How Should the Godmother Dress at the Baptism
A baptism is a Christian religious rite symbolizing purification or regeneration. It signifies admission to the Christian Church and is taken very seriously by those with devout beliefs. In many denominations, infant baptism is practised. However, there are Christian communities which practice adult baptism. Godparents are only required infant baptism.
Godparents are a crucial element in christening ceremonies. They are chosen to help the parents educate and care for the child in the future. Godparents are usually relatives or close friends of the parents, who choose them to take an active part in their child's life. If you've been chosen to be the godmother in a baptismal ceremony, it is important that you choose your dress well, as this will be a very important day.
You may have some doubts as to the dress code of this often formal ritual. If you want some tips to find the most appropriate outfit, read this oneHOWTO article and learn how the should godmother dress at the baptism.
What denomination is the service?
First of all, it is necessary to bear in mind that baptism or christenings are religious celebrations. However, each denomination has different approaches and etiquette. Moreover, each church may have their own attitudes toward decorum. For this reason, you should always ask the family what style might be appropriate.
However, there are general ideas of how you should dress. The different Christian traditions which have a christening with godparents include:
- Roman Catholic: for a strict Roman Catholic church, the godparents need to be Catholic themselves and have received the Eucharist. The RC church takes the role of godparent very seriously and expects the godmother and godfather to bring the child up strictly in the faith. RC godparents are generally not allowed to be blood related to the child. The formality of the occasion is reflected in what the godmother wears.
- Anglican: the Anglican faith encompasses Episcopal churches in the United States and other overseas territories in the United Kingdom. Godparents in this church can be family and the rules are not necessarily as strict, but it may be up to the discretion of the individual church. They are generally also formal ceremonies.
- Presbyterian: while Presbyterian and other reformed churches practise infant baptism, there isn't strictly a godparent. Usually, they have a ‘sponsor’ who acts in a similar capacity. However, it will depend on a given church. The formality of the godmother's dress for the baptism depends on the church itself.
- Baptist: baptists practice adult baptism, so there is no need for godparents. However, babies may take part in what is known as a ‘dedication’. In this case, there are no godparents and the purpose of the service is to welcome the baby to the whole confirmation. Baptist churches have varying levels of formality when it comes to dress. Some put on their Sunday best, but others might be more informal.
- Evangelical: other evangelical Christian churches are generally similar to Baptist churches.
As you can see, there are different etiquettes according to different traditions. While there may not be a uniform, some churches will have specific traditions which they believe need to be respected. For instance, in Eastern Orthodox Church christening ceremonies, women usually cover their hair with a white veil or scarf. If you have doubts about the specific requirements of your branch, ask the ceremony organizers. In general, participants in christenings were semi-formal, modest clothes.
What NOT to wear to a christening
Guests are advised not to wear very revealing clothes, including plunging necklines, bare legs above the knee, bare shoulders and back, etc. These basic rules apply to all genders. To put it simply, don't wear anything you wouldn't normally wear to a church.
Flashy outfits are also discouraged. Do not wear very loud colors or neon shades. Remember that the focus of everyone's attention must be the child, not the godmother. We recommend plain clothes in elegant and subtle fabrics and colors, because patterns and exaggerated silhouettes tend to date very fast once the season is over.
To clear up any doubt, yes you can wear white if you're the godmother in a baptism or christening. The no-white rule is only for weddings.
What does ‘semi-formal’ mean?
A child's christening is a semi-formal event. You must wear formal clothes, but wearing black tie would be overdoing it. Ask the infant's parents what they're wearing - you don't want to look overdressed! As a rule, "semi-formal" outfits are what you would wear to a wedding or a Christmas party at a fancy hotel. It's a step above an office holiday party, and a step below an awards ceremony or debutante ball.
As the godmother, you'll probably be involved in planning the baptism ceremony and party. You will set the dress code yourself, so that's one less thing to worry about. Make sure every guest is on the same page, though. Some places may refer to a semi-formal dress code as ‘smart-casual’.
Other things to consider
On the other hand, when choosing what you will wear as the godmother for a christening, you also need to consider the season when the celebration takes place. Many parents decide to wait until spring to christen their child, but this is not a rule.
You will not be expected to freeze in the winter or wear something too heavy in the summer. Everyone at the baptism will want to respect the occasion, but also embrace the joyousness of the occasion. Happiness is part of the etiquette of a christening.
What to wear to a spring-summer christening
A good option for the godmother at the baptism is a cocktail dress, but it must be at least knee-length and not shorter. Midi skirts with some New Look flair can also look perfect for a baptism.
As we already pointed out, it is recommended to choose colors that are not too flashy, so beige, earth tones or pastels are ideal. When you pick a color for the godmother outfit, bear in mind that there will probably be children around and your outfit may get stained.
If the baptism is held in the spring or the summer, choose light, breathable materials for your godmother dress so that you don't get too hot in the church during the ceremony. We recommend cotton, linen or silk.
What to wear to a fall-winter christening
If the weather is cold, or if you don't like wearing dresses, you could also choose an elegantly tailored suit. Sharply tailored pantsuits can look amazing when worn with flair for your godmother baptism outfit. Two-piece outfits are perfect to combine differently in late season occasions. We wouldn't recommend wearing a maxi dress to a christening, however, as it can look too flashy.
It is worth pointing out that black is not the most appropriate color for a christening. Instead, wear jewel or earth tones such as burgundy, gray, purple, emerald green or wine red.
What are the best shoes and accessories for a christening?
Baptism or christening ceremonies with a party afterwards can be long, so you should wear comfortable shoes. If you want to wear heels, choose low or medium-height wedges or block heels, not stilettos. Ballet flats are also a good choice for a baptism. Sandals depend on whether the church accepts bare feet.
You may see fascinators, veiled hats and brooches at pictures of royal christenings, but as classy as they look, they require the right context. In most christenings, they will make you look overdressed and older than you actually are. Instead, opt for a simple up-do and minimal or no jewelry.
While you shouldn't wear running shoes, you can wear soft shoes which have style. Check out the example below of shoes which are comfortable, but will look well as part of a smart-casual godmother outfit for a christening.
Ask the family
As a final tip, when you choose the dress to wear as godmother at a baptism, we suggest that you opt for something that makes you feel comfortable. The protagonist of the ceremony will be the baby or child who is baptized, but remember that the role of godmother is also essential. You'll want to look your best that day, but you don't need to steal attention. Something classic and classy will do right.
Generally, a godmother will be someone close to the family, but also someone in the faith. If you are unsure what etiquette your faith suggests, speak to the family and choose the right godmother outfit according to their wishes. If you do not belong to the faith, the responsibility is on them to explain the etiquette for their christening to you.
For more advice on dressing for a christening, check out our article how to dress for a christening.
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