Baptizing your baby will likely be one of his/her first big public events and one that could sneak up on you, since it usually takes place at two or three months of age. Big events take time to put together. You’reprobably still adjusting to your new lifestyle as a parent, so planning a big to do for your little one so soon could seem a little daunting. Don’t worry. Don’t fret. Instead, get excited.Infant baptism represents the dedication of your child’s life to God and His church. It’s something that should be celebrated, but with any celebration, there’s a good bit of planning required. Rather than give an exhaustive recipe for the perfect baptism, my hope is to give you just enough information to get started, spark your creativity, and make this day special for your baby and loved ones in your own way. To begin, you’ll need a church, a party, and people—all on the same day.

The Church:No duh, right? Where else would you have a baptismal ceremony? If you’re even planning a baptism for your baby, odds are you were raised in church andit’spart of your family tradition, or you married into it. That said, make sure you’re familiar with the church, and make sure you understand their traditions and what they believe. Every denomination of Christianity is different. Make sure you know exactly they’ll plan to do with your baby and what it means. Most churches have a baptismal registry (a record of who is baptized and when), having the ceremony at said church will ensure that your child is listed on that registry along with the godparents you name. Here are a few things you should try and coordinate with your church when you get started:

1. The Day of the Baptism: Everyone’s busy these days, so try to come up with a few dates and don’t get so attached to one that you’re devastated if you can’t get it. Call and set up the date of the baptismal ceremony as soon as possible. The earlier the better. No later than three or four weeks to be on the safe side.You’ll also need to be able to squeeze in a party and coordinate with the schedules of anyone that might want to attend, so take that into consideration.

2. The Attendees: You’ll want to make sure the space where the baptism takes place can accommodate everyone. The church might have a limit on the number of people who can attend, so that’s something you should check on. You wouldn’t want aunts and uncles getting turned away at the door.

3. Photography: Obviously you’ll want pictures. If you plan on hiring a photographer, make sure to let the church know. Again, they might have rules, like old artwork hanging in the sanctuary that is sensitive to flashes or something. Just make sure so you don’t throw money away.

The Party: A child’s baptism is something to be celebrated for the Christian family, so don’t skimp on the celebration! After the ceremony, go make memories with your friends and loved ones, and take lots of pictures. When your child grows up and asks why you threw such an amazing party for a baptism, it’ll be the perfect opportunity to explain why that spiritual ceremony was so special. Consider the following when planning a baptismal party:

1. Venue: You can have the party anywhere—a house, restaurant, park—just make sure it has enough room to accommodate your guest load. I’d recommend somewhere close to the church if possible, that way you and your friends aren’t carting babies, kids, and whiny, cranky husbands across town for the better part of the day and wearing them out before the fun begins. Older relatives with less energy will appreciate the short trip as well.

2. Food: Folks gotta eat, and no party is complete without snacks, but I wouldn’t go overboard. People at a baptismal party will be holding stuff. Relatives will take turns holding babies, your parent-friends will be holding their own kids, gifts, diaper bags. Finger foods will go over better than a four course meal and are easier to prepare and store.

3. Games: What’s a party without games! Nothing brings people together like a little friendly competition. Try to include games for everyone, adults and kids. It’ll make it all the more memorable.

4. Gifts: Gift giving isn’t something I ever associated with infant baptisms, but apparently it is very common. I don’t believe it’s common for stores to have baptismal registries, like they do with weddings, (at least it’s not where I live) so it might not be a bad idea to come up with a list of things you might need for your LO in case people start asking.

5. Decorating: Flowers might be your thing. Or pictures. Or banners and signs. I never really gave much thought to decorating until I got married and saw the kind of parties my wife threw. She does all the decorating herself with stuff from the closest dollar store, and it’s awesome. The moment you walk into a room my wife has decorated, you know you’re at a party. Makes it feel even more special. If you’re not the decorating type, you can always hire somebody. You won’t regret it.

The People:You might want a small crowd with only a few close friends and family. You might be the most popular person in the world and need to rent out a stadium to accommodate all your guests. Either way, you’ll have people to account for when planning your baby’s baptism. Remember, for the Christian, this is a special moment in your baby’s life that only happens once, so do your best to include everyone your child is important to, as long as they’re not crazy or something. Here are a few ways you can go about handling the people involved:

1. Choose Godparents/Sponsors: Hopefully you’ve been thinking about this long before now, but I wanted to throw it in as a reminder. Often, a central aspect of the baptism ceremony is naming the child’s godparents/sponsors. These are close friends or relatives who have vowed to help the raise the child spiritually. Every church has different rules regarding who can be named as godparents, but usually, godparents consist of both a man and woman who are practicing members of the Christian faith in good standing with the church who have also been baptized. After they ceremony, they’ll be recorded in the church’s baptismal registry as your child’s godparents.

2. Family Traditions: Some families have traditional baptismal clothes passed down through many generations. I once saw a little girl christened in a white gown over a hundred and twenty years old. Her great grandmother had been christened in the same gown. Be sure to check with your parents/grandparents and see if there are any family traditions involved in christening. It’ll make their day to know you care about keeping those things alive.

3. Travel/Childcare: If you do have a lot of people coming, especially older relatives who can’t or don’t have the means to get around easily, arranging transportation for your guests could be something to consider. This could be as easy as asking the church to borrow a bus or van. Or begging friends and relatives to bring their SUV’s. It also might not hurt to see if the church’s nursery or daycare will be available to watch smaller children during the ceremony.

4. Invitations: Once you get your guest list perfected, be sure to send out those invites at least a few weeks in advance, maybe sooner to the people you really want to attend. You can even include a schedule of events (Ceremony at 10 am, Party at 11) to help your friends and loved ones plan accordingly. Adding an RSVP could be helpful if you’re worried about having enough food and space for everyone planning to attend.

Finalizing and Double-Checking: When you’re sure you’ve got everything how you want it, take a little break from planning. Give your mind a few days rest, then start going over everything once again. Contingency plans are never a bad thing. Photographers can get sick and bail out at the last second like everyone else. If your phone doesn’t take good pictures, find someone on your guest list that has one and ask them to be ready. Have a backup party location that won’t be closed for weather. Know where the nearest pizza place in case your caterer falls through. As the date approaches, go over everything with everyone. Visit with the clergy and ask them to walk you through the ceremony. Check with important guests to make sure their schedules remain clear. Run the whole thing by your sister’s friend who has seven kids and has done it more times than you ever will.
Then, when the day finally comes, enjoy the fruits of your labor. Watch the ceremony, eat the food, admire the decorations, thank people for their gifts. Smile at the pictures your photographer gives you a couple weeks later. It doesn’t matter if things don’t turn out perfect. Just do the best you can. It is your baby’s first big celebration, after all.