Baptism: What to Expect on the Day


Army Recruitment Officers often patrol shopping malls and teen hangouts hoping to round up lost souls promising then a new adventure and a brighter tomorrow. In the Baptism scenario my mother was the ARO and my son’s soul was the one at risk. She encouraged us to sign up for a tour of duty promising several fun days out and salvation in the final days.

In hindsight she was very sketchy about the actual details. It had been over two decades since she had been in the trenches, so she told me to toddle into the community centre after Mass, where someone would show me the ropes.

If any of you have ever seen any army recruitment film you know that this is the part where the unsuspecting newbie gets an earful from a ruthless Staff Sergeant.   That didn’t actually happen to me, but only because I happened to meet a very nice lady down in the church who helped me with everything. As far as my mams help was concerned I could have met Platoons Staff Sergeant Barnes, and had a very different outcome.

Just in case the personnel at your local church are a little on the psychotic unhelpful side of religious leaders, here is a little information to help you find your way.

The process is as follows

  1. Ring up the baptism committee (number is on the parish website usually) – they will arrange a meeting to meet you and the baby and get some details from you (like the birth cert). Both parents can attend, but are not required. Godparents do not go.
  2. The baptism committee arrange a welcome meeting for you and the other babies getting christened that month. It’s a meet & greet with a prayer. Both parents can attend, but are not required. Godparents do not go.
  3. The Christening is scheduled at a date and time, and the Welcoming is scheduled at a date and time.
  4. The Welcoming is where you introduce the baby at a regular mass to the rest of the congregation (because the baptisms these days are just the families). This is usually the Sunday before the Christening.
  5. Day of the Christening:
    1. What you need: 1 white candle, 1 white shawl, 1 baby
    2. Show up to the church early – the baptism committee will explain how things go that morning, so being there early helps that
    3. The parents and godparents sit together with the baby up at the front, the rest of the family sit together further back
    4. Priest welcomes everyone and does a bit of mass. The only things you need to watch for are
      1. Priest puts oil on the baby’s head and chest
      2. Godfathers are required to light a candle
  • Priest calls the parents to the baptismal font for the christening
  1. Godmothers drape the Christening shawl afterwards
  1. It’s totally fine to feed the baby, amuse the baby, change the baby during the ceremony (the facilities are usually around the bathrooms). Anyone who thinks otherwise has clearly never met a baby – they don’t wait for service.
  2. Delegate photography duties to somebody sensible. You do not want someone who thinks this is their chance to create that abstract portfolio they always wanted, or someone whose finger will be in every photo. You also don’t want someone who will get in the priest’s way, or who has other duties to preform (such as being the parent, godparent or grandparent).
  1. Afterwards one parent has to fill out a book giving the details of the baby, parents and godparents. This is usually the time a ‘voluntary donation’ is given – going rate seems to be between €50 – €100.

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Baptism 101: The ‘What to Wear’ Part


The baptism is usually the first formal outing for Mammy and Baby after the birth. The urge to go old-school and get the hair did, nails polished, face painted is understandable, that’s how you always got ready for an event in those hazy lazy pre-baby days. But now there is a severe lack of time, interest and energy on your side, plus a baby for organise to the event too. So here are a few things to consider as you plan the outfits.

Clothes for junior

In my opinion the baby should wear some actual clothes. Babygrows are fine, but it’s a big day out, you will probably get a new guna, so it’s nice to get baby spruced up into some actual clothes. Nothing too adventurous but a jumper and trousers or cardigan and skirt could be cute.

White is traditionally what babies wear. There is no rule or restriction, just a guideline, which you can break if you like, but most people don’t. At our son’s christening one little girl had pale pink tights under a white dress with a white cardigan and a pink bow in her ‘hair’, super cute!

However, what shocked me at our son’s christening was the number of babies sporting flouncy satin numbers which would rival a wedding dress for the amount of lace and sparkle – and these were on the boys. I know they sell them for boys, I know Prince George wore something similar, but seriously, no boy-child will thank you for this in the future. A jumper and a pair of trousers are fine.

If you happen to be in Dublin christening outfits are sold in Freckles, 1 Liffey Street, D2. Behind the communion dresses and satin hazmat suits are some cute little options for boys and girls.

One thing to bear in mind while choosing the outfit is that it has to be something that you can keep a tight hold of. Your baby is dangled over a stone christening font for several minutes and there is a certain amount of wriggling when the water is poured, make sure there is nothing restricting your grip. With the whole family watching, this is not the time for a mishap.

Also, the priest needs access to the child’s chest and head to put oils on them, so make sure access is possible.

You will also need a white christening gown or shawl. This is a glorified white blanket that goes around the baby after the actual baptism. Ours was meant to be a family heirloom that has been passed down through the generations, but we couldn’t find it on the day (typical) so I used a knitted blanket instead. It was perfect.

Clothes for you

It’s nice to get dressed up, and it’s nice to look pretty, but keep in mind that you will spend most of the day standing and holding the baby, so make sure whatever you choose allows you to do this freely.

During the ceremony you are required to bring the baby to the font (up and down steps) and to stand holding the baby. So although it is tempting to return to your former fashions (particular if you have lost the baby weight) on this day you may have to stay in Yummy-Mummy mode.

The idea is to impress without having to put in too much effort while being comfortable all day. My body shape changed entirely after having my son. I am much bigger than I was before, I have boobs, a belly and junk in my trunk. Styles that were nice on me before now don’t suit me at all. So give yourself plenty of time to try things on when shopping. I found that if I went to shops in the middle of the week, early in the morning, they were quiet enough to drag the buggy to the cubicle with me, blocking several cubicles around me. I would never have tried this on a busy Saturday.

Also I was not shy about asking shop assistants for help. They know their stock and they can see your shape, sometimes they have great suggestions. Plus on a dull mid-week morning they are happy to do anything to kill time to their next break. I would recommend making an appointment with a personal shopper, but I would have found it difficult to arrive on time on any given day in those early months, so sometimes it’s just about keeping it simple and getting the help you can when you eventually get to the shops.

As a side note, unless you are extremely confident in heels this is not a time for stilettos. You will be required to walk on all sorts of surfaces with a wriggling baby throwing you off balance. Why add the further complication of walking on your tippy-toes.

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