The joy of a humanist naming ceremony

When you’d like to create an intensely personal and informal, yet meaningful, ritual to name your child, a humanist naming ceremony might well be the answer. Herne Hill’s humanist minister, Mark Hayford, explains.

‘Naming ceremonies are the most charming and joyous of all humanist ceremonies. They are often in a lovely garden, hall or play centre which is lusciously decorated with colourful bunting and balloons. It is usually full of other youngsters and parents, which gives the whole ceremony an uplifting, vigorous, almost irreverent feel. Anything can happen and it usually does, and in a way that's the point, as it means everyone is completely relaxed. Although there is obviously a structure to the ceremony (and the occasion is properly marked), there is also an overwhelming sense of informality and fun, as a great deal of love and support is shown both to the parents and the child, and it's extraordinary to be a part of that.'

'While the ceremony is primarily about bestowing a name on a child, there is also the matter of choosing who will get to play the crucial, life-long role of guide-parent. This person (or most often, persons), is usually honoured to have been asked to 'be there' for the child, and they often repeat a vow to this effect (in front of everyone) on the day, which underlines the importance of the part they will go on to play in the child's life. Grandparents, parents and guide-parents often make short speeches themselves (over and above the vows they repeat or poems they might read), and these heartfelt wishes add to the sense of power and emotion as the occasion is properly marked by the people who matter. When I tell grandparents that their influence will live on in their grandchild, it is always a moving moment.   

'It is wonderful in this day and age that families have the option to host a ceremony such as this. It is a party, yes, with cakes, drinks, decorations and music, but is also very much a significant moment in time and in the lives of those families (and their friends), and you can see what it means to everyone there.’

To talk to Mark about a humanist naming ceremony for a child (or adult), please email or phone him on 07932 888 737. He’s also at