulogy or before the final words.

Gathering of Memories: As this is a memorial, the memories you share of your loved one will form the centrepiece of your ceremony. This is the time to let your loved one’s personality shine. You can share these memories in a formal way, with a eulogy delivered by a friend or member of the family. Or you can ask a few close friends or family to tell stories about your loved one, stories that capture the spirit of your loved one and celebrate the high points of their lives.

Rituals: We all need rituals, and rituals can be powerful symbols of love and of life in the midst of death. A lot of people offer gifts that represent the person – maybe a football jersey, a newspaper or a souvenir from a brilliant holiday. You can also light a candle for your loved one, to show that their light will never go out.

Musical Magic: Music speaks to the soul and it reaches places that words can’t reach. Let yourself be inspired by your loved one in the music you choose. What tunes did they like? What did they dance to? Or is there a piece of music that you feel fits their personality to a T. Or maybe there was a song that your loved one always sang at family gatherings. What a fitting way to round off a ceremony, having everyone sing along to that party piece.

Closing Words: The end of the ceremony will be the most poignant part for you all. You already said goodbye at the funeral and now you’ll be saying it again. But the end of the ceremony is a good time to give thanks. Thank your loved one for the riches they brought into your life and thank all those who gave you support in many ways.

And finally, thank everyone for coming and let them know if you’ve organised refreshments for afterwards. Focusing on the gratitude you feel will take some of the sting out of that goodbye.

Have A Laugh: There’s still a feeling that we must be solemn at funerals and memorials and of course there are sad occasions. But they’re also celebrations of life, as I said. So, make room for laughter in your ceremony. Tell the jokes your loved one would have told. Share funny stories about the crazy things the person did. Let your laughter mingle with your tears and you will all leave with a happy memory.

I’ve produced a version of this blog post for the Irish Ethical Celebrants’ Society if you want to take a look at that. If you want more ideas or help with putting together a memorial ceremony, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on info@celebrantderv.ie

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