An Introduction to Humanist Naming Ceremonies


What is a Naming Ceremony?

A humanist naming ceremony typically welcomes a baby or young child into a family, but the ceremony can be held for children of all ages. There is typically less emphasis on the actual naming of a child, and more emphasis on the child’s role within the family. Naming ceremonies can take place at any point in the year, and be held in a place of the family’s choosing. 

Although some faith-based people might also provide their children with naming ceremonies, a humanist naming ceremony is not religiously affiliated at all. The ceremony is a celebration of the child, the family, and the child’s place within the family. It is a humanist welcome into the world that does not put religious onus on the child, as humanism is not a faith. A naming ceremony allows the family and community to acknowledge the child in a completely personalized way. 

Content of a Naming Ceremony

Naming ceremonies, like other humanist ceremonies, are as unique as the individuals who take part in them. These celebrations can be as short as a story and a few readings, maybe 20 minutes or so, or it can take all day. There might be music, poetry, readings, dance, plantings, or any event the parents find exciting or relevant. If the child is older, they might be involved in the planning process. 

A celebrant will often lead the naming ceremony. They will get to know the family in advance and help the parents choose meaningful additions to the ceremony. Each humanist ceremony should be a reflection of the people involved, and a celebrant will ensure that the naming ceremony is as personal as possible. The celebrant will lead the ceremony, which might alleviate stress for parents on the exciting day. 

The ceremony might also involve key adults in the child’s life. Mentors, sometimes called “guideparents,” are adults chosen by the child’s parents to be intentionally involved with and supportive of the child. However, some parents choose mentors for the naming ceremony only. Parents can choose to include mentors, or not. As each family and ceremony are different, there is not a set number of mentors. 

Some families choose to have special additions to the naming ceremony or celebration. These could include, but are certainly not limited to, tree or flower plantings, a guest book, a video of the day, or a naming certificate. Special additions allow the parents and child to express creativity and truly make the ceremony their own.

Naming Ceremonies Throughout Life 

This celebration is not limited to young children, nor a specific family structure. Humanist naming ceremonies are commonly used to welcome adopted children or step-children of all ages into a family. 

There is another situation that might merit a naming ceremony, as well. For many transgender people, changing their name is an affirming part of their transition. Some transgender people might choose to honor their name by having a humanist naming ceremony. A naming ceremony can celebrate their affirmation of self.

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