I caught up with Anne O’Brien from Bluebell Naming Ceremonies to chat about all things baby namings and unity ceremonies. Read on to find out more …
Tell us a bit about you
I live in a small village In North Oxfordshire and am married with two daughters. I love high, windy places and days on the beach at Southbourne with my kids. My Mum hosts bonfire night at her house every year and somehow we manage to get 15 people round the table for dinner. We have a large, lazy cat named Morton and one of my favourite films is Sense and Sensibility.
What exactly is a Naming Ceremony?
The easiest way to describe a naming ceremony is probably as a non-religious christening. It has all the elements that you’d expect in a traditional christening (naming of the child, readings, promises and so on), but importantly, it also tells the unique story of your family.
Many people choose a naming ceremony because they don’t have a particular faith, but you can still have religious content if you’d like. There are no rules. Blessings and prayers are a wonderful way to include friends and family and honour their beliefs.
What inspired you to become a family celebrant?
We had naming ceremonies for both our girls and I found myself thinking what a wonderful job it would be to create such a special and meaningful moment for another family.
It was quite a struggle to have our own family and that experience has made me a huge fan of celebrating these amazing relationships in whatever form they take. Whether it’s through adoption, birth or blended families, my aim is to create deeply personal events that are full of warmth and joy.
What do you enjoy most about being a celebrant?
That’s easy – reminding people that they are loved.
Where do naming ceremonies take place?
Anywhere you like (within reason!). That’s one of the most brilliant things about naming ceremonies. Unlike a wedding, there’s no legal aspect to the event, so the venue doesn’t have to be licensed and there’s no need for the celebration to take place in a permanent structure. So, if you want to gather friends and family in your Mum’s garden, that’s perfect. If you’re real ale enthusiasts – Hook Norton Brewery would fit the bill. If it’s all about the great outdoors, Evenley Wood Garden is a lovely spot.
My little black book is bulging with venues in Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, so I’ve got loads of ideas.
What happens during a naming ceremony? Can they be customised to reflect each family?
Absolutely!. That’s the joy of a celebrant-led ceremony – each one is completely individual and reflects the things that are meaningful and special to your family. Naming ceremonies usually include opening words, readings, promises and symbolic acts. Symbolic acts are special moments of reflection – perhaps gift giving, lighting a candle or planting a tree for an outdoor celebration.
Beyond this basic structure, you can have pretty much any content you like, from a good old sing along, to sailing paper boats down a stream. Each ceremony is crafted entirely for your family, so if you have a mixture of backgrounds, you can take a little inspiration from each culture.
What are some of your favourite readings?
My favourite reading is probably I wish for you one thing and that is love, by William Byrd. The words are beautiful and uplifting. We had this at both our daughters’ naming ceremonies. Since then though, I’ve discovered lots more and especially like Ode on the whole duty of parents, by Frances Cornford and a children’s book called Here we are, by Oliver Jeffers.
If you’re brave enough, there’s nothing more personal than reading something that you’ve written yourself. Take the plunge!.
What advice would you give parents planning a naming ceremony now?
This year has been really hard for new parents and not surprisingly, lots have chosen to delay plans to celebrate. Current restrictions limit life cycle ceremonies to six people, so if it’s all about celebrating with just you and your new baby, then it’s still possible to have a tiny, but beautiful event. (Even your celebrant doesn’t need to be there, as I can provide a script-only service for you to read yourself). Alternatively you can take everything on-line and invite everyone!. Advice on planning a virtual baby welcoming can be found here.
For lots of families, the heart of any celebration is a big, rowdy gathering of far flung friends and family. So if that sounds like you, then use this time to plan for next year. After everything we’ve experienced in 2020, this could be the perfect excuse to bring together the special people in your life to show them how much they mean to you.
Whatever you choose, it will be wonderful!
What are the first steps you go through with your families? And how can they be best prepared before meeting you?
The first stage is a planning meeting, ideally in person or alternatively via video call. This is when I ask a mass of questions about your family’s story and scribble lots of notes!. This is the starting point for the script. Good things to think about beforehand are what kind of feel you want for the ceremony (fun, laid back, quiet, colourful …) and who the main players will be (grandparents, guide parents (the equivalent of god parents), siblings and so on).
What’s the most unusual thing that’s happened during a celebration to date?
It was an unexpected start to a naming ceremony. The little boy’s Dad was travelling separately to the venue and got delayed. Everyone was so relaxed and happy that when he finally arrived, rushing to put on his tie as he walked through the door, the ceremony went off without a hitch, but it was the first time the guests have had to wait for one of the parents!.
How can people find out more about what you do?