Readings are so popular at naming ceremonies and create lovely moments of light and shade. They can be funny, uplifting, serious or silly. It’s a great way to involve your guests and there’s no limit to the styles that you can choose from: song lyrics, poems, quotes, extracts from books, prayers or blessings.
I love all kinds of writing and am always on the lookout for new readings, so please do message me with your favourites. In the meantime, here my current top 10.
My first choice is a gorgeous poem, inspired by nature and well suited to naming ceremonies. The title sounds quite serious, but I think the words are magical.
(1) Ode on the Whole Duty of Parents – Frances Cornford
The spirits of children are remote and wise,
They must go free
Like fishes in the sea
Or starlings in the skies,
Whilst you remain
The shore where casually they come again.
But when there falls the stalking shade of fear,
You must be suddenly near,
You, the unstable, must become a tree
In whose unending heights of flowering green
Hangs every fruit that grows, with silver bells;
Where heart-distracting magic birds are seen
And all the things a fairy-story tells;
Though still you should possess
Roots that go deep in ordinary earth,
And strong consoling bark
To love and to caress.
This next poem is one that we had read at both of our daughters’ naming ceremonies. I think it sums up the deepest wish that parents have for their children, to love and be loved.
(2) I Wish for You One Thing, and that is Love – William Byrd
I wish for you one thing, and that is love
Love for life, and pure, unfettered joy
At being here on this vivid earth.
May pleasure come from giving pleasure,
And love that streams out of your burning heart
Light the darkened world and make it bloom.
I wish you to be loved both well and long
By all those whom you love; that these be many,
Among whom, not least, might be yourself.
May you love the beautiful and good,
And always act with honesty and justice,
Being what you would that others be.
But most of all, I wish for you a love
Into which your love might plunge and drown,
An ocean in which you might live and breathe.
I like the wry, light-hearted nature of these words. This poem speaks of that tinge of regret that all parents feel about their loss of freedom when family comes along, but the joy of embracing forgotten childhoods.
(3) Before You Came – Beverly Butcher
What did we do, in the days before you came?
Vodka, and dancing, and staying out late,
Breakfast at tea-time,
Reading the papers, a long lie-in,
And space in the bed.
Now it’s daisy chains, and super-heroes,
Butterfly wings, and light-sabres,
Eating pink cake,
And catching snowflakes in our mouths,
No room in the bed,
And a half-sleep on its edge,
While you snore, stretched out, a star-fish.
Time escaping, before you came,
And cast your spell,
And filled the house with possibility;
All the things you want to do,
And all the things you’re going to be,
So – let’s make a den,
Take our biscuits in,
Carve lanterns at Hallowe’en,
Watch grown-ups do star jumps on a trampoline,
And wonder what we ever did,
In the days before you came.
Children’s books make wonderful readings. They might not be the most obvious choice, but they work really well for naming ceremonies and communicate big ideas in a simple and relatable way. Here we are is a thoughtful little book about the precious nature of our world.
(4) Here we are – Oliver Jeffers
Welcome to this planet. We call it Earth.
It is the big globe, floating in space on which we live.
We’re glad you found us, as space is very big.
There is much to see and do on Earth, so let’s get started with a quick tour.
The planet is basically made up of two parts.
Firstly, let’s talk about the land.
It’s what we’re standing on right now.
We know lot’s about the land.
Then there is the sea, which is full of wonderful things.
We know a lot about the sea, but we’ll talk more about that once you’ve learned to swim.
There is also the sky.
Though that can get pretty complicated…
OK, moving on.
On our planet, there are people.
One people is a person.
You are a person.
You have a body.
Look after it, as most bits don’t grow back.
The most important things for people to remember are to eat, drink and stay warm.
People come in many shapes, sizes and colours.
We may all look different, act different and sound different…
but don’t be fooled, we are all people.
There are animals too.
They come in even more shapes, sizes and colours.
They can’t speak, though that’s no reason not to be nice to them.
You may not be able to speak yet either, even though your head is filled with questions.
Be patient, you’ll learn how to use words soon enough.
Generally how it works is that when the sun is out, it is daytime and we do stuff.
The rest of the time is night, when it is dark, save for the moon and we sleep. (Please?).
Things can sometimes move slowly here on Earth.
More often though, they move quickly, so use your time well.
It will be gone before you know it.
Though we have come a long way we haven’t quite worked everything out, so there is plenty left for you do.
You will figure lots of things out for yourself, just remember to leave notes for everyone else.
It looks big, Earth, but there are lots of us on here, so be kind.
There is enough for everyone.
Well, that is planet Earth.
Make sure you look after it, as it’s all we’ve got.
Now, if you need to know anything else … just ask.
I won’t be far away.
And when I’m not around … you can always ask someone else.
You’re never alone on Earth.
This traditional Sanskrit poem beautifully captures the importance of living in the moment.
(5) Look to this day
Look to this day
For it is life — The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
the realities and truths of existence
the joy of growth
the glory of action
the splendour of beauty.
For yesterday is already a memory
and tomorrow is only a vision
but today well lived makes every
yesterday a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
I’m an adoptive mum, so this next poem always makes me well up. It makes a lovely option for a welcoming ceremony. It’s most suited to younger children, but speaks of the longing, waiting and love that all adoptive families experience so vividly.
(6) The Chosen Heart – Teri Harrison
Longing for a child to love,
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew,
A part of me was meant for you.
I think how happy we will be,
Once I adopt you, and you adopt me.
I dream of all the joy you’ll bring,
Imagining even the littlest things.
The way it will feel to hold you tight
and tuck you in every night.
The drawings on the refrigerator door
and childhood toys across the floor,
The favourite stories read again and again
and hours of fun with make believe friends.
The day you took my outstretched hand
A journey ended but our love began.
Still mesmerized by your sweet face
Still warmed inside by our first embrace.
I promised to give you a happy home
and a loving family all your own.
A house you’ve now made complete
with laughter, smiles and tiny feet.
A parent is one who guides the way
Know I will be there every day
Rest easy as each night you sleep
A lifetime of love is yours to keep
Longing for a child to love
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart, I always knew
A part of me belonged to you.
Readings don’t necessarily have to be long and grand. They can be short and grand too. Try this one from Oksana Rus.
(7) Quote – Oksana Rus
You are the poem I dreamed of writing, the masterpiece I longed to paint. You are the shining star I reached for in my ever hopeful quest for life fulfilled. Yes, I am blessed.
This next reading is often used for weddings, but I think it’s gorgeous for a naming ceremony. Absolutely dreamy …
8) I carry your heart with me – E. E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
You can’t beat a bit of Dr Suess – just the right amount of silliness and seriousness …
(9) Extracts from Oh the places you’ll go – Dr Seuss
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
OH! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So … get on your way!
There are no rules with naming ceremonies so if you want to include religious content, that’s absolutely fine. It’s a lovely way to honour the beliefs of your family and friends. Psalm 139 talks about the wonder and complexity of human creation.
10) Psalm 139 Verses 13 – 18 (New International Version)
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
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