A sunny, fun-filled, back garden ceremony

On Saturday 23rd June I conducted a ceremony I’ve been looking forward to for a few months. It was the naming and first birthday party of a sweet, energetic boy called Conrad, whose parents have nicknamed him ‘Little Pilot’. The ceremony was timed to coincide with Little Pilot’s first birthday party and his mum, Kristina, really went to town with the flight theme, coordinating colours (blue and yellow), stationery, decorations, balloons, a mini bouncy castle, and some very tasty catering.

 James tells everyone how they chose Conrad's name.

James tells everyone how they chose Conrad's name.

The family’s back garden was decked out pictures of Little Pilot from 0 to 12 months old next to a favourite toy. There was a cute poster with his first words, height and weight, favourite song and other key information. There were blue and yellow paper planes nestled in the ivy on the wall, and not one but two beautifully decorated cakes.

When I met with the family a few weeks before, the first thing I noticed was that their home was very stylishly decorated. It was no surprise that Kristina turned out to be a designer. She’s a bubbly, ideas person and had lots of suggestions for the ceremony. When I started asking James, Conrad's dad, questions it was clear he hadn’t heard all of these ideas before and we had a conversation together about editing for the best ones.

 The guideparents making their commitments. 

The guideparents making their commitments. 

As there would be lots of other children at the ceremony it seemed wise to keep it relatively short and simple. Kristina and James wanted something that referenced Kristina’s Lithuanian heritage and was generally light-hearted, funny and relaxed. I listened to their own jokes and stories about Little Pilot and his favourite things (chasing the cat around and de-toddler-proofing the house) and it felt like they’d done half the work for me.

We’re fully into the heatwave now, but last Saturday it was only just beginning. Everyone was thrilled to have such a gorgeous day. We took a suitably relaxed attitude to the start time, because a few people were delayed arriving and, honestly, it was already a lovely party - why rush?

 Swinging Little Pilot in his blanket.

Swinging Little Pilot in his blanket.

My highlights from the ceremony itself were Kristina getting emotional reading lyrics from ‘For Baby (For Bobbie)’ by John Denver, the two guideparents faces when I read out the reasons why Kristina and James chose them for the role, and the two Lithuanian pagan traditions we incorporated.

The Lithuanian traditions were a) lifting the baby in the air and b) swinging him in a blanket. The lifting is supposed to bring good health and good luck. The swinging requires that the family and guideparents hold the blanket and swing it together, it is a symbol for how the baby is supported by his whole community. Little Pilot loved being swung and became very chilled out in his blanket.

Overall it was a brilliant party and a great example of how a ceremony can be very informal and still be meaningful, when it expresses the family’s authentic feelings.

(Photo credit to Owen Harvey.)